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Three alumni join Board of Trustees
By Hannah Marr, News Editor • June 21, 2024

Column: Spring Fling 2024 proves why GW should stick to the classics

Attending college in D.C. often means planning your weekend budget around pricey bars and restaurants downtown. When it comes to events on campus, however, Spring Fling is supposed to be the great equalizer.

The University’s annual Spring Fling has typically been free to attend, held outdoors and limited in attendance to GW students. But this year, the concert — featuring artists Quavo and Jay Sean — took place in the Smith Center, with tickets ranging between $25 and $60.

Spring Fling concert should be accessible to the entire GW community, but students were priced out of this year’s event and deterred by its location. While past Spring Flings have been ticketed events, students still responded with shock to the announcement.

When the Program Board initially revealed its plans for last weekend’s Spring Fling concert, students flooded the post’s comments section with their disapproval: “Inside and costs money? Wack,” one student remarked. “Why is it open to all DMV students??”, another demanded. A third said they longed for “the era of program board spring fling where we just had to show our gworld” to get in.

My friends and I skipped Spring Fling this year because of the event’s priced entrance and indoor venue, and it looked like we weren’t the only ones. The Smith Center’s 5,000-person capacity appeared only half full and the stands were mostly empty during the concert.

The moment turned to reflection on events free of fixed fees and Ticketmaster codes. Swae Lee’s 2022 Spring Fling performance in U-Yard was both outdoors and accommodating to students’ budgets, which is why so many of them showed up. While I came to Spring Fling that year with my usual group of friends, I had the opportunity to become closer with a handful of my classmates I ran into at the show. As much fun as we had, my friends and I wouldn’t have gone if we had to cough up a fee to get in.

As its name might suggest, the concert is supposed to be a quintessentially springtime event. It’s often difficult to find outdoor activities in our concrete jungle of a campus, but when the weather is nice, students are attracted by the rare chance to socialize outside. Program Board can’t control when it rains, but the group should plan to host the event in U-Yard to stay true to the spirit of Spring Fling.

This year’s Spring Fling also doesn’t qualify as an “only at GW moment.” To boost turnout at the event, the Program Board expanded the concert’s audience by opening admission to every student, faculty and alumni from every college in the D.C. area. Since GW lacks a traditional college campus or a stellar D1 sports program, there tends to be a shortage of shared experiences that glue together the University’s student body. And as the semester winds down, Spring Fling is typically the last event of the year that sets out to engage the entire community.

This year’s Program Board was also limited by its funding, which comes from the University-Wide Programs Fund, a GW and Student Government Association reserve for large-scale student events. The Program Board received just $21,000 of the $200,000 that it requested from the fund for Spring Fling this year, leaving the group to pass the rest of the concert’s costs off to the consumer – in this case, the student.

If chart-topping headliners are pricing students out of one of the few events that everyone on campus is motivated to attend, they aren’t worth it. Rather than attempting to book a big-time artist while working with a tightened budget, the Program Board should have shot for more affordable performers, like up-and-coming artists or those on the back end of their careers. While Quavo may have been a fairly popular option, the biggest draw to Spring Fling has always been its friendliness to students’ budgets.

Last year, students complained when Program Board chose a headliner that was likely more affordable — Maude Latour, a small indie-pop artist. We should be mindful to prioritize accessibility over relevance in our keyboard advocacy before criticizing the star quality of whoever Program Board selects to perform at Spring Fling, especially after last weekend’s costly show at the Smith Center.

Quavo’s popularity put Spring Fling on students’ radars, but previous concerts drew much larger crowds of students with much smaller names on the stage. More than 5,100 students showed up to U-Yard for Spring Fling 2015, which featured artists Joe Ramón, 3LAU and Theophilus London.

While Quavo may have more star power than past Spring Fling headliners, Program Board made a miscalculation when it assumed students would pay hefty sums to see a concert in their own backyard, especially when other popular venues are right around the corner, like The Anthem and the 9:30 Club.

As long as Spring Fling is free to attend and held outdoors, students aren’t as concerned about who shows up to perform. When planning next year’s concert, the Program Board should remember that Spring Fling’s accessibility is what makes it such a popular event.

Matthew Donnell, a senior majoring in political communication and English, is an opinions columnist.

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