Monday, August 06, 2007

Virginia Tech Concert Controversy

Recent media coverage highlighted the issues raised regarding the "Concert for Virginia Tech." Several families of the victims are concerned that certain violent and profanity-laced lyrics are inappropriate for a concert "conceived as a way to help the university community move forward in the aftermath of the April tragedy at Virginia Tech." While the focus has been on the concert controversy, attention has been diverted from the key issues following the tragedy.


Although the importance of music to build community and lift the spirit is undeniable, the production of this concert requires significant resources.

Has the university put equal resources into ensuring the safety and security of the thousands of students, staff and educators returning in the fall?

  • Has a security vulnerability assessment been conducted to review and enhance physical, personnel, informational and procedural measures?
  • Has the university set up comprehensive training initiatives for all elements of the campus community?
  • Have personal safety initiatives, emergency procedures and inter-office agency response drills been conducted and planned which include active shooter, shelter in place, evacuations, lockdown drills and access/egress issues?

Has the university put equal resources into concern for the ongoing post-trauma needs of the thousands of students, staff and educators returning in the fall?

  • Have campus counseling services been enhanced?
  • Has training been provided for teachers and administrators on the symptoms of post-traumatic stress?

Has the university put equal resources into reviewing and enhancing policies and procedures for students with mental health problems?

  • Has training been provided for teachers and administrators on the warning signs and responses to problem students?


Universities routinely evaluate their teachers when granting or denying tenure.

Universities routinely evaluate their coaches when hiring and firing.

An honest and straightforward record of the events of April 16th must be provided to the Virginia Tech community and the nation. Since reason dictates that there were deficiencies in the decisions and actions on that day, those responsible must be held accountable—up to the highest levels of the university. Do we not owe it to those who lost their lives, those who were injured and all those affected by this tragedy?


Certain media reports have portrayed this as a free concert and stated that all money raised will go to offset expenses. Although free tickets will be provided, other tickets will be sold. The Virginia Tech website states "Tickets are not being made available to the general public at this time."

Yet, the Dave Matthews Band website is offering fans the opportunity to purchase tickets. "The ticket price for ‘A Concert for Virginia Tech’ is $65.00 per ticket plus convenience, handling and shipping. No funds from the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund will be used to cover expenses for this concert. Corporate sponsorships, the sale of commemorative concert items and Warehouse ticket sales will help to cover the expenses associated with the logistics of the concert."

To respond to concerns of commercialization and exploitation, the university owes the public a complete and detailed accounting of all revenue and expenses related to the concert. They should immediately release their proposed budget for this event. If there is a surplus, where will those funds go? If there is a deficit, where will the funds come from?


  • Corporate sponsors
  • Ticket sales
  • Commemorative Items Sales
  • Other Merchandise Sales
  • Food and Beverage Sales
  • Parking
  • All other revenue
  • Will the bands be selling merchandise? If so, will all the proceeds from these sales go to the university or will the band receive profits from the sales?


  • Consulting
  • Public relations
  • Promotion
  • Security
  • Staff
  • Set-up
  • Clean-up
  • All other expenses
  • It has been published that the bands are donating their services for the concert. Will any of the bands expenses be paid--member and support team travel, equipment transportation, set-up, etc?


  • Will the concert be broadcast live and/or recorded?
  • If so,
    – Will the university be covering related expenses?
    – Who will own the rights?
    – How will future profits be accounted for?
    – How will future profits be distributed?
Also, will there be a tribute to the victims during the concert?


This event was planned without any communication with the individuals and families who have suffered the most. Sensitivity to these individuals should always be a priority and the common courtesy of respect, empathy and compassion continues to be ignored by Virginia Tech officials.

The university felt it necessary to hire Burson-Marsteller, by some accounts the fifth largest public relations firm IN THE WORLD, to handle communications related to the April 16th tragedy. It must be at a significant cost to the university, since they would not release the details of the contract. If this money can be spent on a behemoth public relations firm, don’t you think they should be more proactive in their concern, support, and communication with the families?

The response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech demands a dialog that honors the victims and their families, addresses the issues of campus safety, mental health and availability of firearms and calls the community to improved collaboration. University officials have had the opportunity to rise to the occasion but to date receive only a failing grade.


Virginia Tech Tragedy: A Crisis of Leadership Click here to visit site
Virginia Tech Trauma: Patience and Presence Click here to visit site
Understanding Mental Illness: Critical to the Educational Environment Click here to visit site
School Security Concerns: Time For Action Click here to visit site
Virginia Tech: A Time to Mourn Click here to visit site

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