The Daily Gamecock

Meeting explains cost of campus entertainment

Carolina Productions hosts Town Hall, sees low turnout

Over the past few months, Carolina Productions has received some criticism regarding how it spends its money and decides who will speak or perform at USC, yet only nine people attended their Town Hall Meeting to express concern Monday night.

“I’m not sure if [people didn’t come out] because it’s getting close to exams and students have a lot of papers or stuff like that to do. Maybe there wasn’t as big of a concern as we were expecting,” said third-year business student and Carolina Productions President Alexandra Rippy. “It could have been anything.” Discussions about Carolina Productions’ budget began when the organization paid Jenny Sanford $15,000 to give a 45-minute presentation to roughly 150 students in October.

The program’s budget for the 2010-11 school year is $442,609, which is up from the $430,860 budget that Carolina Production had last year.

Rippy started Monday night’s meeting by going over the organization’s mission statement, part of which reads, “Carolina Productions is a student-operated organization that provides entertaining, educational, traditional and diverse programs to students, faculty, staff and community members. These programs encompass the ideas, issues and interests of the University of South Carolina community, as well as the Carolinian Creed and University mission.”

With those points in mind, the organization decides to spend its money by offering more, inexpensive presentations and concerts instead of spending most, or all, of its budget on one big-ticket item.

According to Rippy’s presentation, the average amount that Carolina Productions spends on concerts is $52,538. Rippy reported that the fees for names such as Lady Gaga and Dave Matthews Band can exceed $1 million, while it would cost around $2 million to bring Taylor Swift to campus.

The student committee for the organization does not come up with whom to invite to campus, but they research the fees of artists and presenters suggested by the student body. From that list, they narrow it down to someone they want to bring to USC and send a proposal to the Carolina Productions Executive Board. If the executive board approves the proposal, then a letter of interest is sent to the artist. If the artist accepts the offer, contract negotiations begin. If the artist denies the offer, then Carolina Productions starts back at square one.

Rippy said that “Carolina Productions receives a fixed allocation and an earmark of $10 per student per semester” from the $80 campus activity fee that all full-time students at USC pay.

Carolina Productions reported that more than 13,000 individuals attended a Carolina Productions event during the 2009-10 school year, compared to the 4,000 students who voted in the Student Government election.

What differs between Carolina Productions and similar programs at other universities is the fact that the organization doesn’t charge fees to attend their events.

During the fall of 2008, Carolina Productions tried charging students a $5 fee to attend a lecture put on by writer, director, actor and comedian Kevin Smith. The organization attributes the lecture’s small turnout to the cost. Although the Smith presentation was a failure in the eyes of Carolina Productions, the organization is still talking about possibly charging admission to some events in the future.

“We’re definitely looking at our events a little more seriously,” Rippy said. “We kind of always are, but the steps we take we are documenting more just so we can show the research that we go through as well as the negotiation process. But we definitely do ask the question, ‘Is this what students want?’”

As of Monday night, Carolina Productions didn’t have any contracts finalized for the spring 2011 semester, but Rippy said that students should be able to expect some great comedians.