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Che set to perform despite voting controversy

1-29-2019

Jeremiah Hassel, Features Editor

For the past nearly half a decade, Penn State Behrend has hosted a concert every spring featuring a popular musical artist. The university hosted Panic! at the Disco in 2016, Ludacris in 2017, and Hoodie Allen in 2018, each of which received exceptional attendance and provided entertainment to a majority of the campus’s population as well as Erie city community members from the area.

This past week, Behrend announced that its annual spring concert will be replaced this year with Michael Che, a comedian and writer for the popular weekly program Saturday Night Live (SNL). The announcement was greeted with controversy, some students eagerly anticipating the performance while others resent the notion of the change.

“I think it is a different kind of experience compared to concerts. More people have been to concerts than comedian shows. I think it’s a nice change of pace that allows for new experiences and memories,” said second semester project and supply chain management major Rachel Pier.

While Behrend has hosted musical performances for the past several years, this is not the first time Behrend will be replacing the spring concert with a comedian. The school also did so in 2013, bringing in Seth Meyers, the star of Late Night with Seth Meyers and the former head writer for SNL, though few current students were around at the time of that performance.

“To be honest, I was a little surprised, because usually it’s the spring concert but it’s a spring comedian, so that’s definitely different, but I’m always open to change. I’m curious to see how it’s going to play out,” said eighth semester mechanical engineering major Noah Kunst.

Because so many of the current students at Behrend are used to the annual spring concerts, many are skeptical of the turnout for Che’s performance.

“I think that there will be little attendance, considering I had to Google who he was,” said sophomore DIGIT major Sammy Fillar, who also gives campus tours as a Lion Ambassador. “When I give tours, I make a point to announce that we had names like Panic! at the Disco, Ludacris, and Hoodie Allen and it’s kind of a letdown.”

According to Kunst, the general expectation of the Behrend community that the school will host another concert may also contribute to a lower general interest in the event. “Most people are expecting a concert, and if they hear it’s a comedian, a lot of people will think, ‘Hey, you know, maybe I don’t want to go to that,’” said Kunst.

Kunst believes, as do several others, that there was a general need to reach out to the student body concerning the event. “I personally didn’t see any emails, or I didn’t hear much talk about it on campus. I don’t think they really included the student body as well as they have before,” said Kunst.

Despite the changes, second semester general science major Darae Johnson still plans to attend the performance with a group of friends. “It’s something to do on Friday night. It will be fun for my friends and I to experience that together,” said Johnson. Johnson also attended the Ludacris concert hosted last school year, but still believes Che will be able to provide adequate entertainment to the student body despite the high standards.

Distinguished political science and international law professor Dr. John Gamble, who has been teaching at Behrend for many years, supports the fact that Behrend is willing to host a performance such as that from a renowned comedian. “College must be mostly academics with some ‘comic relief’. I would permit almost any view to appear on campus. Censorship due to ideas scares the hell out of me,” said Dr. Gamble.

As the controversy continues, Che is still scheduled to perform on Friday, March 22 in the Junker Center. Tickets will go on sale in a few short weeks at the Reed Union Building (RUB) desk, and the event is open to all members of the Behrend and greater Erie community.

“I think it will be a fun once in a lifetime experience and a great way to relax and have a good time. I expect there to be a bunch of people and for the set to be enjoyable, lively, and really funny and hopefully a memorable experience,” said Pier.