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Checks and balances: SPB’s unstable system

So, Social Programming Board messed up.

They rolled out the red carpet for a racist, problematic pick to take the WILD stage, project his questionable lyricism and views and potentially pocket a large chunk of every student’s activities fee.

When they tried to explain how that happened at a well-attended Student Union Senate session on Tuesday, they instead demonstrated an inexcusable lack of due diligence when researching potential artists, a continued lack of transparency and an inaccessibility to all members of the greater Washington University student body—problems that have long plagued the organization.

They messed up. But it’s not too late for them to do the right thing: cut ties with Lil Dicky and not let him step foot on our campus. Recognize their system is broken. Recognize that they need to change, that their behavior is careless, that they need to apologize.

At its crux, WILD is our school’s unique opportunity to bring together the undergraduate student body for one day of pleasant, popular music, enjoying each other’s company and having some fun. Not to actively perpetuate that racism is funny or okay. Not to offend our students. Not to make them feel unwelcome. Not to make them feel unsafe.

But stopping Lil Dicky doesn’t mean WILD has to be canceled. Instead, SPB can extend the sets of current openers A R I Z O N A and Lizzo—both acts that reflect the diversity and values of our community. Lizzo, a rising star in the hip-hop community, is the antithesis to Lil Dicky, as a black woman who espouses body positivity and unity. Give the stage to people who deserve to be heard.

But there’s another problem here: We’re not getting that significant portion of our collective activities fee back. At this point, Lil Dicky gets our money whether he performs or not. And while it was our right to demand more from SPB before, this egregious and careless move means we now deserve a response so this never happens again.

SPB needs a vetting process when choosing who goes on the WILD survey. At the Senate session, WILD Director Zach Alter complained that the list of potential artists was simply too long and would take too much time to parse through. It seems highly unlikely that with a board of 12 directors—all of whom have made a commitment to SPB and are entrusted with a hefty portion of SU’s general budget—wouldn’t have the time to divide up the 30 or so finalists that make it onto the WILD survey and do 45 minutes of research on each. If this had been instituted sooner, it seems likely they might have found the article titled “Lil Dicky Isn’t a White Supremacist, He’s Just an A——,” which highlights many of Lil Dicky’s offensive statements and behaviors.

Additionally, under the current process few people know the final artist before they’re booked. Instead, before settling on an artist and offering a contract, they should have their board—and possibly a group of students—take a look to make sure it’s a responsible choice.

SPB tried to defend their pick using the claim that Lil Dicky was ranked highly by students in the WILD artist survey. There isn’t even proof of this, however, because time and time again the board refuses to release the final results of the survey. The secrecy engulfing the selection process leads to complaints and cries for transparency year after year. SPB posits that releasing the rankings may lead to a discouraged artist or a disinterested student population. But again, that seems unlikely—the artist is being paid for a gig and students are always going to show up to WILD.

What’s more, the survey itself is flawed: it’s not as accessible as it can be. Most students only know to access it through SPB’s social media pages. However, SPB makes decisions on behalf of the entire student population and there are ways to make sure everyone has access to that survey—whether it’s via all-school email or reaching out to leaders of all SU-recognized clubs.

Ultimately, SPB backs itself into a corner by following the survey religiously while a cloud of uncertainty still hangs around the top vote-getters because of scheduling, price changes and unforeseen difficulties. However, there are ways for SPB to avoid making promises they can’t keep. Even with an accelerated timeline, there may not be a way to always ensure the top vote-getter headlines WILD. But if SPB makes some of these necessary changes and creates a more transparent and informed process, their problems might be remedied through increased autonomy. An elected SPB, as opposed to an appointed one, would be a step toward creating the board the students want.

We have long pressed SPB to be more transparent, to make changes to their process and to take tangible steps—not just words—to prove they’re hearing us. Well, we’ve heard what the student body has to say. Here’s our list. Get working.

  • Henry

    If you actually read the article you site, you’ll notice that Lil Dicky is in character the whole time. Much like how Stephen Colbert satirized conservatives with his Report character, Lil Dicky is satirizing the whole “privileged white boy” you call him out for being. He literally is supposed to be a little bit of a dick, as he is called Lil Dicky for a reason. That being said, comedy is a subjective field, and some people do not “get” the same humor as others. If Lil Dicky doesn’t fit your sense of humor, so be it, just don’t camp out to be in the front row of his performance.

    As for your plan to not let him set foot on campus, it is both naïve and selfish. Lil Dicky is a professional entertainer who is going to be paid to entertain students. If you oppose this simply because you don’t get his schtick, it should not be a priority of yours to block the majority of the students who feel that their activities fund is being allocated well from seeing a popular act perform. There are actual racists in this world. Don’t conflate the SPB with them simply because they booked someone you aren’t a fan of.

    • Devin Griffin

      Well said!

  • Henry

    If you actually read the article you cite… first, it’s old, and second, Lil Dicky is responding in character, in the same manner that, say Stephen Colbert satirized modern conservatism by playing the character of an extreme conservative. Lil Dicky is satirizing exactly the type of privileged white boy attitude you accuse him of having. His name is Lil Dicky because his whole schtick is that he’s supposed to be a little bit of a dick.

    And one more thing– the fact that you want to refuse to allow him to step on campus, someone who is being paid to perform– is quite naive and selfish: the majority of students should be allowed to be entertained and not have to suffer simply because a small minority of students don’t get Lil Dicky’s act.