UCSD ASCE Q&A video faces controversy before Sun God Festival

Mehri Sadri, Staff Writer

With the university’s annual Sun God Festival last weekend, AS Concerts and Events was criticized for a video uploaded by the organization on Instagram in an attempt to respond to common questions surrounding the festival’s budgeting and booking process in a comical manner.

On May 5, ASCE posted a two-minute video featuring their members reading and addressing questions regarding Sun God’s lineup. These falsified comments, said by ASCE to be in response to last year’s festival, generally critiqued the 2022 artist selection. Remarks such as “Some ASCE staff member is lining their pockets and cackling” and confusions such as “genuine question, but who in their right mind actually wanted any of these artists?” were loosely-based on comments left on their Instagram posts about last year’s festival.

A central theme of backlash comments was that the artists chosen were not representative of the student body’s desires; this frustration was amplified by A.S.’s increased budget. One featured comment read “as someone who’s seen the A.S. budget I’m pissed about this [lineup,]” to which ASCE replied that “40% of [the budget] goes to production, 40% goes to security costs, and 20% goes to talent.”

Another comment said, “You had three years’ worth of money for this?” highlighting the higher expectations students may have had with the event finally making a return after 2020 and 2021, to which ASCE replied that the “money doesn’t roll over” from year-to-year spendings, and told the commenter to “please consult as.ucsd.edu for more information.”

Although A.S. student staff read out some comments in an explanatory manner, other responses were more lighthearted. In an effort to be humorous, ASCE members responded to some comments regarding a “snoozefest” lineup, to which a member joked that “my grandma can come up with better.”

Other students are in agreement about the lineup being below expectations. 

John Muir College junior Nena Lockhart is one of the many students unhappy with this year’s lineup. The festival’s 2023 artists included Smino, Dayglow, Knock2, khai dreams, Boys World, and Podcast But Outside.

“I think the lineup is mediocre,” Lockhart said. “I don’t think Smino should be the headliner when I personally believe Dayglow or khai dreams are more popular.”

More specifically, most of the featured questions and backlash specifically surround the artists’ selection process, to which a member of ASCE in the video responded by saying, “the names actually come from student input, and beside that, Sun God falls during peak festival and touring season.” The video received immediate backlash after it was uploaded, and was later taken down. 

Sixth College sophomore Ryan Merino agrees with Lockhart’s sentiments regarding the artist’s selection, and believes the video was an inappropriate way to address students’ complaints.

“That was so tasteless,” Merino said. “I see [the video] as a failed attempt.”

In response to the backlash, on May 5, ASCE uploaded a written statement to their Instagram, detailing how the now-deleted video addressing commonly-asked questions was made in “an effort to create a less formal and more lighthearted platform for questions.” The video’s format was said to be inspired by the comedic “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” segment “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets,” which was popularized on YouTube. 

However, ASCE noted in their statement that they “acknowledge [their] positionality as student leaders differs from those [on the Kimmel show],” and thus, believe that they should have published a more standard FAQ addressing the same concerns in the video. Comments on the post are generally negative, critiquing the modality of the apology and echoing that there should be more student input and feedback. 

One top comment on the Instagram post read “Maybe if you guys had better lineups and more in tune with what students want this wouldn’t happen,” receiving 68 likes and replies in agreement at the time of this article’s publication. 

Another top comment added that the video “didn’t even answer questions, just acted petty because people are criticizing a festival that turned into a study concert.” 

Back in October 2022, ASCE published information on how to complete their “Expectations Survey,” meant for students to give input on who they want to be featured in this year’s festival, as well as the specific activities, food, and art installations they’d like to see. Throughout the last few years, there has been an effort to increase the budget, with a 6% increase , totaling an additional $50,000, occurring in 2019. This has largely been done with the intention of booking more prominent artists.

Sun God is an annual artist festival currently held during Spring Quarter said by ASCE to feature music, art, and other entertainment. Beginning in 1983, it is now hosted on the RIMAC field and coordinated by students from ASCE. The event is free for all the university’s undergraduate students to attend.