Student Life

Jaipuriar: Students have right, responsibility to protest problematic musicians

Spring is here and the forecast for Mayfest looks mostly lit with a high chance of good vibes. On Friday at Walnut Park, University Union will host Syracuse University’s year-end celebration known for its daylong festivities including food, drinks and live entertainment.

While concerts and musical performances are a significant part of the college experience, one condition to inviting entertainers is ensuring they are not notoriously offensive in their work and that they leave the school with a positive experience.

In Connecticut just last week, Trinity College removed rapper Action Bronson from its spring concert lineup after more than 1,000 students protested Bronson’s scheduled performance in an online petition, which stated that his appearance would be an “endorsement of violence” against women and minorities. George Washington University, an SU peer institution, also canceled a performance by Bronson a few weeks earlier.

The programming boards at both colleges made the right decision in disinviting the rapper because it shows that they took student concerns about Bronson seriously — a difficult feat when so much of pop culture is inundated with violent content and explicit language. Speaking out against these issues is complicated when problematic artists are still popular among the masses. Even when mainstream songs, like “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, have derogatory lyrics about women, we don’t hesitate to sing along.

It’s for this reason that protests of artists like Bronson are meaningful in calling out modern society’s acceptance of vulgar behavior. It goes to show that college students do care more about their ideals than just entertainment and that there is hope in breaking the cycle of violence in pop culture. This kind of sacrifice is essential because there will always be other entertainers and other concerts, but having one bad name on stage can ruin the experience for everyone. And besides, it’s hard to imagine students having a jolly good time singing along to Bronson’s song about “Consensual Rape.”

Beyond being inappropriate, it is simply unnecessary to host a musician like Bronson on a college campus. There’s no need to promote physical and sexual assault as well as drug use on college campuses when these issues are already so prevalent. And in a society that is plagued with young men constantly being told to “get it,” perpetuating the objectification of women only makes things worse.

These are topics that hit close to home for many college students, whether through first- or second-hand experience. If there were to be a controversial artist on the lineup for an SU event, students absolutely have the right and the responsibility to hold their programming board accountable. Not that students have to be on a witch hunt for every entertainer that comes to campus, but if the musician is blatantly spewing out hate, students should be pressed to do something about it.

While it’s commendable that Trinity and GWU students were able to prevent Bronson’s horrendous show from happening, this type of activism is a rare occurrence — especially when it comes to a school’s version of Mayfest. If students protested every problematic or inappropriate entertainer, there would be no one left. And it would only be fair that if you speak out against one musician, you have to speak out against all of them — which realistically isn’t possible.

Still, if given the opportunity, students should vote for entertainers that have talent as well as taste. College campuses are already attempting to address issues such as drugs, alcohol, sexual assault, violence, and homophobia, and performances by trashy musicians only exacerbate these problems.

Students should not forget that these are real struggles that their peers face and not just sensational material for a rapper’s song. One person’s lyrics may be someone else’s reality – something they can’t just forget when the music ends.

Rashika Jaipuriar is a freshman broadcast and digital journalism major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at rjaipuri@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @rashikajpr.

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