Coming Soon: Springfest TM
Wyclef Jean would have been a refreshing bit of attitude to spice things up around campus. The Indigo Girls were a shot in the dark--you either can't live with them or you can't live without them, and there is no in-between. Practically everyone would have loved seeing the Dave Mathews Band (DMB) perform live at this year's Springfest. But now that the Undergraduate Council has chosen the Violent Femmes, the only question on most peoples' minds is, "What they are going to play after Blister in the Sun?"
Something tells me it's not our school's name or the student body's lack of enthusiasm that kept DMB from performing on campus this spring, Rather, it was Dave's hefty $75,000 to $125,000 fee, the Indigo Girls' $50,000 fee and Wyclef's $45,000 fee. And as much as I would have liked to see one of those other bands, I think those prices are outrageous--especially if the council is paying the entire fee out of its own budget.
Two of the eight proposed allocations of the council's $40,000 unbudgeted surplus would help fund next year's Springfest. And while this would provide the council with ample funds to attract bigger bands and performers, there is another way to sponsor Springfest without wasting the valuable $40,000 to pay for such an inconsequential event. Should Harvard's administration allow the council to form agreements with corporate sponsors, then not only could Springfest host more prominent music groups, but the $40,000 could be allocated to one of the other, more deserving, proposals.
According to Ryan E. Dorris '99, chair of the council's Campus Life Committee, corporate sponsors for an event like Springfest usually donate approximately $8,000 to a student government. In return, they receive a presence in the form of booths, information tables or perhaps even in the event's title. The council could host the Coca-Cola Springfest, for example, replete with red and white banners and other Coke promotional gimmicks.
Given Harvard's name cache, why aren't Bank-Boston and Frito-Lay banging down our gates? Dorris explains that due to the Administration's current policy, the council can take other company's money but they can't give much back in return.
In accordance with Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III and Coordinator of Student Activities Susan T. Cooke's policy guidelines for corporate sponsors, the only form of advertisement Harvard allows is the company's name in fine-lettered print on a T-shirt. This policy places Harvard at an undeniable disadvantage as sponsors expect permission for more of a presence at their hosted event than simply having their name printed on a T-shirt. And without their sponsorships, the council finances entire recreational activities out of its own budget--instead of allocating that money for more substantial proposals like the construction of a student center or an increase in grants to student groups. Considering Harvard's meager form of compensation, who can blame companies for holding onto their $8,000 donations?
Perhaps the policy is in place because the administration is trying to protect the Harvard name. But is it that degrading to our school's reputation to have a soft drink logo on the same banner as our veritas emblem? Springfest is an event sponsored by representatives of the student body, for the student body. And if corporate sponsors will help the council attract more popular performers, then so be it. If the administration fears that corporate sponsors would use Harvard's name for their own promotional purposes, the council could surely remedy this problem in their contract agreements.
Or maybe the policy is in place because the administration fears our rather sedate Springfest will evolve into something like the Head of the Charles--an hysteria that rocks the Charles river-front each October. But just six corporate sponsors--enough to have booked Wyclef for this years event--handing out free samples or distributing information from five by five-foot booths strategically placed on the perimeter of the MAC Quad would hardly detract from Springfest's grandeur.
The strict corporate sponsor policy might also be in place because the administration predicts a dangerous form of the slippery--slope syndrome in the council's future. The council might be conservative in its use of corporate sponsors this year, but what about years to come? We certainly don't want the Yard overrun with corporate placards, nor do we want campus events to lose their student focus. While this fear is probably legitimate, it is only one minor area of concern that the council must deal with responsibly. But the council shouldn't be punished for a problem that has yet to arise.
The administration should allow the council to contract with corporate sponsors to help fund Springfest. This would not only give the council the opportunity to improve their rather precarious reputation by allocating the $40,000 to more worthy proposals, but it would exponentially improve the prospects for a successful Springfest. Jordana R. Lewis is a first-year living in Thayer Hall.