Brookfest is one of the most anticipated events of Stony Brook’s year. The annual concert held in the spring features two to three musical acts performing for the stressed out students needing a break from finals and summer planning. Every year, the artists are announced months beforehand to garner attention on social media. When the concert comes around, students pack the chosen concert venue and sing along to the rock or rap act chosen by Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Student Government. Something equally traditional about Brookfest is the backlash from students. The selection of artists for Brookfest has vocal approval, but also a vocal minority of those disapproving of the artists selected. Some claim it’s because of a lack of a certain genre (mostly rock), others say it’s because of a lack of relevant artists. Regardless, these unhappy students can be heard around campus and on social media.
For this year’s Brookfest, which featured the likes of rapper B.o.B., alternative rockers twenty one pilots, and emo-rock stalwarts Panic! At The Disco, the student voice was given the chance to be a bit more present in the decision. Months before the artists were announced, the Stony Brook Undergraduate Student Government sent out a Google Form containing a list of possible artists for the show.
“We wanted to get a general sense of what the Stony Brook community wanted to see in their concerts, because we knew that in the past we’ve always gotten reports that students…didn’t get their voice heard,” says Danny Chung, the Vice President of Communications and Public Relations for Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Student Government. Chung claims the Google Form was used to create a poll that would be “a good reference to give [USG] a sense of what [the students] might want.”
According to Chung, this year featured a more diverse line-up of performers but leaned on the presence of rock than rap. Previous concerts have featured rappers like Mac Miller, Wiz Khalifa, Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West in the headlining spot. While that may please the large number of rap fans on Stony Brook’s campus, it leaves others feel left out and their voices unheard.
According to Kenneth Myers, USG’s Vice President of Student Life, polls were posted on social media in the past that focused on genres and “usually, EDM [electronic dance music] and rap is usually the thing that comes out on top…but because that’s usually the most voted thing the people who want rock music never really get that option. Not until this year.”
Myers explained that the USG is normally time constricted when it comes to selecting the artist. Myers claims that the booking process started in January, noting that it is difficult to plan Brookfest at Lavalle Stadium, where the past two concerts have taken place, due to scheduling and high costs. Myers also mentioned how USG bylaws used to prevent any early planning of fall and spring events. This year, Myers rewrote the bylaws so all fall and spring events can be planned in the summer, allowing more time for potential artists to be fished out.
For those who missed out on the Google Form sent out this year, Chung points out that there has been a way for students to voice their picks for Brookfest artists; attending meetings held by the Student Activities Board. The SAB work with the USG to find the most popular artists in popular music genres on campus, and they take student opinion into account when it comes time to vote for artists to choose from. If students were unhappy with the choices for Brookfest, Chung recommends making their presence known more next time.
When the amount of votes from the Google Form were tallied, Chung said that “about, I believe, 1500 students that filled it out, and that’s only, what, 10% or the undergraduate students” submitted votes for artists that they wanted at Brookfest. Even with the Google Form as a step forward, Chuns believes that the work is never done when it comes to informing students.
“We just try to give [the students] more information to be transparent about what the procedure was and, maybe in the future if they’re going to be here for another year, how they can really participate and make sure that they can influence the decision that’s going to be made.”
Rest easy, Stony Brook students because the USG is listening. Next time, just try to be a little louder.