Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

***Editors Note: This article appeared in our May issue of the California Review.

Angad Walia

In anticipation of Sun God Festival 2011, I’d like to take a second to talk about what the festival exactly is now, and what it used to be. We’ve all heard people say it before, or experienced it by comparison ourselves if we’ve been around for that long: Sun God really, really sucks now; it is nothing like what it used to be. This phenomenon, which has taken place over the past few years, is now referred to as the “caging” of Sun God, and we are reminded of this every year during Spring Quarter in the promises of those hoping to get elected to AS. Now the focus of this article will not be to inanely bash the administration and AS for taking away the most beloved event by the student body at UCSD. What I am going to do is lay out some information detailing various aspects of the festival from the past few years, in particular the scope and quality of the concert, ease of admission, and funding.

First, take a look at what exactly has changed about the festivals over the years. In the years before the caging, Sun God was a campus-wide celebration. Merriment was undertaken from the Sun God Lawn, to Price Center, the Junkyard Derby on Peterson Hill, and the main festivities at RIMAC field. And, movement was unrestricted between all parts of campus. There were no required wristbands, unless you were bringing a non-UCSD guest; all that was necessary for entrance in to the official concert was a valid UCSD ID card.

But, things are different now, very different. RIMAC is fenced off, and entrance can only be obtained with a valid wristband. The Junkyard Derby is now a full week after the festival. The Price Center fountain has been drained (no kayaking). Before wristbands, all that was necessary for entry to the concert was a UCSD ID. This meant that all UCSD students had the potential, if they willed, to go to the festival. Now there are wristbands for entry and the amount of wristbands is not equal to the amount of enrolled undergrads at UCSD. Aside from those who do not wish to attend there are still not enough wristbands to satisfy the remainder student body, and people go, year after year, wristband-less and downtrodden.

However, the point to be made here is that we all pay for Sun God out of our student fees, around fifteen dollars per student. So what is happening then is that the Associated Students is taking money from us to pay for a festival that is meant to be for us, and then restricting access to this festival making it so that not all of those who pay for the festival and want to attend can in fact attend.

Here I want to make one more diversion before I begin on the funding of Sun God. One thing I wanted to bring out is the “quality” of the headliners. I put quality in quotes because it’s a very loaded term, and even more so with music, which can be subjectively better or worse to every individual. But by “quality” I want to refer to two properties of the headliners: how big they are – meaning how well known they are by the general public and how many people they bring in; and a historical precedent – namely, how prominent are they in their respective field of music, and how much they have influenced music or culture. I think that both of these qualities have also been declining in the headliners of Sun God as years have gone on.

For example, in 1997 we had De La Soul, in 2001 Xzibit, and in 2004 we had Busta Rhymes. All of these acts have a full roster of albums, have won critical acclaim, and have been players in the Hip Hop movement at large. We have also had bands like No Doubt in 1994, and Social Distortion in 1998 and Bad Religion in 2003. All of these bands have helped influence the music scene, and have been showered with praise by respected critics. Now I do not here want to discredit the likes of the more recent guests such as Drake and Sean Kingston as lacking musical merit, but it is not clear that they have the musical tenacity to compare to the earlier acts that Sun God Festival has graced UCSD with.

So let’s review: the size and scope of the festival has decreased, the ability to attend the festival has decreased, and the quality of the headliners has declined. But here is what brings everything together. Between the 2006 festival and now, funding allocation has increased by 266%. Though both of these took place after the caging, the largest increase in spending has been between the 2009 festival, where there was $200,000 dollars allotted, and the 2010 festival, where $550,000 were allocated. The difference between these two festivals may be something a little more understandable to those of us still at this school than the days of kayaking down Price Center fountain. In the course of one year the spending on the festival more than doubled, but how measurably different was the experience?
My point is this: the festivals before the caging were less costly than the festivals after the caging, yet the attendance, size, and quality of the festivals after the caging has decreased significantly. This seems like a backwards cost to return ratio, our money spent on the funding of the festival is actually now being used far less efficiently after the caging of Sun God than it was when the festival was allowed the free reign that Sun God had enjoyed since its inception.

