In response to the backlash that surrounded the performance of rapper Ja Rule at Spring Fling last April, the Yale College Council’s Spring Fling Committee decided to bring together students from across campus to discuss the selection of this year’s performers.
The meeting, held at the Women’s Center, solicited input from nearly two dozen people representing multiple student organizations. Attendees noted that the conversation was important and constructive for the future of Spring Fling.
“We just wanted to make sure that whoever we brought for Spring Fling, people would be excited,” YCC Events Committee Director Jaime Halberstam ’16 said. “Not just for their music but for who they are as a person and the values they represent.”
Thomas Marano ’16, head of the Spring Fling Committee, said that while this meeting was not held last year, he decided to hold it given the response to Ja Rule’s selection.
The committee needs to choose artists whose lyrics do not exclude any group on campus, Marano said.
The sentiment was echoed throughout the YCC.
“It’s good to have a conversation to make sure that the event reflects the values of our community,” YCC President Michael Herbert ’16 said. “It’s very important that [in] everything we do … we are in line with the values of the community.”
Halberstam added that the discussion centered on criteria to prevent selecting an artist who was considered offensive. She noted that one idea was to have Spring Fling committee members undergo sensitivity training. In particular, members would go to each of the cultural houses to get a clearer understanding of exactly what that particular cultural house might find offensive.
Members of the Spring Fling committee interviewed said that communication between the committee and the broader community should be improved.
Events should be organized so that there is an easy channel between the Spring Fling committee and the cultural houses, Marano said.
However, others at the meeting disagreed that the Spring Fling committee was advocating a sense of mutual responsibility.
“At the beginning of the meeting, it seemed like they were putting the burden of responsibility on members of the community … to ensure that no offensive performer was chosen,” Alex Borsa ’16, a leader of the LGBTQ Co-op at Yale, said.
Still, Borsa was quick to note that by the end of the discussions, “everyone was much more on the same page.”
Last April, Spring Fling’s original headliner, Chance the Rapper, canceled his appearance three days prior to the event, citing health concerns.