The event must be restructured and allow for more direct input on its execution from the student body it once satisfied.
Sun God Festival is supposed to be “the highlight of the UC San Diego undergraduate student experience,” a mission that should be easy to achieve on a campus known for its lack of socially-engaging experiences. That being said, in recent years, it has only managed to “build a sense of community” by disappointing the student body with its lineups and its ever-increasing regulations. This year’s festival represents the culmination of these problems, with apparent organizational problems and a very poorly received group of artists. The structure of Sun God as a festival has become a vehicle for poor planning and coordinating decisions, and that means student funds are being misused so that A.S. Concerts and Events can play a knock-off Coachella in our own backyard.
If Sun God is to continue existing, it should do so as a one-stage concert. Breaking it up into two stages is unnecessary when attendance is limited to undergraduate students. By creating two separate venues there is an inherent need to book enough acts to fill them. Quality over quantity should be the priority of the event, something that is often forgotten under the brand of establishing this as a festival. It would be lovely to book 15 acts that are appealing to a large segment of the population to put on a proper festival that caters to all music tastes, but this is getting harder and harder to do as concert fever has created a music industry geared around live events. Finding enough artists that are available on a given weekend in the peak of the spring concert season is a logistical nightmare for a college campus. Instead, book a big artist and two or three openers and invest more money on activities or food instead of trying to assemble a line-up around any artist that happens to be available and within budget. The overwhelming amount of security is another drawback of having such a large event, which puts the campus community at odds with public and private law enforcement to create unnecessary tension. If the event becomes smaller in nature, there should be more money available for more well-known and well-received musicians, both because of less organizational expenses and because there wouldn’t be a need to hire so much security.
Funding for Sun God is partly taken from student funds, yet these very students have rather limited avenues to decide how this festival will occur. This year, A.S. Council allotted $730,000 to Sun God, which constitutes 67 percent of the concerts and events budget and almost 15 percent of the overall budget for the academic year which is a very significant amount of money for very few to be in charge of. Student input should be at the forefront of this festival and not just through a mass-emailed survey that goes out once a year in October. The Sun God committees should be able to be held accountable throughout the year to ensure that the event in question is aligning to the interests of the student body. Although the element of surprise can create momentum and excitement around an event, it can also create a larger disappointment when the selections are not what the students would’ve wanted. Clearly, maintaining a direct democratic process with more than 27,000 students is not feasible, but maintaining a more open reporting system with the student body and doing a better job of advertising the ways in which people can get directly involved with the committee would be a start.
The rest of the money that pays for the event is acquired through sponsorships, either from other A.S. Council departments or from private corporations. This is just another drawback of trying to coordinate an event of these proportions — the necessity to outsource to private organizations for funding. If it reduced the number of artists and planned a concert instead of a festival, costs would be more manageable. Otherwise it falls on A.S. Council to have to fundraise the rest of the event, meaning corporate interests interfere with the affairs of a public institution. It undermines the values of public education to have to resort to private enterprises and it undermines A.S. Council too. One of the sponsors, for example, is a private radio station which is in direct competition with the campus’s own KSDT radio station, a student service under A.S. Council. It brought competition to its own service in order to fund a festival that left most unhappy.
Fundamentally, the way in which this event is structured needs to be reevaluated, because with each passing year it resembles less of the core of what it was supposed to be. A.S. Council needs to remember the bigger picture when coordinating events, ensuring that what it plans is tailored to the current campus population and that it isn’t simply going through the motions. The future of Sun God should rest on the people paying for it and the elected student government should be responsible for seeing that the people who pay for both the event and its own salaries are actually happy with the finished product.