My favorite and least favorite question to ask to Yalies is who they want to see at this year’s Spring Fling. It’s my favorite because I — and the Spring Fling Committee — care deeply about putting on a fantastic show for our peers. It’s my least favorite because the responses I usually get are artists we can’t afford.
As Spring Fling Committee Chair, it is my job to shape a concert experience that is memorable to every student. With how our budget is structured, however, delivering this quality of artist is becoming less and less feasible.
Students at any non-Yale Ivy or Stanford pay, on average, $191 a year as their Student Activities Fee (SAF). Many of these schools charge an additional fee for concerts. Cornell, for example, charges each student $229 per year for their Student Activities Fee, with concerts throughout the year costing around $25 apiece. Yalies pay $75 for their SAF. These funds go partly to undergraduate organizations, partly to school-wide events, and partly to help fund club sports, and admission to Spring Fling is miraculously still free. Not only that, but Spring Fling offers a host of perks like a free beer garden and food set up on Old Campus. But these benefits come at a cost: We can’t pay for artists people know or give them the concert they deserve.
Since the last time the fee increased at Yale (from $50 to $75), tuition has increased by $9,300. This year, Spring Fling will be on the first day of reading period by popular demand, so that more students can attend without the stress of impending papers and finals. The Saturday date, though, comes with overtime costs for those working the event, which cuts thousands out of the talent and production budget. Not only that, YCC members must work nearly 30 hours apiece leading up to and following the concert because we can’t afford adequate hired labor. Asking students to pay a little more for cultural, social and athletic activities is always a difficult task, and it is for this reason that the administration has neglected increasingly visible inadequacies in student funding.
What would we get with an increased fee? More funding for student organizations, not having to pay for events such as Fall Show (which was previously free), more security to prevent against dangerous moshing at Spring Fling, a larger and less crowded beer tent, and bands and artists that people will recognize.
Of course, there is the argument that we shouldn’t spend money on an event populated by intoxicated Yalies. But even under the influence, did you form an opinion on T-Pain’s set two years ago? How about Macklemore’s last year? No matter the state, Yalies know what a good or bad performance is. Additionally, paying more would enhance the entire experience — think about how awesome you’d feel dancing to a set with a real festival atmosphere: crazy lights, CO2 cannons, bouncy castles, and more. Finally, having a larger budget would enable us to fund activities catered towards a sober crowd, so that we could draw the entire Yale population onto Old Campus without alienating those who do not drink.
Much of the Yale administration, I would argue, doesn’t understand the enormous cost of artist talent. Even an up-and-coming artist that hits it big with one song may immediately become out of our price range. The Spring Fling survey is fairly representative of the artists we can afford, and only 8 percent of artists were known by at least 75 percent of campus. The Yale Herald highlighted this in giving our survey an “F” on familiarity: “I can’t even determine whether the name I’m reading refers to a band, an artist, or a laptop that plays dubstep versions of Beyoncé songs.”
A number of the more well known artists we surveyed would have to be the only act we could get with our budget, eliminating the idea of getting a diversity of genres appealing to a range of students. To those who want country — I implore you to find a recognizable name within price range, since most country is an expensive niche genre with many die-hard fans.
This is my third year on Spring Fling Committee, and each year I see artists double or triple in price. Despite these hikes in artist cost and inflation, the fee hasn’t increased a dime in years. I’m not saying that this year’s Spring Fling won’t be good; it will be. The question is whether — when the names of the artists are released — you’ll recognize any of them.
Erica Leh is a junior in Morse College and the Chair of the Spring Fling Committee. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.