Hordes of students lounge on Foss Hill as the sun shines above, illuminating a picturesque campus as the harmonious melodies of a wildly popular band float through the spring breeze. Joy is in the air, and the looming finals that should be on everybody’s minds are problems for tomorrow. Though few members of the campus community have experienced a Spring Fling like this, many are longing for a similar scene this May.
Earlier this week, the Concert Committee announced this year’s Spring Fling lineup, the first in four years, featuring headliners Tierra Whack and Destin Conrad. Highly-renowned artists like these have been the primary attraction at recent Spring Fling events at Wesleyan, as well as other prestigious universities across the country. However, this campus tradition has not always looked quite like how we imagine it today, and has frequently been shrouded in controversy.
2004: Outcast is Cast Out
In 2004, musical performers Outcast headlined the University’s Spring Fling event. Though many students were initially excited about this choice, according to a 2004 article titled “Outcast to headline Spring Fling concert” by then-News Editor Katharine Hall, anticipation quickly turned into annoyance when students learned that Outcast was indeed not the superhit Hip-Hop duo Outkast.
“What…?,” Alden Ferro ’04 said, in Hall’s article. “Wait, what…”
Outcast, an “all-white black imitation group” according to Hall, featured University alums Hermann Joseph ’03 and Bob Friend ’95. According to Hall, the band was inspired by Outkast’s musical style.
“OK, I mean, yes, we are somewhat influenced by the group Outkast,” Joseph said in Hall’s article. “We totally respect what they are trying to do, but we are taking it to a new level. It’s sort of like Outkast is Lo-rise and we are, like, Hi-rise.”
According to band members, they revamped classic Outkast hits with new musical choices to relate to the audiences they would perform for in the Middletown area.
“We try to appeal to the crowd we are performing for,” Joseph said. “Recently we played a gig at It’s Only Natural. We appealed to the crowd with lyrics like, ‘I’m sorry Ms. Piggy.’”
After considerable outcry from the student body regarding this headliner, University administrators defended their choice by stating that the band was not picked because they were cheap, but because the University was interested in promoting diverse musical artists on campus and appealing to the University’s unconventional spirit.
“I think this is a step forward,” then-Director of University Communications Justin Harmon said in the 2004 article. “We are trying to move away from brand names. We thought the student body would support a more grassroots group, if you will. You know, protest the Establishment, or the Man, or, shit, what is it?”
Luckily, the University may have redeemed itself at least halfway in 2010: Big Boi, one half of the real members of Outkast, headlined that year’s Spring Fling concert, according to a 2010 article by then-contributing writer Dean Karoliszyn ’11.
2010: Concert Controversy
Though the 2010 Spring Fling may have been a step up from the concert in 2004, the event that year was embroiled in controversy.
According to a 2010 article titled “Spring Fling: Anger at University Oversight” by then-Assistant News Editor Bea Paterno ’11, the event was planned on the one-year anniversary of the murder of Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10. In response, over 130 students jointly published an Op-Ed titled “Regarding Spring Fling 2010” in The Argus, criticizing the University’s decision to hold Spring Fling on Thursday, May 6, 2010.
“We, the undersigned, would like to assert our anger and sadness that this decision has gone forward,” the piece read. “We believe that the student body has been put in the unreasonable position of having to choose between a day of mourning or reflection and a day of celebration. Those students who were closest to Johanna will feel the ramifications of this decision most acutely, some to the extent of having to leave campus on a day they should be able to expect the support of the Wesleyan community.”
After the University responded by emphasizing that the event’s date was unmovable and instead relegating Spring Fling to the mid-afternoon while holding a vigil for Justin-Jinich in the morning, some students called for a cancellation of the event entirely, or at minimum a full-student-body vote to determine if Spring Fling could occur or not.
“Given the fact that changing the date of the concert is not possible, the only other way to separate the events would be to move the commemoration of Johanna to another day, a solution that is simply unacceptable,” an anonymous 2010 article in The Argus read. “Trying to honor Johanna on any day other than the anniversary of her death would, in reality, be dishonoring her. Valuing our right to Spring Fling over our commitment to remember and mourn a former student is not justifiable.”
While Argus articles do not provide insight into whether or not a vote occurred, Spring Fling clearly did proceed as planned in 2010; a 2010 article by self-declared Blargus Casual Hill Observer, R2D2 Lover, Listmaker-in-Chief Gabe Lezra recounted some of the event’s sightings.
