Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Spring Weekend Selection Process: Time for Reform

NOAH KOEPPEL ’18

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

For the second time in three years, a lack of transparency and sense of uncertainty regarding the school’s spring weekend concert has permeated campus conversations. What was once a staple of Trinity’s social calendar and a selling point to lure prospective students during tours and admissions events has turned into a debacle, a running joke internally and among Trinity’s peer schools. Previous notable artists have included Snoop Dogg, Alesso, Kygo, and LMFAO.

Two years ago, Action Bronson’s performance was canceled and prevented from headlining spring weekend after over one thousand students signed a petition, but was still paid his contractually owed money of at least $30,000. Bronson never stepped foot on campus. If B.o.B has also been paid any amount or signed a legally binding contract and then was subsequently canceled in a similar fashion to Bronson, it becomes clear the committee or process responsible for selecting artists and executing contracts has failed to conduct due diligence when hiring them for not inconsequential sums of money. To be clear, especially as a Jewish student, I unequivocally condemn and loathe anti-Semitism and misogyny. But this is not my current focus, nor are lyrics, flat earth theories, or the first amendment and suppression of speech issues. The silent issue does not deal with the artists’ associations and manifestly ignorant beliefs; the issue concerns Barnyard’s failure to conduct thorough research before extending invitations and, S.A.I.L.S.’s failure to be thorough before signing a legally binding contract. Surprises are nice, but did the committees responsible prove they are equipped to handle one two years ago? Does too much power lie within a small faction of campus? Would more faculty advising be helpful? Could a maximum amount the school is willing to spend on one performer work?

Criticism of an artist after an agreement has been reached is financially deleterious to Trinity when it results in a revocation of an invitation. In hiring professors, upgrading facilities, purchasing properties, and other instances when the College spends large sums of money, Trinity correctly and judiciously conducts scrutinized research and vetting before the associated contracts. Decisions regarding spring weekend should mirror the fastidiousness the college exercises in other arenas rather than carelessly and myopically throwing money to popular artists and then finding their faults. Transparency and inclusive community conversations are critical; such alleged transfer payments represent a gross and blatant mistrust of students and the larger community.

Regardless of whether you agree an artist or speaker is successful, ethically appropriate, and welcome at our college, it would be prudent to have more in-depth conversations, and processes, both at the administrative and student levels, before the money changes hands. Students and parents would not be comfortable if even a small portion of the several-hundred-dollar student activity fees (paid every semester) potentially line the pockets of B.o.B like they did with Action Bronson when neither artist has stepped foot on campus. When visiting campus, parents would likely prefer to drive over a smooth road in front of admissions.

Regardless of whether B.o.B was ever even contacted by the school for this upcoming weekend, we now have an opportune time as a community to revisit the selection process and discuss change. Students are generally upset with the lack of transparency in the process and late timing of Kiiara’s announcement. Changes should be aligned with the “Pulse” section of President Berger Sweeney’s correct and needed focus on building community and collaboration on campus through the Campaign for Community initiative. One such decision may be a mistake; more than one such decisions in the future is problematic.

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