UPDATED: JSU faces criticism for hosting 3,500-person concert amid pandemic

3,500 attendees packed into the southside bleachers of Burgess-Snow Field for a Riley Green concert on Nov. 20, with many not wearing masks and not social distancing. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)3,500 attendees packed into the southside bleachers of Burgess-Snow Field for a Riley Green concert on Nov. 20, with many not wearing masks and not social distancing. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Miranda Prescott, News Editor

Jacksonville State University has received criticism on social media from students about the recent Riley Green concert held on Nov. 20 to a stadium of 3,500 fans.

The concert was held as a benefit fundraiser for JSU athletics. Although masks were required when not eating, photos from the concert show several unmasked fans packed into the southside of the JSU stadium. Students have taken to social media to criticize the university for putting the concert on.

The university made an Instagram post on Tuesday, Nov. 24 reminding students about the rising number of cases in the state. 

“As COVID-19 cases rise across the country, we want to remind you to keep practicing the safe six!” #CockyCares.” said the post.

According to Sydney Jones-Wright, JSU’s assistant director of social media and communications, comments containing “profound and offensive language” were removed from the Instagram post, per the university’s social media policy.

“Didn’t seem to care about the ‘safe six’ or even enforcing the mask mandate at the concert y’all held,” one Instagram comment read on the post.

Jeff Ryan, JSU’s chief of program operations and COVID-19 task force head, assured the public that this was not a “super-spreader event.”

“The Riley Green concert was planned in such a way to make it safe for 3,500 people to enjoy his music safely in an open-air setting,” said Ryan.

Fans packed into the southside of the Burgess-Snow Field — many unmasked and not social distancing — for a Riley Green concert on Friday, Nov. 20. (Coley Birchfield/The Chanticleer)

Madison North, a JSU graphic design major, took to social media to express dissatisfaction with the university’s decision to hold a concert, saying that JSU wouldn’t allow her to host a public reception for her graphic design work.

“I’m really mad at the fact that I was not allowed to have a public reception to show off my work as a graphic designer, but JSU can host a concert in the stadium where not a single person was wearing a mask or social distancing,” said North. “Don’t preach about our health and safety at college and then proceed to host a concert with no safety precautions right before everyone goes home to their families for thanksgiving break.”

Green’s performance was held just before the university’s Thanksgiving Break, a holiday that health officials say may result in a surge of COVID-19 cases as students return home to their families.

Ryan explained that the reserved seating — separate from the seating in the bleachers — were organized in a way to be “separated safely” from other attendees. He also said that there was sufficient space in the bleachers for attendees to spread out and maintain social distance, though many chose not to do so.

Ryan said that while patrons were required to wear masks upon entry of the venue, not everyone remained compliant with this order.

“Remember that the event was held out in the open air,” said Ryan. “This is an important factor in the safety equation.”

CORRECTION: Our story earlier claimed that the Instagram post by the university was deleted and reposted. This is false. Profane and offensive comments were removed, per the university’s social media policy, according to Sydney Jones-Wright, the university’s assistant director of social media and communications. The story has been updated.

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