“[A highlight of the event was] the person who, upon inspecting my cooler, seeing that I had a few bottles of water and 25 beers in it, and hearing me say ‘Well, it’s for me, but it’s mainly water…’ said, ‘Well, that seems reasonable,’” Lezra wrote.
2013: Good Kids, M.A.A.D. Middletown
In 2013, rap sensation Kendrick Lamar headlined the Spring Fling concert. According to a 2013 article entitled “Kendrick Lamar Announced as Spring Fling Headliner” by then-News Editor Christina Norris ’14, this was the first time the concert committee spent a majority of their budget on a single headlining act, rather than evenly distributing funds between a host of different performers.
While Lamar’s popularity today is undeniable, in 2013, plenty of students were upset about this choice of artist, according to Norris’s article.
“I’m thoroughly disappointed in the lack of an actual band,” Ismet Jooma ’14 said.
Others expressed similar concerns.
“I can’t speak for [Lamar’s] lyrical style, because I think it’s actually quite interesting, but that’s not what you look for in a Spring Fling band,” Francisco Hernandez ’14 said in Norris’s article. “You look for something that’s going to be more fun and more lively.”
Beyond some anger about the actual lineup, 2010’s Spring Fling saw the introduction of a fee for non-Wesleyan students to attend the concert; Middletown community members and students’ plus ones would now need to buy a ticket from the Wesleyan box office to join the University’s student body at the event.
Additionally, according to a 2014 article titled “Chance the Rapper, tUnE-yArDs, and S-Type Announced as Spring Fling Headliners” by then-Arts Editors and Assistant Arts Editor Gwendolyn Rosen ’15, Dan Fuchs ’15, and William Donnelly ’15, some controversy around Spring Fling, after binary gender-segregated lines were utilized.
“We’ve had three meetings so far since the start of the whole thing,” then-Spring Fling Committee Co-Chair Eric Lopez ’15 said in the 2014 article. “We talked about how to alleviate that issue for people who identify as not within that binary.”
Despite mixed feelings among the student body regarding the choice of artist in 2013, solo Hip-Hop artists have become a Spring Fling staple since, with Chance the Rapper headlining the event in 2014, Jeremih in 2015, Vic Mensa in 2017, and Tierra Whack set to perform this May.
2021-2022: Spring Things…
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Spring Fling was canceled in 2020 and modified in the following two years; 2021 saw the aptly named “Spring Thing” take over Foss Hill, and in 2022, Spring Fling was replaced with “University Day.”
According to a 2022 article by Features Editor Lia Franklin ’24 and Arts and Culture Editor Kat Struhar ’25 titled “Spring Fling Replaced with University Day,” some students expressed disappointment with the events that replaced the traditional Spring Fling celebration.
“I assumed that after last year’s event the administration and the WSA would have understood the negative reaction, and clearly they didn’t,” Emmett Levy ’24 said in the 2022 article. “I feel like very few people enjoyed Spring Thing, and it did not feel at all like a communal event. I came to a small school because I wanted that sense of community. It was just so disjointed. There was no sense of communal celebration or joy.”
While students said they understood the need to modify the event in 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns, many said they hoped that the 2022 event would be more similar to Spring Fling celebrations of the past. Over 400 disappointed students signed a petition to bring back Spring Fling after hearing word of University Day plans; many expressed disdain for the seemingly permanent loss of campus traditions to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the class of 2024, we have barely had any experiences on this campus due to COVID and we were actually looking forward to this,” Roshni Mirani ‘24 said in the 2022 article. “We have heard so much about it but never got to experience it.”
Looking back at the last 20-or-so years of Spring fling, one cannot help but notice trends of discontent and anger. So as we look forward to the first Spring Fling in four years, no matter how we may feel about the artists performing, perhaps we can be grateful that (fingers crossed) controversy has swiped left on Spring Fling this year.
Akhil Joondeph can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“From the Argives” is a column that explores The Argus’ archives (Argives) and any interesting, topical, poignant, or comical stories that have been published in the past. Given The Argus’ long history on campus and the ever-shifting viewpoints of its student body, the material, subject matter, and perspectives expressed in the archived article may be insensitive or outdated and do not reflect the views of any current member of The Argus. If you have any questions about the original article or its publication, please contact Head Archivist Sam Hilton at email@example.com.