September 29, 2010

Slope Day Board Seeks Feedback With Open Forums

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In an effort to better gain student input on artist choices for this year’s Slope Day, the Slope Day Programming Board hosted two open forums at the Straight and Robert Purcell Community Center this month. The informational forums, held Sept. 14 and Sept. 22, arose as a reaction to the student body’s complaints about the SDPB’s choices of performers on previous Slope Days. In past years, the SDPB has brought the likes of the Gym Class Heroes, The Pussycat Dolls and Drake to the University for the annual celebratory event on the slope. Yet student reactions toward the line-ups have ranged from approval to strong discontent, with e-mails flooding the SDPB inbox every year after the featured artist is announced in the spring, according to SDPB chairperson Kate Tucci ’11. “I think a lot of people enjoy complaining, but aren’t willing to help implement change,” Tucci said. “I understand that people are busy — not everyone can make our general body meetings… [so] the forums are an opportunity for people to present their opinions. All feedback is good feedback.” At the forum, Tucci and other members of the SDPB executive board broke down the main challenges they face in planning what is one of the biggest events of the year. With more than 15,000 students attending the festivities on Libe Slope each May, Slope Day requires heavy manpower. According to the SDPB website, the Save Our Slope committee not only recruits 500 to 800 student, staff and faculty volunteers, but also works in tandem with the Cornell University Police Department and Cornell University Emergency Medical Service to ensure the safety of all attendants. Reimbursing the CUPD and other campus safety officials, paying for fence coverage around the slope and handling other logistics and security issues costs approximately $200,000 a year, leaving about $100,000 to cover the highlight of the event: the musical performers.The SDPB’s budget is set by Student Assembly and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly byline funding basis, with additional money for the artist coming from ticket and merchandise sales.Though acquiring a corporate sponsor could increase the amount of money available to hire an artist, Tucci said that the “artist’s sponsor takes precedence over Cornell’s sponsor.” If Pepsi were to sponsor Slope Day while Coca-Cola sponsored the artist, she explained, the artist could refuse to perform.Traditionally, every Slope Day features one headliner and two opening acts. Choosing the headliner is a lengthy process in which suggestions from the student body are accumulated at Clubfest, SDPB general body meetings and from submissions on the SDPB website.Prior to the spring semester, all suggestions are entered onto a database and automatically filtered based on budget realities and artist availability — big shots like U2 or the Red Hot Chili Peppers are automatically thrown out, Tucci said.Beyond basic pricing and touring concerns, the artist selection process raises another possible issue for the SDPB: sound checks. While rock bands require up to four hours of sound checks before a concert, hip-hop or rap artists tend to demand less time on stage prior to performance. This may help to explain why recent Slope Day performers have tended to be hip-hop or rap artists, Tucci said. As Slope Day is scheduled on a class day, multi-hour outdoor sound checks from 8:00 a.m. on the morning of the event disrupt classes, she said.Though rescheduling Slope Day from the last Friday of classes to the following Saturday could remove the need to work around sound checks disturbing instruction, almost 800 volunteers — many of them non-students — are involved in the event. Faculty and staff vital to the Slope Day voluntary efforts could be more reluctant to work on a Saturday, Tucci said.“While the sound check issue may be something to be concerned about, it has never been a ‘deal breaker’ for any artist approached,” Tucci said. “It’s more of a hypothetical issue that we are worried may be a concern in the future.”Although criticism and disappointment accompany the Slope Day artist announcement every year, Tucci said she believes that many of her peers are unaware of the extensive behind-the-scenes work involved in making the event a reality.“Slope Day is a real-life example of how hard it is to get things done even when you have an entire year to plan it,” Tucci said. “There’s no way to please everyone. Ultimately, we just have to try to appease the biggest breadth of students we can.”

Original Author: Akane Otani