Campus, News

WTBU cancels benefit concert the day-of, following Mass Bail Fund controversy

On Friday, Boston University’s student-run radio station WTBU canceled its Mass Bail Fund Benefit Concert due to a recent controversy surrounding how the fund has used contributions. COURTESY OF WTBU

Boston University’s student-run radio station WTBU decided Friday to cancel its benefit concert for the Massachusetts Bail Fund — scheduled for that night — after discovering how the organization had previously used financial contributions. 

The Mass Bail Fund Benefit Concert, which was set to take place via Facebook Live, was called off after a member of BU Today alerted the station about a Boston Globe article that reported the fund posted a $15,000 bail to set a convicted rapist free. After his release, Shawn McClinton had allegedly assaulted another woman Thursday.

WTBU General Manager Eleanor Schiltz said the executive board decided it was no longer comfortable fundraising for the organization. 

“I know it’s a disappointing thing to hear,” Schiltz, a senior in the College of Fine Arts, said. “There were quite a few people on both sides that were supportive and disappointed at the decision, but it’s something that we decided we just had to make a call before the concert.” 

The concert — which would have featured artists such as Damoyee Janai and Eva Davenport — had been promoted on WTBU’s social media pages since July 29. 

The station’s initial announcement stated it chose to host the benefit concert in response to the high number of Massachusetts inmates awaiting trial because they could not afford bail. People were encouraged to donate to the station via Venmo or Facebook Live.

Any funds collected during the promotion of the Mass Bail Fund Benefit Concert will be refunded through Venmo, according to WTBU’s official statement.

The station also encouraged individual donations to organizations fighting systemic racism and mass incarceration, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 

Announcements of the concert’s cancelation were met with various comments voicing disagreement with the station’s decision. Dissenting comments focused on the fund’s broader mission, which opposes the U.S. bail system.

The fund largely aims to free individuals detained while serving pre-trial sentences.

Professor Anne Donohue, who serves as the station’s faculty adviser, said canceling the concert serves as a message to the Massachusetts Bail Fund. 

“My hope is that by raising this issue that the [Massachusetts Bail Fund] thinks twice about where they allocate their limited funds,” Donohue said. “If some of their funds are going to a serial sex offender and a convicted rapist, I think those funds are not well spent.”

While WTBU will no longer be donating to the bail fund as an intermediary, Donohue said those who disagree with the station’s decision are still free to donate to the fund directly.

“That’s their prerogative,” Donohue said. “I just think as an organization we have to think about all of the constituencies, and I think there’s plenty of victims’ rights groups and women’s groups and anti-violence groups that would think this is not a good investment of WTBU’s time and money.” 

The radio station is currently working on rescheduling another performance with the artists who were left without an event Friday, Donohue said.

Whether they will be rescheduled specifically to another live concert is still up in the air, Schiltz said. Schiltz and Donohue both said the station is discussing a future benefit concert in place of the canceled event, but that there is no set plan yet.

Though Friday’s concert ultimately wound up in controversy, Schiltz said its original intent was to highlight passionate and talented individuals while supporting a platform WTBU believed in.

“We tried to do something good,” Schiltz said, “but there were a multitude of things that kind of got in the way of the pure message of what we wanted.”

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