It is no surprise that the administration had tried to strangle Sun God, but the student government had always been able to put up a fight and defend it. The AS, though, has become complacent with the mistreatment of our festival, if in fact they haven’t begun to collaborate with the administration. It may be the case, however, that their silence was bought. In the 2006-2007 year the AS Cabinet and AS Office stipends were $47,250. By 2008-2009 that number had raised to $79,950, and this year the AS stipends hit $100,800. Now this may or may not be related to the issue at hand, I do not want to draw a direct causation between the rises in AS stipends and the lowering of quality and increase in funding for Sun God. There could be, and probably are, many other factors that led to the complacency of our student government with regards to Sun God, including genuinely good intentions.

But, what does this increase in funding for Sun God actually mean? Is this a sham to make it seem like more is being put into the planning and undertaking of Sun God to justify the decrease in quality? Is it, against my previous intuitions, a valiant attempt by the last two collections of AS to some how, through increased funding, turn around this vicious path that our dear festival has taken? Or, is it going to the building of a giant underground machine that sucks out the souls of students who have been depressed by the inability of their school, demonstrating its wanton lack of care for its students, to produce something that once brought true unity and happiness to campus, and made every student at UCSD proud.

Angad is a sophomore in Sixth College majoring in philosophy.

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7 comments

  1. Excellent article, keep it up. This should be published for all students to read.

  2. Really though? · ·

    I was actually on AS for a while, and initially I agreed with this whole thing. Uncage Sun God! Whoo! After working with University Centers and actually getting a peek into the world of liability and insurance, however, I realized that the whole thing really just serves as a political ploy. From a security standpoint, caging Sun God makes a world of sense.

    It actually reduces costs. Do you have any idea how much more money would have to be spent on security? We would need everything from additional police and RSO’s to extra ambulances, which are extremely expensive but would be necessary if drunken idiots were doing stupid things all over campus. Granted, they already are, but actually putting on events in every open space on campus would significantly increase the cost of putting on Sun God in the first place. Sorry, but 17,000 drunk students are a liability. Welcome to the real world. We have to do our best to prevent people from dying of alcohol poisoning or injuring other people. Damn, we must be bad guys for that.

    AS has to pay its staff, which include fund managers in the Student Life Business Office who work to serve student organizations. There are a lot of places that stipends just can’t be pulled from. To all you whiners who are privileged enough to consider working a 20+ per week job (the President’s, which receives a stipend of ~$250 per week), check yourselves and realize that most students can’t afford that while being a student. If you can, and you care that much, run in the next election on the platform that you’ll give up your stipend.

    Where has the money gone? Costs go up. Sorry, but that’s the name of the game. If you have ever put on a concert on this campus you know that tech costs can get absurd, especially for a 10 hour long multiple stage rock concert. Remember the dance tent fiasco last year? A lot of that increase went into making a dance area that everyone could get into (and that was pretty epic, if you were there).

    Wristbands? There has to be a way to account for people–that’s how we avoid things like the dance tent problem. There are also plenty of students who get their wristband and sell it online, and this is a huge problem because that wristband could have gone to a student who was going to go. RIMAC field has a capacity. So does every other space on campus. I’m sure Concerts & Events would love to throw a festival that could hold 40,000 people, but there just isn’t a place for it. Guest tickets allow students to bring their friends. If there weren’t guest tickets, it would be UCSD only, and I know that plenty of people would be upset that they couldn’t share in UCSD’s most epic event. This is an issue that ASCE has been trying to deal with for ages, and that’s why the system changes a little every year as they try to find better ways to do it.

    As far as artists, bitch all you want. Sure, if we pooled all our money we could get Lil’ Wayne, but we wouldn’t have enough money to put on the rest of Sun God, a multiple act festival. That’s sort of the point, isn’t it? Something for everyone? I’d get tired of just Lil’ Wayne for 10 hours straight…

    Whine all you want, but I’d be willing to bet that you weren’t miserable at Sun God. God forbid you have to sit through an awesome event.

