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Southern Illinois University Carbondale generated serious buzz this week when it announced that Ice Cube would be performing at SIU Arena in April.

Yes, THAT Ice Cube — the well-known rapper who made a name for himself in the late 1980s and early ‘90s with N.W.A., and then became a solo artist as well as an actor — is coming to SIUC.

It’s been a long time since somebody that big made their way to Carbondale for an SIUC-sponsored event. Actually, it seems like it’s been forever.

And for that, we applaud the university. We love the fact that SIUC is trying to up the ante when it comes to entertainment.

Now, we surely realize that Ice Cube isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s not the point.

The point is that SIUC is showing that they want to bring big acts back to Carbondale. The university is showing it is serious about getting top-notch entertainment for its students and the community. And, that is undeniably a good thing.

Remember the days when Elton John played the Arena? Or the Grateful Dead? Or Aerosmith? Or James Taylor?

Heck, even Elvis, June Carter and Johnny Cash played SIU Arena.

The list is impressive, but it’s time SIUC started a new list of big concerts on campus. Continue getting big names — and make sure the names run through the who’s who of all kinds of genres of music and entertainment. After all, everybody has different tastes when it comes to entertainment.

In an interview this week, SIUC vice chancellor of student affairs Lori Stettler said students are looking for a mix of hip-hop, rock and country.

And it also sends another message: “It also lets the music industry know that we are back in the game and we are serious about it,” she said.

SIUC hasn’t exactly been flush with good news lately. But the recurring theme around campus is enrollment. And more specifically, how can the university get the numbers back on campus?

Chancellor Carlo Montemagno says his restructuring plan will get the numbers pointed back in the right direction. He may be right, and he may be wrong — only time will tell on that one.

Amenities are part of the college experience. When students start looking for what, for many of them, will be their first experience away from home and with a taste of independence, there is a certain excitement around entertainment, dining options, and what a college community has to offer.

Will these concerts with popular artists and groups bring students back to Carbondale? No, that alone will not get enrollment numbers back to what they once were. But it certainly can’t hurt — it’s definitely part of the equation.

“People on campus and in the community have told me that they want to see major entertainment and cultural events on campus,” SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said in a news release this week. “In keeping with our vision of a revitalized SIU, we are listening to the requests of our students and community to bring major acts to Southern Illinois.”

That’s good to hear.

Of course, whether SIU will continue to offer big names in entertainment depends on who shows up. We know Ice Cube isn’t for everyone, but if you like hip-hop and you like cool things happening in your community, buy a ticket. Call your brother in St. Louis who’s a huge Ice Cube fan and offer to give him a place to stay so he can come see the show. SIU is working to make exciting things happen here, and they’re gambling on us — the fans, the community — to put up and show up.

That’s the only way it’s going to work.


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