The use of student fees to pay for the new sound system in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium has created controversy at the University of Alaska Anchorage. “It's a misappropriation of funds,” says Mike Dingman, UAA's student body president. “I think it's unethical.”
The UAA Concert Board, which organizes student events on campus, paid $40,000 for the new system. In exchange, the concert board has 100 dates that can be used in the Williamson. However, the board does only about four events a year, and it could take the board 25 years to use all the reserved dates.
“A hundred days is a lifetime,” says Dingman. “It will extend well beyond a student's lifetime at this university.”
But John Gregoire, concert program coordinator, says the contract puts more pressure on the concert board to hold events in the Williamson and keep shows on campus.
“UAA students are getting one heck of a deal and at the same time making their auditorium that much better,” he said. “They have now a hundred dates that they have to use up, and that's staring them in the face.”
Dingman says he doesn't agree with that policy.
“They should have used the money for concerts for that year,” he says.
Dingman disagrees with spending student fees that won't benefit the students who paid the fee.
Jim Mohr, student leadership coordinator, agrees with Dingman. Mohr says the fees should have been spent during the semester which they are paid.
“I would think it's inappropriate spending for student fees,” Mohr said. “Student fee money should go toward that semester of students.”
“With a more up-to-date system, we provide a better experience when you pay for a concert,” said Ryan Norrid, previous concert board chair.
Only three of the seven seats on the board were filled when the decision was made, Dingman says there should have been a full board when the contract was made.
The agreement with the Williamson and the concert board was made late in the spring semester of 2001. The funds for the new sound system came from money that remained from the last year's budget. Had the funds not been spent on the sound upgrade they would have been rolled over into the next academic year. After the purchase the board rolled about $30,000 forward the next academic year.
The equipment needed to be purchased at one time so the Williamson agreed to enter into the contract with the concert board to obtain the necessary funds.
“It totally blew me away and I thought it was incredibly generous,” says Van Clifton, manager for the Williamson. “I think it's a good use of money.”
Gregoire says, “The concert board looked at this as an investment to the future. Improving this facility would increase Concert Board and the ability for them to produce shows.”
“It worked out really good because the Concert Board is creating a relationship with the Williamson that will last a very long time and securing dates in the Williamson from now until forever at a very discounted price,” said Gregoire.
The upgrade had to be completed by Aug. 20, 2001. The new sound system includes amps, speakers, playback and processing equipment and installation supplies.
“We tried to do something that will be good for everyone's use,” says Rob Kreps, events facilitator for the Williamson. “In the long run it's going to save a lot of money.”
Gregoire says the upgrade to the auditorium places it on a scale comparable to the Atwood Concert Hall.
“If you compared on a scale of what they serve, I would believe that the Williamson Auditorium would be as good if not better, considering the size if it's venue and the audience that they typically serve,” he says.