Update: This story has been updated with Angela King-Taylor’s statements via email.
Colossus is over. Loyola’s annual two-night show, which often featured a musician one night and a comedian the other, won’t continue.
The event has been cancelled since May, current and former Department of Programming (DOP) students said. While DOP is student-run, the decision came from the top of Loyola’s Student Activities and Greek Affairs (SAGA) department without any input from students, according to the DOP students.
The decision was made after Colossus 2018 — on March 17 — hit a road bump. On its second night, comedian Hannibal Buress, in an affront to Loyola’s content restrictions, told a joke about Catholic priests molesting children. His microphone was cut.
The restrictions banned content related to rape, sexual assault, race, illegal drug use and sexual orientation.
While university officials cited financial reasons for Colossus’ cancellation, the students, who asked not to be named, said they thought the Buress incident also played a factor.
After his microphone was cut, Buress tried to continue his set without the microphone by projecting his voice. Loyola administrators began blaring music to drown him out, one of the students said.
Buress walked off stage and postponed his set for 15 minutes. He eventually was able to continue, which at the time he said he did because he’d already been paid.
The students told The Phoenix Buress’ conduct clearly upset SAGA director Angela King-Taylor.
King-Taylor said via email the Division of Student Development made the decision because the department consistently had trouble obtaining talent. She said comedians and musicians can still come and perform in Gentile.
“Over the years, we have had difficulty consistently obtaining talent that appealed to the Loyola student population within the DOP budget. As a result, we have decided to focus on expanding current programs and initiatives to serve the Loyola University Chicago community.”
– SAGA Director Angela King-Taylor
Students in DOP said they were told by Loyola officials as far back as May, when Colossus was initially axed, not to talk about its cancellation. The university, the students said they were told, would be putting out a statement to the Loyola community.
Many months later, a statement still hasn’t been released.
The students told The Phoenix they’re speaking now because they thought Loyola students should know the event is off. Some also said they thought Loyola hasn’t told students yet in hopes students would just forget about Colossus.
DOP student directors made the decision against SAGA’s wishes to tell the DOP General Board — made up of unpaid student volunteers — about Colossus’ cancellation in September.
When the event was cancelled in the spring, the decision was portrayed to DOP students as a result of financial concerns, the students said. They said the goal each year was to break even, which sometimes just barely happened when shows wouldn’t sell out or guests would flake.
Past guests have included comedians Nick Offerman and Trevor Noah and musicians Jason Derulo and Nick Jonas.
Pop star Kesha cancelled her appearance at Colossus on two separate occasions — in 2014 and 2016.
It’d be less financially risky for Loyola to spread out musical acts or stand-up shows than to devote a big chunk of the DOP budget to one event, the students said they were told in May.
In a statement to The Phoenix, Dean of Students Will Rodriguez said Colossus’ costs were extremely expensive, took up most of DOP’s budget and didn’t deliver guests that were satisfying enough to students.
But the students said they thought the Buress incident had more of an impact than university officials let on.
“I think they were looking for a reason [to cancel it] and used that,” a current DOP student said.
Another portrayed it as a “straw that broke the camel’s back” and as accelerating Colossus’ demise.
Colossus was often held on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, which the students explained came from DOP’s philosophy of serving as “alternative programming” to the heavy binge drinking of the holiday.
Now, DOP can’t have a two-night event that weekend and feature a comedian and musician, the students said. It also can’t be called Colossus.
Instead, the students said DOP aims to spread out events featuring big-name guests across the academic year. Having musicians and comedians perform at Loyola is still an option, the students said.
That doesn’t mean an event that holiday weekend is off the table. Because of DOP’s “alternative programming” philosophy, the students said they’ve been brainstorming ideas for another type of event for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, but nothing’s been approved yet.