Diddy to first-timers: ‘Vote or Die’

It’s safe to say students who support George W. Bush wouldn’t contribute to an event supporting Sen. John Kerry. But that’s what many of them did when anywhere from $7,000 to $12,000 in University funds

It’s safe to say students who support George W. Bush wouldn’t contribute to an event supporting Sen. John Kerry.

But that’s what many of them did when anywhere from $7,000 to $12,000 in University funds went to the production of Citizen Change’s Vote or Die rally on Wednesday.

Although the event was billed as non-partisan, many of the performers acted contrary to its purpose, which is to encourage young people to vote, but not for any particular candidate.

Several of the event’s opening acts expressed anti-Bush sentiments. One local performer specifically implored those in the audience to vote for John Kerry.

Rapper Mary J. Blige voiced her concerns with the current administration, highlighting her disapproval with President Bush’s international and domestic policies.

“It’s a considerable amount of money and the policy of the university is that we don’t sponsor partisan events,” university President David Adamany said. “This apparently was approved by various groups for funding based on the assertion that this was non-partisan.”

The Board of Trustees adopted a policy that bars the use of university money to sponsor partisan events, Adamany added.

Temple Student Government, Student Activities and the Main Campus Program Board, which all receive funding from the university, allocated funds for the event, according to Director of Student Activities Rita Calicat.

It is unclear exactly how the total cost was divided.

Calicat said Citizen Change billed the event as a non-partisan voting initative.

“I think the real issue is the very serious breakdown by people in the university’s own staff who failed to identify the nature of this event and allow the university to support it,” Adamany said. “We’re still looking into it.”

TSG President Naeem Thompson said if he had known that derogatory comments about Bush were to be made at the event, TSG would not have sponsored it.

“It’s been the policy of Temple Student Government not to campaign for anyone,” Thompson said.

Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, head of Citizen Change maintained a neutral stance throughout his portion of the three-hour program. In his press conference, Combs attributed the partisan outbursts to the fact that “young people have a lot of emotion.”

“This is a non-partisan effort,” he said. “I’m not campaigning for Kerry. I’m not running a campaign on the low for Kerry. I’m campaigning for the people.”

However, Combs has been clear on his views in the past. In this month’s Spin magazine Combs was quoted as saying “[We have to] get Bush’s ass out of office” at this year’s Rock the Vote Awards.

Combs founded Citizen Change earlier this year in order to mobilize thousands of young, minority and urban voters, but groundwork for the event in Philadelphia started late last week. The group contacted Temple on Oct. 21 looking for a venue to host one of six Vote or Die events in a three-day span.

For the event, Citizen Change booked the talent and the transportation to and from the venue. Temple provided the venue along with a stage, lighting, a sound system and security.

Pro-Kerry comments and comments critical of the president were not limited to Vote or Die’s stop in Philadelphia.

At Wayne State University on Tuesday, Vote or Die tour member Leonardo DiCaprio openly supported John Kerry. Similar sentiments were echoed at a stop at Case Western Reserve University.

“Events have to be nonpartisan,” Adamany said. “No student funds and no funds of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should go to a partisan event. Neither the taxpayers or students should have to support political views they disagree with.”

Lucas K. Murray can be reached at LukeMurray33@yahoo.com.

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