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Why I can’t in Good Conscious Accept Payment from the University of Connecticut

Colin Neary and Jasiri X (Photo by Paradise Gray)

After all of the media attention around my decision to perform my song “Occupy (We the 99)” at the University of Connecticut despite the objections of the student government; they still haven’t gotten the point! At first, they were saying all the right things. According to the CT News Junkie USG President Sam Tracy said, “I do regret if we crossed the line into any kind of censorship,” and USG Comptroller Daniel Hanley, who sent me the revised contract asking me not to perform “Occupy (We the 99), said his explanation of the contract was “inaccurate” and “poorly written.” They also said I would be compensated for my performance. However, a few days later I received an email from the event organizer, Multicultural and Diversity Subcommittee Chairman Colin Neary, saying he had been dismissed from his position by Student Affairs Chairman Stephen Petkiss because according to the University of Connecticut’s Daily Campus, Petkiss said Neary, “inappropriately expressed his opinions and misrepresented the organization”.

So what was Colin Neary’s unforgivable crime? He made a comment on the on the ACLU’s Facebook page in an attempt to get the student government to pay me for my performance. Colin reached out to the ACLU on my behalf, but also to save the student government of the embarrassment that eventually came when their inappropriate behavior was exposed. After Colin was dismissed, Bryan Flanaghan, 5th-semester political science and economics major and Busby Suites senator, resigned from his position as Residential Affairs Subcommittee Chair. According to the Daily Campus, he said he was nervous about how easily a chair can be removed from his position. “I didn’t feel I could properly work as Residential Affairs Chair if I was fearful of what I post on Facebook…could remove me from my job,” Flanaghan said. “At this moment I felt it would be a poor choice to stay in my position.”

In my humble opinion Colin Neary was the only person I interacted with that properly represented UConn’s student government. When Colin emailed me saying members of the USG were concerned about my song he stated clearly and directly that he would not censor my performance and if I performed “Occupy (We the 99)” he would back me 100%. Consider that David Haseltine, a USG Senator and promotions manager at WHUS, UConn’s radio station to the CT News Junkie , “I have worked at WHUS for years in a position where I regularly book artists to perform at student fee funded concerts and I have never once heard of anyone try to control any aspect of the artist’s performance with a contract.” That contract wasn’t sent to me by Colin Neary it was sent by USG Comptroller Daniel Hanley, who by his own admission acted inappropriately, yet has been able to retain his position.

However the bigger issue is why does the University of Connecticut student government leadership have a problem with free speech? Why do they feel it’s OK to ignore the US constitution?  Why is their first reaction to speech they don’t agree with is to censure the speaker? Why haven’t they learned that denying individuals the right to free speech won’t make the problem go away it will just make it worse? Do we want these individuals running our government?

I cannot in good conscious accept payment from the University of Connecticut student government for my performance on November 4th. The UConn students and alumni should take a very close look at the USG leadership and decide if they are acting inappropriately and misrepresenting the University.