NAU students protest Ke$ha, Dirt Nasty concert outside Skydome
UPDATE / CORRECTION: In Margo Nelson’s quote, “We’re trying to go about seeing how we can stop at least the most expensive parts of the ASNAU ‘23’ fee before they go into practice, such as the Arizona Snowbowl shuttle — the ‘Snowjack Express,’ if you will — amongst other things,” the word “expensive” should be “offensive.” The Lumberjack apologizes for the error.
At around 5:30 p.m. this past Sunday evening, students began to arrive in mass for the free ASNAU-sponsored concert featuring pop singer Ke$ha and rapper Simon Rex, also known as Dirt Nasty. As an estimated 5,480 students entered the Walkup Skydome, dozens of demonstrators protested outside the event.
Earlier that day, ASNAU announced via their Facebook page Ke$ha and Dirt Nasty would be giving all the funds raised from merchandising sales at the concert to the victims of the tornadoes that hit outside the city last week.
Holding signs that read, “Don’t use our fee for misogyny” and “Assault survivors against [expletive] hip-hop,” the protesters stood behind readied barricades near the entrance to the stadium and made their voices heard to the concert-goers who passed by.
Students’ reactions to the protests were mixed. Several students stopped and heard the arguments being put forth, while many others cheered for Dirt Nasty and yelled at the demonstrators. One student took the end of his cigarette and attempted — to no avail — to use it to light several of the protest signs on fire as he passed by, only to have a police officer escort him away from the barricade.
On Oct. 6, ASNAU President Chase Hunt released a statement to the student body about the decision to move forward with the concert and let Rex perform.
“ASNAU fully supports freedom of speech and believes that by not allowing Dirt Nasty to perform, based solely on his lyrics, would be an infringement on his rights as an individual and performer,” the statement said. “We have taken precautions to maximize the safety for all students that will be in attendance.”
Margo Nelson, a graduate student studying applied criminology, said Hunt and ASNAU were not being sincere in their statement.
“It was pretty much what we were expecting it to be,” Nelson said. “It signified to me that they were trying to alleviate as much [of] the bad press they had been receiving as possible, without actually admitting they had done something wrong.”
Nelson said the university and ASNAU need to make drastic changes to the structure of the student government if they want to win back the trust and support of many students.
“That’s something that should definitely happen this year, before another moronic set of senators get elected by their friends through a popularity contest — and then make poor decisions like this again,” Nelson said.
The concert was funded by the “23” fee that the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) approved last year. Nelson said her group would attempt to put a stop to many of the other provisions funded by the project until changes were made to ASNAU.
“Also moving forward, we are looking at stopping the ‘23’ fee from moving forward,” Nelson said. “We’re trying to go about seeing how we can stop at least the most expensive parts of the ASNAU ‘23’ fee before they go into practice, such as the Arizona Snowbowl shuttle — the ‘Snowjack Express,’ if you will — amongst other things.”
Nelson said her group planned on filing several discrimination grievances against their student government.
“We’re filing, hopefully, up to 60 to 70 [Safe Working and Learning Environment (SWALE)] violation complaints against ASNAU,” Nelson said. “And whether or not that actually falls under SWALE policy, it will make it very clear that we’re not joking, and they need to take us seriously and our effort seriously.”
A.J. Hamilton, a senior theater studies major, said he was a huge Dirt Nasty fan who appreciated the comedic qualities of his music.
“I’m excited for Dirt Nasty,” Hamilton said. “I’m one of the four people on campus who knows who he is and likes him. You know, I’m a theater person, and one of the main things we deal with is free speech. The guy’s got free speech. Second of all, he’s not being serious. If you know his work at all, he’s a comedian — more of a comedian than a rapper. But, on top of that, if he was serious, the law gives him the right to say what he wants in the first place.”
Hamilton said he did not oppose the right of students to protest, but thought doing so for a voluntary event was pointless.
“I think trying to protest it is silly,” Hamilton said. “If you want to hear it, go — listen to him; he’s awesome. If you don’t want to hear it, don’t go. Don’t come, don’t listen to him or don’t pay him any attention.”
Standing in line to get into the concert, Tavia Burklakoff, a sophomore psychology major, said she was thrilled to see someone as famous as Ke$ha perform at NAU.
“Yes, I’m really excited,” Burklakoff said. “It’s the first big artist that’s been in Flagstaff.”
Having already heard some of Dirty Nasty’s work, Burklakoff said she could completely recognize the reasons some students were outraged.
“I understand it,” Burklakoff said. “I watched some of Dirt Nasty’s videos yesterday, and they’re pretty crude. I can understand everybody being angry about him coming into the school environment.”
Leaving shortly after the start of the concert, Bryn Merrell, a sophomore environmental science major, said she had walked out on Dirt Nasty’s performance because she found it to be offensive.
“I was pumped,” Merrell said. “You know, got ready and dressed up with the friends and went here. But I decided to end the night on [sexist and racist expletive phrase].”
As the sun set upon the Skydome and students began to enter the stadium, the demonstrators lit candles as part of a vigil remembering those in the community who had been victims of sexual assault and rape. Nelson said she and the students protesting the concert would not stop their advocacy for major changes to ASNAU.
“I will stop at nothing,” Nelson said. “I have made it my personal mission, in the next six months, to completely restructure ASNAU in a way that actually reflects what the student body is looking for within a student government.”