Despite the setback posed by a ban on the name “Zonker Harris Day,” WestCo still plans to hold its traditional music and arts festival during WesFest weekend.
In late February, the administration decided that the festival could no longer use its historic title because of its association with drug culture. Director of Residential Life Fran Koerting said that honoring the Doonesbury character, described in The New York Times as a “flaky pothead,” projected the wrong image for both WestCo and the University during the high-publicity WesFest celebration.
The WestCo community has decided to register the event under an interim name so that the event can go on as planned. In order to sign contracts with the roughly ten bands expected to perform and gain access to University funds, the festival’s planners must agree with the administration on a new name for this year.
“Above all we want to have the event,” said one of WestCo’s presidents Sarah Leitson ’11. “The name is a stupid reason to shut it down.”
WestCo will attempt to use “Honker Zarris Day,” a name that community members do not expect to be accepted by the administration. As a last resort, they will turn to “He Who Must Not Be Named Day.”
WestCo leaders are clear that whatever the event is called this year, it will be a temporary name, and that they are only agreeing to a change because of time constraints.
“We might like to find a name that has cultural relevance for our generation,” Leitson said.
Meanwhile, many believe that Zonker Harris’s name will never really disappear. Ezra Nachman ’11, another WestCo president, believes the name will change only in official documents and not in the minds of students.
“The only thing that changes is the name on the banners and on a piece of paper,” he says. Nachman plans to refer to the day by its old name, and encourages all students to join him. However, he claimed that Public Safety has been ordered to shut down the event if it is called “Zonker Harris Day” in any official document.
In a report authored in defense of the Zonker Harris name, WestCo president Ivan Maulana ’11 suggested that the festival should keep its name.
“Changing the name won’t stop the people who are going to do drugs,” he said.
He also proposed for student collaboration with the administration and WesWell to include wellness education, especially about drugs and alcohol, in the event.
“We’d be thrilled if they implemented those measures,” Koerting said.
The administration, however, has rejected the plan, insisting on the name change. Koerting believes that the name simply cannot be reconciled with a cleaner vision for the event, WestCo, and WesFest in general, and has to be changed.
“The name counteracts the proposal,” she contended. “We’re hearing from students that WestCo is not a safe, inclusive place because of the reputation for drug use.”
Maulana cited the fact that WestCo accepted only 57 of 149 applications this year, as evidence against the argument that WestCo’s reputation is repelling current students. He claimed that the community is far more selective than most program housing options.
Despite the controversy, the WestCo community remains relatively optimistic. Barring any new developments, the festival will still happen on April 19.
“We’ll try to put on the best event formerly known as Zonker Harris Day ever,” Leitson said.