The beginning and end of the academic year bring one of Princeton’s most cherished traditions: the biannual Lawnparties concert. As an integral part of the Princeton undergraduate experience, it is imperative that the USG continues to improve the day-long event. And so it has tried, creating controversy through its choice of artist and major change in donating a portion of proceeds to charity. The Editorial Board would like to address aspects of this spring’s Lawnparties, particularly these controversies, and offer potential solutions.
First, the Editorial Board calls for increased transparency in the choice of headliners. The Board makes no judgment as to the quality of GRiZ and Mayer Hawthorne as this spring’s headliners. However, when a prank email announcing JoJo and Nickelback as the headliners generates more buzz than the actual headliners themselves, it is clear that student body input in choosing this spring’s artists was lacking. The opacity of the artist selection process can be easily remedied, as has been done in past years. Surveys have previously been sent out to the entire student population soliciting suggestions for Lawnparties acts and genres. The USG would then take these responses into high consideration when choosing headliners. While there can be no artist that satisfies the musical desires of every student on campus, active solicitation of student opinion would represent a conscious effort by the USG to, as the saying goes, “give ‘em what they want.”
Furthermore, the way TEAM Charter Schools was selected as the designated charity for this spring’s Lawnparties was unfortunate. Again, while the Board passes no judgment on the nonprofit itself, the fact that a charity with ties to both USG members and, more importantly, an extremely controversial public education plan was selected without any student input is disconcerting at best. The Board supports donating Lawnparties proceeds to charity (as we wrote last year); however, as we advocated, any choice like this must be made with substantial deliberation and conversation between the USG and the student body at large, not behind closed doors.
If the USG continues to donate proceeds to charities for future Lawnparties events, the Board strongly suggests future surveying of the undergraduate population. In the unlikely scenario that a poll to the student body could not be administered due to, for example, time constraints, then a generally less controversial organization should have been chosen. The Board supports incorporating community giving into Lawnparties, just not the way it was executed this year.
On a less critical note, the Board suggests that University Dining Services should open residential college dining halls at weekday operating hours for the day of Lawnparties. It is inevitable that some students will drink on the day of Lawnparties, as the event is tied to student-hosted parties and underage alcohol consumption. Consequently, though the University is not immediately liable for students if they choose to drink, given that it funds this concert, the University should take some initiative in trying to protect these students. Seven students being transported to medical facilities during this past fall’s Lawnparties is seven students too many, and a simple action such as opening the dining halls earlier can help protect students who may be consuming alcohol on empty stomachs. Regular weekday breakfast hours during Lawnparties weekend would provide an extremely accessible way for students to eat and help mitigate more serious alcohol-related problems.
Lawnparties is perhaps the most-loved University-sponsored semiannual event, and while the Editorial Board appreciates the steps the USG has taken to maintain and improve the weekend, we take concern with this year’s lack of transparency in both artist selection and, new this year, charity selection. The Board strongly recommends that the USG actively seeks student opinion in the decision-making process for both headliners and potential charities. Moreover, the Board is concerned by the multiple alcohol-related medical transports to the Princeton Medical Center this past fall and calls for earlier dining hall hours to help mitigate this problem. Lawnparties should be a safe and fun event for as many students as possible, and making such changes would only continue to improve this integral Princeton experience.
Zach Horton abstains.