Double take: Akon too controversial for Spring Fling

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

Beyond musicality and name recognition, the Spring Fling Talent Search Committee used at least one more criterion to pick this year’s acts: Their potential to cause controversy.

The issue came to a head over rap artist Akon, whose popular singles “Smack That” and “Right Now (Na Na Na)” made him a top choice on the second Spring Fling survey that the committee submitted to the student body. But opposition arose the moment Akon’s name hit e-mail inboxes across campus, and students and administrators alike pushed the Yale College Council to nix the rapper from its shortlist.

Akon made headlines two years ago when a video of him showed him imitating sex acts with a 15-year-old girl on stage. The artist often receives criticism from those who deem his lyrics misogynistic.

Two letters printed in the News (“Please, Yale, don’t endorse Akon” by Elizabeth Kim GRD ’10, March 5, and “A bad survey with a bad option” by Michael Chao ’11, March 6) chastised the YCC for even considering Akon.

“Let’s boycott Akon’s message,” Kim wrote, “have a good time at Spring Fling and free ourselves from assuming guilt over supporting a prolific pedophilic misogynist.”

Those concerns caught the attention of the Yale College Dean’s Office. Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry wrote an e-mail following the letters’ publication asking the committee to reconsider Akon.

“This is divisive. This not pulling people together,” Gentry said in an interview Monday. “Given his divisiveness, perhaps this is someone the committee doesn’t want to waste time on.”

The issue divided the committee over whether to write off a popular artist based on his controversial background. Avinash Gandhi ’10 said some on the committee argued that Akon should be judged on his admittedly wide appeal to the Yale community.

Spring Fling co-Chair Natasha Sarin ’11 fought for the rapper, arguing that the committee’s job was only to produce a high-quality show. The committee’s job, she added, “isn’t to judge the morality of the artist we bring.”

Bryan Woods GRD ’11, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, said graduate students on the committee threatened to pull $10,000 of funding if the committee picked the rap artist.

The graduate students sent out a poll to graduate and professional students nearly identical to that sent to undergraduates. While Akon and the Decemberists were both very popular among undergraduates, Woods said Akon was much less popular with his constituency. In addition, he said, graduate students did not want to commit their funds to a controversial artist like Akon.

More importantly, some committee members said, the committee believed Akon would not deliver as quality a performance as the Decemberists.

“Akon sucks,” said committee member Zack Fuhrer ’11, a staff reporter for the News. “He’s misogynistic, but on top of that he’s not talented.”

Akon is scheduled to play the University of Pennsylvania’s Spring Fling on April 17.


  • Anonymous

    Akon is not a rapper.

  • Rob

    "Misogynistic and talentless."
    How exactly, then, is Akon different from the vast majority of rappers?

  • Anonymous

    The committee is to be applauded for taking a pass on Akon. To endorse someone like him would likely have meant that many would have chosen to stay away rather than be subjected to his offensive lyrics and behavior. With these better choices in the entertainment line-up, this year's Spring Fling is bound to be more inclusive than it otherwise would have been. Isn't that what it's all about anyway?

  • Hieronymus

    I continue to be embarrassed by Yalies' "musical" preferences (even prior to adding the spices of misogyny, racism, thuggery, criminality, etc.). I still choose to believe that Yalies' celebration of this sort of "music" is indicative of some weird yearning for a perceived "normalcy" (you know, where white suburban affluent kidz wish they had street cred, or something) versus any real reflection of cultural impoverishment.

    As said the Jimmy Fund kid: "I can dream, can't I?"

  • Y09

    Bravo. Sure, lots of rappers are misogynistic and talentless, but I think they stayed away from that in the line-up this year. Usually I'm bothered by Yale being overly sensitive, but they got it right this time. Natasha's comment about not considering the morality of acts is troublesome.

  • Don't Matter


    Nobody want to see us together, but it don't matter, no, cause I got your CD off of Limewire.

  • Y90

    I know I'm old since I thought it said Akron.

    I couldn't think of anything particularly controversial about Akron, OH.

  • Y10

    Wow. Students at this school truly have a stick up their behinds. When did Spring Fling become an educational or moral experience. Its about popular music that will please the majority of the student body. Get off you high horses with this morality bullshit. Welcome to the 21 century where pop culture is dominant. It is rarity to find an artist without some sort of controversy.

