Each fall, the University and the University Programs Council hosts their annual Welcome Week, which offers chances for new and returning students to celebrate the start of a new school year. And each April, the UPC throws Springfest, a mid-semester opportunity for students to blow off steam. In recent history, these two festivities have included concerts from artists who UPC brings to Grounds. For 2021’s Welcome Week, UPC brought rapper Jack Harlow. Rapper Trippie Redd came to Grounds for 2022’s Springfest. And for this year’s Welcome Week, UPC announced that singer and rapper Sean Kingston will perform at John Paul Jones Arena.
While these artists may excite students, for me, they unintentionally fall into a troubling trend at UPC — they are all men. UPC hasn’t brought a woman to headline either festivity since 2015, when Best Coast — a rock duo between Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno — performed at Springfest. The last time UPC brought a solo woman artist to Grounds for these celebratory weeks was 2013, when Solange Knowles performed at JPJ during Welcome Week. This means we are entering the seventh year of UPC failing to bring a headlining woman to Grounds, and the ninth year of no solo headlining woman. Next year’s Welcome Week could mark an entire decade of no solo woman performing for the start of the school year. This is ridiculous.
UPC claims its mission is to offer “boundless expression” for “diverse audiences.” Yet its choices for these concerts prove such aims to be male-centric. How can they cater to “diverse audiences” when they can’t even ensure diverse performers?
UPC acknowledged its failure to bring a woman to Grounds in their Sean Kingston announcement post, but that acknowledgement only came via meme. The post reads they tried to book a woman, but she rejected their offer. Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that UPC again chose a man. For our primary student programming body to continue inviting only men for Welcome Week and Springfest is inexcusable and embarassing. 2023’s Springfest must see a woman or non-binary performer headlining.
UPC should have already confronted this trend and ended it. During 2019’s Welcome Week, rapper A$AP Ferg performed, proceeding to drop homophobic slurs while calling on women in the audience to “take their titties out” and “twerk on me.” While A$AP Ferg wasn’t at fault for the UPC inviting yet another consecutive male artist to perform, he certainly embodied sexism that should have triggered UPC to rethink its invitations.
UPC understandably operates within a limited budget and plans for very specific time windows. Yet even from the outset of this year’s Welcome Week, UPC exhibited a low desire to bring a woman to Grounds. In the interest form that UPC sent to students to help decide the performer, 32 solo men or all-male groups were included. Five co-gender groups were included. Only 12 women or non-binary artists were included. Male artists clearly outnumbered the non-male artists who UPC considered. How serious UPC was with this form, however, is questionable. In its Kingston announcement post, UPC also jested with students thinking it could afford artists like Future, J. Cole and Kid Cudi. But Cudi was on that interest form for students to choose, making it unclear how realistic the options on it even were.
Artists like Princess Nokia, Noah Cyrus, Kehlani and Latto — all on that form — would have been incredible and finally ended UPC’s troubling streak of bringing only male artists to Grounds. UPC has frequently invited artists at the moment their careers were kicking into full gear. Harlow exemplifies this, as he performed only a month after the soaring success of “Industry Baby,” a collaboration with Lil Nas X that put him under the global spotlight. Who might be a good choice for our next Springfest? Rina Sawayama is similarly taking off into stardom, especially following collaborations with Elton John and Charli XCX, as well as an official remix of Lady Gaga’s “Free Woman.” Baby Tate is an energizing rapper currently dropping incredible track after incredible track. And MUNA is a trio of queer women and non-binary performers known for their instant earworm “Silk Chiffon,” a track that features their label founder, Phoebe Bridgers.
UPC must bring women and non-binary performers to Grounds if it wants to drive real diversity and meet its mission. In the words of MUNA, let’s get our “miniskirt and rollerblades on” and dance our way out of this decade of male-centricity.
Bryce Wyles is an Opinion Editor for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.