ULS rider requests unusual but not ‘unreasonable’
Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 00:03
Contracts between University Lecture Series (ULS) speakers and the USF Board of Trustees often include riders, lists of requested items that go beyond mere speaking arrangements.
Hassidic reggae rapper Matisyahu, who spoke on campus March 1, requested that all packaged foods must have the kosher symbol, or “heckshers,” on them.
“THE ACCEPTABLE KOSHER SYMBOLS FOR MATISYAHU’S DIET ARE EITHER A LETTER ‘U’ INSIDE OF A CIRCLE, A LETTER ‘K’ INSIDE OF THE HEBREW LETTER ‘BET,’ A LETTER ‘K’ INSIDE OF A CIRCLE, OR ‘KSA’ IN A RECTANGLE,” his contract said in all caps. “A simple ‘K’ with nothing around it is unacceptable, as well as any of the following symbols with a ‘D’ or ‘DE’ next to them, so you must make sure all of the products have one of the following symbols exactly.”
The rider also stated “ALL FRUITS AND VEGETABLES MUST BE ORGANIC AND UNCUT/WHOLE!” Beyond that, it requested numerous other items including six bottles of room temperature bottled water, “quality” guacamole and medium salsa and specific brands of pickles, hummus and throat spray.
Director for the Center for Student Involvement Kristie Gerber, who signed the contract with the note “will do to the best of our ability,” said ULS fulfilled all of his requests.
The costs of extra requests, she said, are added on top of the money that ULS is paying the speakers. Gerber said ULS spent an additional $200-$300 on top of Matisyahu’s $28,000 payment.
“We are usually able to accommodate (extra requests),” she said. “Since Matisyahu eats specifically kosher and we do not serve that type of food here, we chose to bring that in for him.”
Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller made headlines in February for his concert rider, which included items such as homemade cookies, condoms, blue Solo cups and socks.
Spencer Southard, ULS marketing director, said most requests ULS receives are relatively easy to accommodate.
“As far as requests go, we haven’t received anything unreasonable,” he said. “Mostly we provide our guest with fruit or vegetable trays, and water or tea. Common simply made it a point to request bottled water, and the guys from ‘The Buried Life’ wanted whatever we were eating before the lecture, which turned out to be Jason’s Deli.”
Chaz Bono, an LGBT rights advocate who will speak April 17, requested that USF set him up at a “first-class hotel” as an addendum, but the request was crossed out of the contract.
Gerber said though other schools she has worked with have been able to meet speakers’ travel accommodations, USF is no longer allowed to.
“I am not sure if this is an Activities and Services rule or a USF administration rule,” she said. “All we can do is list hotels. I have never seen this policy in writing, but it was what I was told. When I first started as director (in 2010), the office did purchase hotel rooms.”
Dean of Students Kevin Banks said the policy makes it easier for speakers’ agents to schedule their itineraries.
“I’m not aware of a particular incident that occurred that prompted the change,” he said. “However, when the university changed our travel authorization process, this was a factor that prompted us to get out of booking accommodations for entertainers. It’s much easier to allow them to book their own accommodations.”
Bono also had other requests added to his original contract, including water bottles, diet soda and lemon flavored Propel drinks “or other similar low-calorie sports beverages.”
The contract also requested for Bono’s book, “Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man,” to be available for sale “on site at the speech location.”
Gerber said ULS tries to minimize costs while meeting speakers’ demands, though demands from previous speakers for items such as alcohol and USF shirts have been denied.
Though many speakers add riders, and many of their requests end up getting scrapped by the ULS board, she said none have been “a big enough deal” to cause a speakers to cancel their performance.
“We give them what they need,” Gerber said. “They need towels, since they get sweaty on stage, and food, and we offer that to them. We try to make a good impression on all of our guests. ULS has money in their budget to provide meals and hospitality items for speakers.”