Concert Creates Controversy
Issue   |   Wed, 02/15/2012 - 01:58
Graphic by Brendan Hsu '15
The Program Board has finally released the Spring Concert poll results, both from in the beginning of the year, and the more recent poll after the original plans fell through.

In various forums this past week, Amherst students have been in heated debate as they voice their opinions regarding this year’s Spring Concert. While the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) funds the Program Board, its decisions regarding any events (including the Spring Concert) rest solely on the Program Board itself, and students have been demanding answers from both.

“I’ve been led to believe that the majority of the student body is against a spring concert. Is this what the poll showed?” asked Zack Gerdes ’14, who was not alone in his demand for full disclosure of what is happening behind the scenes.

With the many demands, Program Board released both their poll results from earlier last month and their ongoing decisions of this year’s Spring Concert to The Student. In reply to January’s survey about whether students wanted a concert with a lesser-known artist, 245 students were in favor of continuing with a Spring Concert, while 555 students were against it. The survey results from early last semester had shown 830 students in favor of the concert and only 49 students against it.

The Program Board sees “cancelling the concert [as] a last resort measure.” With the Student Activities Fees funding much of what the Program Board does, they feel that to not use these fees, which reflects the need to put on a large-scale program like the concert, “would be both cheating the student body and betraying much of Program Board’s mission.”

Due to the Coachella concert date falling on the same week as the scheduled Spring Concert, an inability to move this date and an increase in pricing for the artists, Program Board was faced with limited options in the beginning of the semester. This resulted in a second survey, which they compared to results from the first survey given by the AAS, to come to the decision that most students wanted a concert only if a well-known artist would be performing. With this information, and after further discussion with the AAS, the Program Board moved ahead with placing a bid for an artist that has recently become available, which needed additional funding. However, the artist has not yet been booked.

Last year, two artists suddenly dropped out days before the Spring Concert was to be held. Traditionally, Program Board keeps the identity of the performer unknown until a month or so before the concert so that only members are aware of it. To prevent disappointment if an unconfirmed artist becomes unavailable, the only information given to all other students at this time is AAS President Borsellino’s recent statement that “he or she [has] multiple Grammy nominations, [is] very well-known and liked and [is], therefore, nearly $10,000 out of our price range.”

This price range, however, has been another point of issue with many students.

“We would need a new survey to determine the popularity of a $75,000 concert, no matter how many Grammys the artist might have won last night,” Alec Jacobson ’12 said.

The extra $9,950 was needed immediately for a time-sensitive bid on the artist Program Board hopes to book. Thus, a decision was made because the time frame needed for a school-wide referendum would have prohibited the bid, resulting instead in an immediate grant of the extra money in hopes of securing a performance for the Spring Concert.

Other students have argued that many on campus would like to see other events as well, whether there is a spring concert or not, as a better use of student funds.

“Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to voiced their support for a non-concert spring event option in the poll (something like a better formal that could bring together students and faculty), but there was no word of the results after the fact,” Lilia Kilburn ’12 said.

Her thoughts were echoed by Andrew Kelly ’12.

“$75,000 is a huge amount to spend on one night. I believe that it could be better spent on a recurring event such as a weekly ‘Milk and Cookies’ night to give the students some stress relief,” Kelly said.

In reply to this, Peter Crane, AAS Representative to the Program Board, states that despite plans to move forward with the Spring Concert, “the alternative events many students suggested in the survey were fantastic and will be added into the programming schedule both later this semester and in future semesters.”

The process of this year’s Spring Concert has been a frustrating one for many students as the date moves closer without forthcoming information. As these weeks move on, the Program Board hopes to be able to provide more information and clarity for Amherst students on this spring’s events.

Edit: The graph above should say "800 Voting" (on the right), instead of "900 Voting."