The Thing about Decency

Disclaimer : This is a personal post, and in no way represents the views of Mayfest or the University.

Honour and pride is easily expected when you work in a public environment, but perhaps more likely forecasted are vitriol and criticism. I took some time today to detach myself emotionally from Mayfest, the group that organises Dillo Day and to critically evaluate whether anything done over the past few months was lacking or substandard. I’ve dedicated myself to be effective and that meant not letting bias cloud judgement. I love the people in Mayfest and all that it’s done for me, but I needed to be objective. My conclusion is that the hate is still undeserved for various reasons. This will be a lengthy post, but indulge me. Let me present what I believe to be facts.

Let’s start with the topic of hiring a proper production house to produce Mayfest. I understand this inclination completely. It could feel so much more reassuring to know that we had paid a premium of around $80-$150K to an organisation , and trust that they would have better protocol and judgement than a bunch of ‘incompetent students’. I have Two Counterpoints to this. 1) Mayfest is made of Northwestern Students. As much as so much of the festival leadup and the peripherals of the day of is dismissed as trivial compared to the actual concert, they are truthfully some of the biggest forces bringing students together on this campus. On a school criticised by its own students for not having more events that achieve these effects, the only people who could truly understand and be intimate with the students to develop a festival catered for students are the students themselves. No matter what, I would not trust a production house to produce a concert for Northwestern students. Perhaps a generic one, but then what’s the culture in that? Say what you want, but there’s something to be proud of when our own school can produce a concert. It’s unfair to only sing praises when the sun is shining. 2) Cost. More money goes to the production house, less money goes to the artists. Raise the student activity fee, and cause more students to doubt their ability to continue their education.It’s humbling to remember any raise in costs affects someone; there’s always someone at the margin.

Onto the topic of contingency. The most frequent slam on Mayfest is that the organisation is inadequate for planning ahead in case of inclement weather. The conversation is then steered to target the fact that Mayfest did not book any wet-weather area a year ahead , knowing that weather will be bad this season. Welsh-Ryan was booked for a high school graduation. Planning for Dillo begins once the Exec is formed, which is normally only after the previous year’s Dillo. Knowing the inner workings of Mayfest to a relative level, I can attest to the fact that members aren’t trivial in dealing with contingency. Think of yourself – do you see yourself forecasting problems with weather? Members in Mayfest have been in it for up to 4 years – weather is one of the most pertinent discussions. If you could believe that someone who goes to the same school as you and therefore is of the same intelligence range as you, has undergone 4 years of experience, and cares about Dillo despite  the unrewarded work gone into it, would not make all efforts to provide contingency for wet weather, then I suggest developing a stronger sense of empathy. There  was no location that could be booked in time, that made sense and fitted the recruitments of scale of production, and so Mayfest rolled with the cards they were dealt and went on to make the best of what they were given. Rain or Shine , the concert goes on. When did strong winds pop out on the weather forecast? Literally Friday evening. Wind was a whole ‘nother level of hazard that students or artists shouldn’t be put through – it could cause the structure to fall apart potentially based on their safety descriptions.  Just postpone it?  The weather was forecasted to get worse, which it  did, and artists were time-sensitive. The call had to be to cancel it, unfortunate , terribly unfortunate, but necessary. Were people in Mayfest nonchalantly excited to cancel the concert they had spent a majority of their year planning?  It doesn’t really matter. The Fire Department made the call. Mayfest stood behind it because it was the right thing to do, and it takes courage to do the right thing in light of unpopular response.

Wristband refunds.  I went through the ticket policies of Lolla, Tomorrowland, Coachella and a few others. All had explicitly stated they didn’t refund for tickets no matter what. Norris Box Office stated the same terms and conditions – standard protocols. Sure, discretion could be exercised to provide refunds if Mayfest was to blame for the cancellation. Yet, this was clearly out of the hands of Mayfest.  Near full costs had probably been excised , and there was no financial capacity to afford a refund – they were mostly returned to SAFC, and not into Mayfest’s budget.

Finally, probably the most trivial of all complaints. That Mayfest didn’t publicise the free show that occured the very night of Dillo Day. Firstly, it wasn’t a rational move to publicise a 21+  event that excluded a majority of students – that wasn’t what  Mayfest was meant for. Second, only around 8 out of the 75+ members in Mayfest went to the  concert, inciting criticism that this was therefore an exclusive Mayfest event. Yes Mayfest people went to the event, because they too are humans and therefore capable of  beings fans of the artists. There were around 40-50 other Northwestern students present at the event, who by being true fans  of Miguel and A$AP Ferg had followed their socials and went to catch the free show. Perhaps this is where I allow myself to be a bit more subjective and state that I find it difficult to comprehend how after a month of complaining about the line-up, people can get riled up that the same artists had produced a show out of the context of Dillo Day, and therefore out of the jurisdiction of Mayfest. Do it out of courtesy? Refer to point #1. We love this school, but we don’t want to encourage anything that could divide the school rather than bring it together.

I’m clearly affected by the past day and so. I spent 2 years in Singapore trying to fight negativity and encourage empathy, solidarity and an effort to understand before judgement. Sure, criticism is due where it’s necessary. But seek to find information before criticising. Ask appropriate questions, targeted at clarifying rather than accusing. These were principles a whole country decided was necessary for its progress, and it’s disappointing to be honest, to see that those are principles that need to be spread on this campus to. I read a speech referred to me called This is Water. It’s a fantastic speech but this quote got me good –

“Learning how to think” really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.
It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.
Because if you cannot or will not exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”

Mayfest is sorry. People cried in the tent. Are they sorry because it’s their fault? I doubt it. They’re sorry because they too wanted to be part  of the experience that everyone describes as the best day of the year. They too were deprived of that opportunity, and although as shown above, they weren’t the reason behind the disappointment of cancellation, they (and now I shall start saying we) felt responsible. We too are Northwestern.

Members of Mayfest were spat on, members of Mayfest were heckled at and shouted at. Members were called ugly names and then their public details publicised online. I was told not to fight back , and I’m not going to. Instead I am going to encourage those who are reading this, who agree with me that civility and decency is something that we must truly hold on to, lest we regress, to be loud about the decision to fight negativity in this school. Fight untruths, fight discord. Because this world is a hateful place already, and if we as the future choose to carry that trait, then we decide the society we inherit. We can build a better society, regardless of it’s with regards to Mayfest or any other organisation in this campus  that aims to give back.

Do more good, do less evil.

I will always continue believing we can do better.

Once again, this is my opinion and mine alone.