Spring Fling Committee and Women’s Center consider artist selection

While Spring Fling may not be until April, the Women’s Center and the Spring Fling Committee have already started thinking about the event.

Members of the two groups met Wednesday afternoon to discuss sex and gender sensitivity issues surrounding Spring Fling artists and to brainstorm ways the committee can choose performers that will not make any students uncomfortable. The meeting, which was open to all undergraduates, marked the first time the Spring Fling Committee has formally met with members of the Women’s Center before choosing performers, and it aimed to give students a chance to express concerns about the performer selection process, said Ethan Karetsky ’14, the committee’s chair.

“In the past, people haven’t always been thrilled with our artist choices at Spring Fling,” Karetsky said. “We want to be as sensitive as we can to all the different constituencies who attend the concert.”

Seven members of the Spring Fling Committee, two Community and Consent Educators, two representatives of the Women’s Center and roughly three non-affiliated students attended the meeting.

Kat Lau ’13, last year’s Spring Fling Committee chair, said that in recent years, several performers have received heavy criticism from students about the offensive messages of their lyrics. The Ying Yang Twins, who performed in 2010, and T-Pain, who came in 2012, stand out as the two performers who garnered the most criticism, said Erin Vanderhoof ’14, the Women’s Center outreach coordinator and a former editor for the News. Lau added, however, that the negative student response occurred only after it was too late to modify the concert’s lineup. In 2010, the Afro-American Cultural Center and the Women’s Center organized an alternative concert during Spring Fling weekend in protest of Ying Yang’s performance, Vanderhoof said. The same year, students posted signs with Ying Yang’s lyrics they found offensive around campus, said Emily Villano ’13, a staffer at the Women’s Center.

Last April, Branford College Master Elizabeth Bradley, who hosted T-Pain in her house during Spring Fling, facilitated an open meeting between members of the Women’s Center and the Spring Fling Committee after the concert, Lau said.

Students at Wednesday’s meeting primarily discussed past origins of issues with artists, such as specific T-Pain lyrics they found offensive. By holding a forum in October, Karetsky said he hopes to turn post-concern criticisms into constructive pre-concert discussions. He added that members of the Spring Fling Committee hope to avoid “perpetuating mythologies about sex and sexual culture at Yale” through their choice of artists.

Karetsky said the forum comes as part of the Spring Fling Committee’s larger effort to ensure the majority of students are “proud” of this year’s performers, an initiative that began with a change to the YCC’s Spring Fling survey. In the survey, which was sent out on Oct. 18, a new question was added asking students whether they found any of the artists “offensive in any way.” Karetsky said he received a wide variety of responses to the question, several of which cited concerns with artists who had been arrested or convicted in the past. Responses to the survey’s question have already helped the committee eliminate several artists from their performer search, he said, adding that roughly 800 students responded to the question and a total of 2,400 students completed the survey.

Matthew Breuer ’14, a CCE who attended the meeting, said he thinks the Spring Fling Committee should be sensitive to lyrics that may be offensive to some students, but that the committee should not define Yale’s music culture.

Nia Froome ’15, another attendee, said she felt “very comforted” that the Spring Fling Committee made an effort to meet with members of the Women’s Center and hopeful that the meeting will lead to a more open and transparent dialogue surrounding the selection of artists.

This year’s Spring Fling concert will run April 11–14, 2013.

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