Thousands turned out for Auburn Airwaves on Saturday, April 18, but not all left happy.
Auburn residents voiced their displeasure with the musical acts at Auburn Airwaves during the Auburn City Council meeting Tuesday, April 21.
Lori Fuller, Auburn resident and mother of two teenage children, was the first person to address the council during the citizen’s communications part of the meeting.
“I believe that the city owes our community an apology, a public apology,” Fuller said.
The reason the city leaders owed the public an apology was a lack of due diligence on the city’s part, according to Fuller.
Auburn Airwaves was organized by the UPC, and featured performances by Kesha, Nelly and Nick Jonas.
The event was held immediately following the Toomer’s Trees dedication on A-Day.
“Our city issued a permit to the UPC, which did make the decision to bring those artist here,” Fuller said.
Fliers advertising Auburn Airwaves were sent home with students at Auburn City Schools, according to Fuller and others who spoke at the meeting.
“Shock – complete shock to many [parents],” Fuller said. “There was no warning. This was not a G or PG-rated family event. If you sent (a flier) to kindergarten or fifth grade, that naturally assumes the city had done their due diligence.”
The Council approved the temporary entertainment districts Jan. 20, before the acts were announced.
Amanda Hurite, UPC president at the time of the announcement and senior in industrial engineering, told The Plainsman on Feb. 25 she was happy with the student response.
“It will be right after A-Day, so there will be a lot of families that come down,” Hurite said in February. “And it’s on a Saturday night this year, so the students are going to be ready to go and excited about it. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone show up.”
Sagar Leva, UPC director of major entertainment in February and senior in finance, told The Plainsman the performers for Auburn Airwaves were chosen carefully.
“We sent out a student survey,” Leva said in February. “We got the feedback and students wanted a pop/hip-hop/dance concert. Who’s more pop than Kesha?”
Residents said profanity and lewd lyrics had no place in the heart of Auburn.
“Many were surprised by Nick Jonas’ performance,” Fuller said. “He doesn’t traditionally have that kind of reputation, but unfortunately, he disappointed a lot of us.”
Jonas performed a cover of “Roses” by OutKast, uncensored, according to Councilwoman Beth Witten, who took her daughters, ages 9 and 6, to hear Jonas and planned to leave before the other acts.
“I was shocked,” Witten said.
Council members pledged something like this would not happen again.
“I think it was totally inappropriate for downtown Auburn,” said Councilman Tommy Dawson, Ward 8. “I was disappointed in it. I don’t know how it happened, but I can promise you this, in the future, I’ll personally take a more a role in reviewing these things we approve.”
Mayor Bill Ham said he had only heard of Jonas before the event and was unfamiliar with the other acts.
“In the almost 29 years I’ve been involved [with the University], to my knowledge, we’ve never had an issue with an associated event with Auburn University,” Ham said.
Ham also said the Auburn would continue to work with the University for joint events and learn from this case.
“I had somebody call me today and say, ‘I demand that the City of Auburn never partner in any kind of relationship with Auburn University again,” Ham said. “I said, ‘That’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard of.’”
Herbert Denmark, Auburn resident, was the only one who spoke to defend the performances.
Denmark said acts and speakers the community has found offensive have come to Auburn before, including Elvis, The Rolling Stones and Billy Graham.
“Even recently, the week before, there was the Alpha Psi Rodeo,” Denmark said. “The Confederate flag was waved, front page picture in The Auburn Plainsman, and people like me would be offended by that. Did that stop Alpha Psi from having their rodeo? No.”
Other residents who spoke after Denmark said the events he mentioned were open to the general public the way Auburn Airwaves was.
Bobby Woodard, associate provost and vice president of Student Affairs, issued a statement Wednesday, April 22.
“We will share this feedback with UPC, so that as they bring future performers to campus, they will have a variety of perspectives,” Woodard said in the statement. “Hearing the concerns and opinions of others help us to ensure that future acts will appeal to more of our Auburn Family.”
Woodard also said giving students the opportunity to make decisions and take responsibility for those decisions are part of their growth and development.
“We won’t make this mistake again,” said Councilman Ron Anders, Ward 2. “I can assure you, the nine people sitting up here will remember this very well.”
Quotes from Corey Williams' Feb. 25 article, Kesha and Nelly to perform at Auburn Airwaves, were used in this report.
Woodard's full statement:
The acts for the Auburn Airwaves event, which occurred after the Auburn Oaks dedication ceremony, were selected by the student leadership of the University Program Council (UPC). This experience is one of the ways that students have the opportunity to make decisions and take responsibility for those decisions as part of their growth and development. The feedback we receive following events is valuable. We will share this feedback with UPC so that as they bring future performers to campus they will have a variety of perspectives. Hearing the concerns and opinions of others help us to ensure that future acts will appeal to more of our Auburn Family.