  3. New idea · ·

    That was a really well thought-out article, and a great rebuttal in the comments. I really feel like I have a grasp of both sides of the issue.

    Being a sophomore, I’ve never experienced Sun God ‘uncaged’. However, I can honestly say that for two years running, Sun God has been the funnest day of my year at UCSD, and that means a lot because I rage my pants off most weekends.

    It seems like we’ve gone from extremely lax security to possibly over-the-top security over the course of two decades or so. Is it possible that we could find a middle ground? What if there was a Sun God week? We could have events like the Junkyard Derby during the week leading up to Sun God Friday, and then there would be less pressure for students to squeeze a month’s worth of drinking into the one day.

    Maybe the festival could be a little more chill then too, a few less acts, a few less things crammed into one day. I don’t know about everybody else, but it was hard to see all the things I wanted to, with Midway Acts changing every 10 minutes .

    Just some thoughts, hope this inspires a little more discussion.

  4. disgruntled 4th year · ·

    “Wristbands? There has to be a way to account for people–that’s how we avoid things like the dance tent problem. ”
    —you avoid last years dance tent problem by not putting fences inside of a tent. What is the fucking point of that? It’s more dangerous than having no fences, it’s a tent for a fucking reason, so you can wander in and out. Don’t try to cover your ass for bad planning. You try so hard to be like Coachella but none of their tents are enclosed by a fence, because that’s fucking stupid and defeats the purpose of a tent.

    OH NO, we need to spend SO much on security… because the majority of UCSD kids were raised by “study only” types and have never learned how to party… well here’s a cost cutting measure don’t shell out thousands of dollars on LED display panels for the dance stage if you are just gonna hire a “VJ” to play the demo loops from a run-of-the-mill VJ software (in this case modul8, ya I talked to him, he told me what was up, not that I couldn’t tell after seeing the same video on loop every 15ish minutes)
    Furthermore, why not utilize UCSD’s many talented artists for a job like that? They would do it better for free and it would be a great way to showcase original material created at UCSD.

    As for the poor, unappreciated, underpayed AS President slaving 20 hours/week… that’s the fucking job. If you want the power you gotta do the work. No whining. I’m sick and tired of you fucking bureaucrats, acting so important in your non-essential positions, you’re a fucking student council, get off your high horses and stfu.

  5. Alex Eklov · ·

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  6. Nothing has changed about the quality of sungod headliners.

    The examples you listed follow the same kinds of criteria current headliners have. Either they are on the cusp of becoming famous, or they are past their initial mainstream stardom.

    Some of the examples you listed:

    No Doubt (1994): The band didn’t become BIG until 1995. The next year. In the same manner, Donald Glover/Drake/Macklemore/Kendrick of recent sun gods became famous the next year as well.

    Social distortion (1998): The band first became popular over a decade prior. Same as Michelle Branch, Jimmy Eat World.

    De La Soul (1997): They first became famous in 1989

    Xhibit (2001): Became big the following year.

    You need to keep in mind that just because these names are recognizable to you doesn’t mean that Sun God used to be able to get superstars. They were either a little early or way late. Same as it is today.

  7. The Truth · ·

    “Welcome to the real world.” – Really though

    Yes, it’s the real world so much as AS sycophants such as yourself agree to let it become the real world. I had high hopes for our generation to strike down these kinds of outrageous liability laws and tell the lawyers where to go stick their greedy hands, but it’s clear that VERY IMPORTANT students who get picked to do VERY IMPORTANT JOBS are being successfully brainwashed into accepting the status quo as gospel. Kudos to you, brave Important AS Persun ™, for helping to protect us from freedom!

    This, of course, is the future of California, the state where lawsuits are a way of life and the normal form of redistribution from middle class people to trial lawyers. Congratulations on perpetuating the cycle in the name of being “reasonable” about this instead of actually doing something to change the current system.

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