Some students took to social media this weekend to express concern over the choice of Big Sean as the main act for Lawnparties after Duncan Hosie ’16 and Rebecca Basaldua ’15 started a petition urging the Undergraduate Student Government to rescind its offer to the rapper.
The petition alleges that Big Sean promotes rape culture and misogyny in his lyrics.
Hosie said USG’s promotional video, which featured Big Sean repeating the phrase “stupid ass bitch,” spurred him to reach out to Basaldua, and to start the petition and open up dialogue about the selection of acts for Lawnparties.
“After I saw that video, I started researching Big Sean’s language and I found language that was both misogynistic and homophobic,” Hosie said. “We wrote an op-ed piece that we published on Google Docs [on Sunday] and wanted to see the number of supporters. Right now, close to 500 people have signed.”
Hosie said that posters hung around campus containing sexually explicit Big Sean lyrics, intended to urge students to protest the selection of Big Sean, were not his or Basaldua’s doing.
Basaldua, who is an editor of the blog “Equal Writes,” said the protests over Big Sean’s lyrics have a precedent at Columbia University.
“I’m sure every singer has a questionable song, but there are a significant amount of his songs that deal with this and I think there are a lot of other artists in the same genre even that would have been a better choice,” she said.
The USG social committee generates a list of five to 10 names, which are then sent to an entertainment agent that connects USG with artists, USG social committee chair Simon Wu ’17 said.
“We send them to the agent and then the agent will get back to us with prices and availability, and this is a process that happens about six or seven times before we can find somebody that works,” Wu said.
Price and availability are key factors in deciding whether or not an act is feasible for Lawnparties, he added.
“There are other people who are booking, and artists don’t want other people to know where they’re going before they want a press release,” Wu said. “Once we get an offer back from someone, we usually have to respond rather quickly because they’re also looking at booking at places other than us.”
Since USG’s officers are in transition during the selection of a spring Lawnparties artist, there is little time to reform the artist selection process when new officers take office, because USG would have to risk selecting nobody, Wu said.
“The contracts are signed and it’s unrealistic to stop this from happening,” Wu said. “The best way to move this in a productive way is to see how we can improve the selection process.”
Diego Negron-Reichard ’18 said the protests could help to reform the artist selection process.
“I think it’s ridiculous to try to boycott Lawnparties at this stage, but [the petition] does open up the conversation for next year’s act and not bringing people that have a possibly harmful message,” Negron-Reichard said.
Olivia Fiechter ’18 said she was excited to have a big-name artist coming to Lawnparties.
“We, as students, have told them that we want big names,” Anna Walker ’17 said. “Now people are attacking them for something else. It doesn’t really seem fair … I have full faith that they’ve thought about the ramifications of what Big Sean means and the connotations that come with him, and I think that, in this case, they put people’s interest in wanting a big name first.”
Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne and Wu are going to meet with Hosie on Friday, Wu said, adding that a panel with the Women’s Center discussing misogyny and lyric culture may be organized.