    Thank you Natasha for pulling for Akon. And Yale take a page from Penn. RELAX

  • Anonymous

    Well, I'm glad instead of getting a catchy, up-beat performer that 98% of the student body likes and is familiar with (read: AKON), we're catering to the minority hipster crowd with The Decemberists. I'll fall asleep on my feet and get trampled by other drunk kids… awesome.

  • Anonymous

    @#9: The whole "artist 98% of the student body likes" thing worked out really well the last two years, didn't it? I can't recall anyone really being excited about Sean Kingston, or even TI, after they were announced, and that carried over into one mediocre Spring Fling and one awful one. Say what you like about us "minority hipsters" (and, incidentally, the Decemberists have been too mainstream for the hipsters for a while now) but we're actually genuinely excited about this lineup--and believe me, the enthusiastic atmosphere will make it more fun for everyone.

  • roflcopter

    The Decemberists play the Soviet Anthem as their intro music. As someone whose parents were killed under Soviet rule, I am offended.

    Also, because they suck.

  • SF Committee Member

    @9: 98% of the student body? The Decemberists - along with several other acts - polled better than Akon. We also watched videos of him. He articulates maybe one word out of ten when he speaks. Not to mention that he has no moral qualms with working with Chris Brown, or with blood diamonds. He also had simulated sex on stage with a minor.

    Anyways, maybe you should go back to high school. You might fit in there better.

  • sf

    "Well, I'm glad instead of getting a catchy, up-beat performer that 98% of the student body likes and is familiar with (read: AKON), we're catering to the minority hipster crowd "

    Just FYI, Akon and the Decemberists tied virtually 50-50 on one of the surveys.

  • Anonymous

    Can we get MIA? She's more gangsta than Akon and not offensive at all.

  • 'hieronymus'

    i love this guy's posts--i mean, did he even go to yale? one straw man argument after another--keep it coming

  • @ #1

    hahaha good call.

    I guess Yale is 55% robots.

    bee bee bo bop.

  • roflcopter

    Ryan Beauchamp lost my vote when he photoshopped his head onto Obama's body.


  • Yes Wu Can…

    … put another item on his résumé. Yalies voted for the guy with the cute posters, instead of the serious candidate who understands that the role of the president is about being a student advocate.

  • Thanks

    Thanks for not making everybody suffer through yet another year with some asshole, misogynistic rapper. Sean Kingston and TI made me embarrassed to be affiliated with Yale.

    The Decemberists have much, much broader appeal among the Yale community as a whole. I don't know who answers these surveys -- maybe a lot of freshmen and sophomores? The people voting for Akon certainly have pretty sophomoric taste in music. Among Juniors, Seniors, and especially grad students and professional students, I'm sure the Decemberists absolutely crush any and all annoying, misogynistic rappers.

    My only complaint: someday I dream of Yale actually inviting female performers to spring fling. For years and years, we've been at nearly 100% or 100% male, and it's getting a little pathetic. We listen to female artists too.

  • yaylie

    Decemberists? That's the main act? Who the f--k are the Decemberists? None of their singles ever made the charts. We've got plenty of homegrown indie talent at Yale of similar caliber willing to perform for free. Oh well; I guess my classmates have weirder musical tastes than I thought. What happened to All American Rejects? Where can I see the survey results?

  • Jealous Alum

    The Decemberists: Mainstream enough to be rejected by hipsters. High-profile enough to get into a (totally awesome) "fight" with Stephen Colbert.

    Also one of the best live acts I have ever seen. Seriously, their show is the very opposite of "boring." Yay for Spring Fling musical diversity for a change, and for a lack of high-school-nostalgia bands! The previous commentators are kindly requested to remove the stick from *their* posteriors.

    Instead of being jealous of my sister's Spring Fling (at Brown University), I can for once be jealous of the lineup at my own alma mater!

  • umm

    why is no one talking about N.E.R.D.- they are a blend of hip-hop rock and put on an unbelievable show. They are easily going to steal the show and leave a lot of people surprised

  • Anonymous

    I'd like to see the survey results. It's going to be so godly awesome when every single year we have some semi-mainstream/scene kid's favorite band come to Yale for the Fling.

  • warren

    I sense racism at work. Funny how far we have come to realize that we have not gone far enough. Work out your problems people, and stop trying to hide your true feelings behind your putative moral compunction.

  • Anonymous

    who even took this survey? out of 15 people on my floor, ONE knows of the decemberists, and ALL know of akon. anyway, whatever, hopefully fling will rock anyway 😀