Since 2016, the University Programs Council has hosted its annual, University-wide concert during Welcome Week to celebrate the return of students to Grounds as well as the arrival of the incoming first-year class. This event directly coincides with Block Party in the hope that it will deter students from visiting the area surrounding Wertland Street — a site that has traditionally been a hotspot for violent crime and underage drinking during move-in weekend.
With the total number of arrests and violations being significantly lower than in years past, the Welcome Week program, and the concert especially, have had a positive impact on the University Community. This benefit is especially apparent within the first-year class as events such as these provide students with a host of excellent opportunities for social engagement all while creating a space that is both safe and inclusive. Ultimately, the tremendous public service that these events provide to the University community cannot be understated and it for these reasons especially that this year’s concert, featuring rapper A$AP Ferg, was nothing short of inexcusable.
Over the course of an hour, audience members, the vast majority of whom were first-years, were subjected to a tirade of profane lyrics and commentary ranging from cringeworthy, at the very least, to blatantly misogynistic and homophobic. By all standards of social decency, A$AP Ferg’s performance verged beyond just an expression of free speech and artistic talent into a realm that is antithetical to the very values for which the University stands. If nothing else, the decision to invite a performer who encourages young women in the audience, some of whom are still minors, to “take their titties out” and “twerk on me” is indicative of a clear lapse of judgement on the part of concert organizers.
To add further insult to injury, the very notion that members of UPC and the University administration were unaware of the rapper’s behavior and lyrics prior to the date of the concert itself is truly inconceivable. One does not need to venture beyond the first page of search results on Google for “A$AP Ferg” before finding links to music videos featuring scantily clad women and similarly profane lyrics. Additionally, these search results also include video footage of many of the rapper’s live performances with behavior and rhetoric that is strikingly similar to what occurred on Grounds several weeks ago. It should be expected that most rational members of society, much less the students and the administration of one of this nation’s most prestigious universities, would have been able to foresee the issues associated with inviting a performer such A$AP Ferg.
Consequently, it is clear that the decision to tap A$AP Ferg as the performing artist for this year’s Welcome Week Concert was a clear lapse in judgement both on the part of UPC as well as University administration. This reality is only further exacerbated by the fact that the total cost for the event was $130,000, an egregious figure that was funded almost entirely through a student activities fee that the University charges to all members of the undergraduate student body. One would think that with such an exuberant sum concert organizers would have been able to find a performer far less profane than A$AP Ferg, much less one that was even remotely decent. Yet, because of this, every student enrolled at the University, regardless of whether he or she chose to attend the concert or not, has an inherent vested interest as to the manner in which these funds were spent.
As of now, the only official statement that has been released to the University Community pertaining to the concert was by UPC, yet this response was relegated to the discussion section of the event’s Facebook page and is seemingly both insufficient and half-hearted. Likewise, while University officials, including President Jim Ryan, have acknowledged the controversy, they have failed to provide an adequate response either.
One of the most fundamental values upon which the University was founded is the idea of student self-governance. Yet with this freedom also comes the inherent responsibility of the student body, in circumstances such as these, to hold one another accountable. The decision to invite A$AP Ferg to perform on Grounds at a University-sanctioned event and at the direct expense of the student body is both grossly inexcusable and ultimately deserving of an explanation and apology that is far greater than that which has been currently provided.
Thomas Driscoll is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.