Home-Grown Character Needed for Sun God Fest

Illustration by Michael Capparelli/Guardian

Like any multifaceted, long-running and intensely popular
event, the Sun God Festival has developed a mythical quality, some amount of
character that has been applied to the concert — and entire day.

Now, Sun God Planning Committee members have the heady task
of identifying and putting their arms around that character, in the hopes that
they will be able to stave off mounting security and operational concerns.

Identifying Sun God’s student-popular themes is easy.
Drinking, excess and loose-minded calamity are ever-present on the day of the
festival. Unfortunately, by now the
theme has developed into a culture, one that is ingrained in UCSD students as
the main impetus for Sun God. What could be better than daylong debauchery?

The committee’s response repeats a pipe-dreamed buzzword for
this campus: community. Students will be drawn to the event if it instills and
cultivates a sense of belonging and tradition. A very true, but very
unfortunate, answer. Unfortunately,
establishing that sense of campus community is marked as the reason for almost
every new university venture, from the Price
expansion’s new outreach
center to the Loft (an upcoming performance space). It has been used as the
reason for the Student Center
revamp, and countless other projects.

Shouldn’t we have seen dividends by now, or is something
wrong with the formula? This university’s approach to establishing community
has always been forced, never achieving the natural and gradual process through
which Sun God acquired its deeply seeded, albeit notorious, personality.

At last week’s council meeting, Vice President of Student
Life Donna Bean said the committee’s major factions, administrators and
students, had reached an understanding over the vision and mission of Sun God.
They have not publicized specific intentions or initiatives, which assuages
many worries over the largest of changes recommended in this year’s Sun God
Planning Report. Pushes by concerned administrators and campus departments to
change the concert’s date, for instance, have been tabled to future Sun Gods.

Their concern over nonaffiliates, however, makes sense. If
the committee plans to focus on campus connectivity, curbing the non-UCSD
presence is a natural move.

But establishing consensus within the committee allows the
programming department flexibility in directing the curatorial angles of the
festival. Specifically, the programmers will have to engineer a new character
for the festival, one that is more defined and an arm’s length away from
off-brand, student-established perceptions.

Force-feeding specific traditions and community-building
events will jar students expecting a full-out party. Rather, programmers should carefully design a
personality that relies on creative aspects of Sun God: What kind of talent is
booked? How is it presented to the campus? And which image will best attract
UCSD students? It is that image around which a community can gather.