Gospel Fest, an annual concert sponsored by the University Church, which usually occurs in February in honor of Black History Month, is not scheduled to occur this year. The event, which normally draws hundreds of people to the Colgate Chapel, has not received funding from the Budget Allocations Committee (BAC) due to concerns over the cost of the proposed artist and a lack of BAC funding.
With a unanimous vote of seven to none, the BAC did not grant the University Church the $37,735 they requested in order to host the event. In their proposal, the University Church stated that the event would have a target attendance of around 750 people, include performances by five student choirs and have 10 different schools attend.
The proposal also named gospel music composer and performer Kurt Carr as the choice headliner for the concert. Carr has released six albums and has even performed at the White House for former President George W. Bush in 2008. He has also won four Stellar awards which are given for excellence in gospel music. However, the steep price of having Carr attend, about $26,000, ultimately swayed the BAC’s decision to not grant the University Church the money they requested.
Student Government Association Treasurer and BAC Chairman senior Jake Caldwell said that they carefully considered the proposal but decided against granting the money for the festival because of concerns over the cost of the artist and the budget constraints of other planned events. Of the $450,000 allocated to the BAC per semester, only $85,000 is left because of other large events being funded, including Spring Party Weekend and big lectures such as the upcoming visit by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on Monday, February 25.
“It’s a hard decision but we ultimately decided against funding [Gospel Fest] after evaluating it against some key guidelines,” Caldwell said.
When deciding whether or not to fund an event, according to Caldwell, the BAC looks to see if it promotes collaboration with other groups on campus. It also evaluates how open the event is to the Colgate community.
“The money the BAC has is paid for by students through their tuition, which is why it is very important that all events hosted by the BAC cater to people involved at Colgate including alumni, professors, students and townspeople. It’s hard to justify giving so much money towards an event when there is no proof that many Colgate community members will attend, especially when our budget is so constrained,” Caldwell said.
In addition, the event violated BAC bi-laws as it was on the Colgate calendar before its funding had been approved by the BAC.
Caldwell said that throughout the history of Gospel Fest, the event has been funded about half the time depending on the fluctuating cost of the event. The University Church took over the planning of Gospel Fest from the Colgate Gospel Choir, the Sojourners, in 2010. In the past, Gospel Fest has featured the Sojourners as well as other collegiate gospel choirs from Hamilton, Cornell, Ithaca, Binghamton and Syracuse with a special performer headlining the event. Last year, award-winning gospel artist Kirk Franklin performed and in 2010 the critically-acclaimed Harlem Gospel Choir sang.
Junior Lwam Stephanos attended Gospel Fest last year and said she had a good experience.
“It was really fun, open, engaging and very fun,” Stephanos said. “It was nice to see people from Hamilton and even people’s parents came. It brought together a crowd that normally wouldn’t be together. It’s too bad that they might not have it this year.”
Caldwell did explain that although the BAC had to turn down the most recent proposal, the organization would be open to reviewing a new one.
“We recognize the value of a recognized artist working with student choirs and think the event does bring a lot of different groups and schools together so we are open to receiving another proposal with an less expensive artist,” Caldwell said.
“In my dealings with the University Church, they would like to still have this event as it’s a good way to reach out to people,” Center for Leadership and Student Involvement Program Coordinator Katie Garman said. “The BAC has been trying to work with the Sojourners and University Church in order to bring another proposal forward and University Church is currently looking for another artist to possibly come.”
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