Girl Talk Has Left the Building

The CEB should learn from a well-conceived but poorly executed pep rally

Lerenzo D. Tolbert-malcom

The hype was unprecedented for a Harvard pep rally. The College Events Board (CEB) had arranged for the hit DJ Girl Talk to perform. Students eagerly anticipated his live show, legendary among music fans, at the end of the pep rally, which was supposed to arouse excitement for the weekend’s football game against Yale. But even before Girl Talk began playing, things began to go wrong. From the flimsy and possibly dangerous stage setup, to the chaotic and unsafe conditions in the front rows, to the constant interruptions and ultimate cancellation of the concert by the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD), the performance was a major disappointment.

While the event certainly outdid its predecessors in terms of artist choice, poor planning and failed communication ultimately undermined its success. The CEB should have expected and prepared for the turnout and excitement that are typical for a Girl Talk concert. While the CEB certainly tried to market the concert as just one segment of the larger pep rally event, it should have been prepared for the possibility that students might show up prepared to act as they would at a regular Girl Talk concert. It should have made these expectations—of drunken, unwieldy, and massive crowds—clear to HUPD, which could have worked to keep the concert safe without shutting it down entirely. HUPD, too, should have been more willing to respond flexibly to unexpected conditions and engage in active crowd control on the night of the show.

Ultimately, these particular mistakes are a sign of the CEB’s inexperience in planning events of this nature. Going forward, the solution to this problem should be to throw more such concerts, not fewer. The CEB should host more bands every year, including alternative acts like Girl Talk, which appeal to substantial and enthusiastic minority of the Harvard student body. To do so, of course, will require more support and funding from the College. In that vein, the College should not be dissuaded from supporting the CEB after this experience. Instead, it should recognize that the CEB can learn from its mistakes in putting on this concert and be more successful in the future.

Despite the concert’s shortcomings, there were many successful aspects of the pep rally on the whole—the increased turnout being the most salient of them. Despite how things turned out, the CEB’s choice of artist was inspired and its ability to get Girl Talk to come was very impressive. We hope the CEB’s ability to select and bring similar artists is not impeded in the future, either by a cautious administration or by an undeserved bad reputation.