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Moore invitation a UVSC violation?

Cost may have been more than the rules permit

Scott Larson pokes fun during a mock rally Monday opposing Sean Hannity's visit to UVSC.
Scott Larson pokes fun during a mock rally Monday opposing Sean Hannity's visit to UVSC.
Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

OREM — Utah Valley State College officials may have violated school rules when they agreed to bring controversial filmmaker Michael Moore to the campus on Oct. 20 at a cost of $50,500.

According to the student constitution, the college's student council cannot approve spending more than $50,000 for a single event without advising the student body of the expense and holding a forum to discuss it.

But Phil Clegg, the UVSC administrator who signed the contract, said Moore's $40,000 speaking fee and $10,500 travel costs are two separate expenses.

Because the two fees are separate, Clegg said, the contract did not violate the student constitution. And in the end, the point is moot, Clegg said, because after ticket sales, Moore's speech will cost the school $15,000 to $20,000.

"If we wouldn't have sold one ticket, we may have had a problem," said Clegg, director of student leadership and activities.

UVSC student Sean Vreeland, who organized a petition drive to recall top student government leaders over the Moore flap, said regardless of ticket sales, student government leaders acted outside of their guidelines.

Because of that, Vreeland said he will ask the two top student government officers, Jim Bassi and Joe Vogel, to step down today.

"The student constitution states plainly any engagement over $50,000 has to go through a student government process. They didn't do any of those things beforehand," Vreeland said. "The amount of money and the fact they didn't let the student body know at all is just wrong. It was done behind closed doors. Obviously, the student government is supposed to represent the student body, and they didn't."

Clegg said the school planned to sell tickets even before the contract was signed. So far, roughly $35,000 worth of tickets have been sold for the Moore speech, which is sold out.

Tickets to an appearance by conservative radio talk-show host Sean Hannity speech also sold out Monday. Tickets that would have gone to faculty that weren't picked up will go on sale Wednesday at 9 a.m. for $5.

On Monday, about 100 students gathered in the UVSC quad for a mock rally opposing the visit by Hannity, who was asked to speak to students to counter Moore's liberal leanings.

Organizers called the event "sarcastic" and said they were making fun of students who held a rally two weeks ago opposing the Moore speech.

One organizer held up a fictitious picture of Hannity standing with Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. In another, Hannity sat with Saddam in a strip club.

Event organizer Matt Gifford said "we're not really anti-Hannity. We're pro-freedom of speech."

While the lighthearted rally was met mostly with laughs, not everyone was amused. Kay Anderson, a UVSC neighbor who offered the school $25,000 to rescind its invitation to Moore, said students hosting the rally missed his point.

"I'm all for free speech, but this isn't about free speech, this is about respect," he said. "They aren't showing respect for the community."

As for the students who approved Moore's visit, Vreeland said he is going to insist on their resignation or present his petition, which he said now has the 2,415 signatures necessary for a recall election.

"Depending on what goes on from there, we're going to ask them to step down," he said. "If that doesn't happen, we'll go through with the recall."


Contributing: Laura Warner; E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com