The four undergraduate deans, Awn, Hinkson, Boyce, and Valentini, gallivant on the empty steps.
Updated, 8:04 PM. Updated text in brackets.
Bacchanal’s fall concert has been canceled, and the spring concert is pending cancellation, following administrative action to ostensibly combat sexual violence.
Last week, we got a tip about about the cancellation of the fall Bacchanal concert. Previously, the concert went by the name of Lowlapalooza and featured numerous student artists. This year, the event’s scale was ramped up, with three major recording artists booked to perform.
However, according to a press release from Bacchanal’s board, co-written with student council representatives, administrators finalized the fall concert’s cancellation earlier today and placed the spring concert under administrative review. As a result, Bacchanal’s board cancelled their contracts with the artists, and were reimbursed for the $55,000 they forfeited in performer fees.
The move for cancellation was led by the four undergraduate deans and relayed to Bacchanal by the Office of Student Engagement and interim Dean of Student Life Todd Smith-Bergollo. In their meeting with Bacchanal’s co-president Ben Kornick, they made “general comments about safety concerns associated with drinking and sexual harassment.”
Bacchanal’s board repeatedly attempted to mollify these administrative concerns. In the days after Kornick met with admins, the board sent emails to the four undergraduate deans (Deans Awn, Valentini, Hinkson and Boyce) expressing their concerns and asking for the reasons behind the cancellation.
Then, on August 1, students submitted a formal proposal to the deans outlining extensive measures they were willing to make the event safer. Among them:
"measures to improve crowd control and fight excessive drinking”
“changes to the concert theme that would convey a positive message”
“plans to give out backstage passes to students who participated in bystander ““intervention trainings provided by Sexual Violence Response “
“plans to provide water stations and food inside the fences”
“an offer to move the concert to a seated venue if that was what it took to provide the security the deans required to reverse the cancellation”
The deans turned down the proposal, issuing a letter to student representatives that finalized the fall concert cancellation and suggested “the status of the Annual spring concert [was] in question.”
This isn’t the first time Bacchanal’s faced opposition from the administration for alcohol-related issues. The number of disciplinary and alcohol-related complaints at Bacchanal doubled between the 2012 and 2013 concerts, putting Bacchanal in hot water. Public Safety went so far to ban "visibly intoxicated" students from this spring’s concert.
Before this year’s spring concert, then-Dean of Student Affairs Terry Martinez sent a candid email to all students encouraging good behavior. In it, she enumerated facilities damages from last year’s festivities and advised students to "make smart, safe, and responsible choices as you enjoy the social opportunities and traditions available on campus."
Apparently, this was a veiled threat to not screw this Bacchanal up.
Before the email was sent, members of both student councils wanted the administration to use different language to address the issue. When the administration declined, they refused to co-sign the letter.
However, this failed to curtail student alcohol abuse. A rumor printed in the May issue of the Blue and White says that 40 students were CAVA'd during the day.
[In contrast to these rumors, the number of students CAVA'd sharply decreased during 2014 Bacchanal, and only one student needed to be transported to St. Luke's. Additionally, the total number of alcohol-related complaints significantly dropped. A letter from the deans addresses these figures, saying that "those efforts resulted in a much improved, yet still problematic, event last spring." The councils' proposals, the deans wrote, "provide an excellent starting point for a robust planning process for the potential spring event."
In spite of the decrease in reported incidents, however, sexual misconduct at Bacchanal was widely discussed on social media platforms. One student wrote an op-ed for Spec detailing her experience being groped at Bacchanal, and one student named in the recent Title IX complaint against the university was allegedly assaulted during the concert.]
Students who are charged with misconduct during Bacchanal often face heavy disciplinary penalties from the Office of Judicial Affairs. In one such instance this spring, a starting athlete was kicked off his team for allegedly climbing onto Alma Mater while drunk and spraying other students with a water gun.
Regardless of the immediate justification for the change, Columbia faces the distinct possibility of becoming the first Ivy League school without a spring concert, public or private.
The war on fun continues.
To view the full statement from the organizers, click here.
Update, 8:34: The Coalition Against Sexual Violence has also released a statement, click here to view it.
Update, 9:50: No Red Tape has issued a statement, click here to view it.
Correction: This post initially stated that Dean Smith-Bergollo and the Office of Student Engagement, rather than the undergraduate deans, led the push to cancel Bacchanal's fall concert. We regret the error.