Poster for the Brookfest 2020 Artist Poll, emailed to the undergraduate student body on Nov. 27. The poll included mostly rap and R&B performers for voting. COURTESY OF USG

Alek Lewis is a junior journalism major who is a transfer and commuter student.

On Nov. 27, a Campus Connect email was sent to the undergraduate student body with a poll allowing them to cast a vote on a select number of potential artists for the 2020 Brookfest Concert. Feeling optimistic to attend a high quality concert at a reduced price, I looked at the poll and saw that all the choices presented for the concert were artists that I was not familiar with. I was flushed with disappointment.

Being a transfer student who will only attend Stony Brook University (SBU) for two years while also being a commuter with a part-time job poses many disadvantages. Not being able to immerse myself in the culture of SBU’s student life was due to financials. Even though I don’t participate in many social activities, I would have looked forward to taking a day off from my job on the weekend to attend Brookfest. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I have the luxury of attending Brookfest when I don’t have a genuine interest in the artists.

Not every concert will be of my interest and I acknowledge that a lot of of the rap and R&B performers that the polls and recent concerts have included, such as 2017 Back to the Brook headliner Post Malone — who was named top artist by Billboard this year — might be favorable to many students at SBU. 

But there is still a diversity problem. The USG ignores the minority of students who are disinterested in these genres.

If diversity and inclusion is such an important value to SBU, why would our Undergraduate Student Government (USG) not uphold the same beliefs of diversity in regards to their performance events? Some students go to a university looking to balance growing up, making friends and joining clubs in addition to their studies. Our Student Activity Board is meant to help cater to that experience. Every person has different tastes, every student has different interests — it’s time for USG to integrate this policy into their concert series. In 2018, Vice President of Student life, Kojo Dansoh, said in an interview that they would increase the diversity of the concerts by organizing multiple concerts of different genres. Dansoh since has not kept his word.

The exclusion of the 2019 Back to the Brook concert, coupled with my lack of interest of the 2020 Brookfest’s potential line up, kills the amount of potential concerts that myself and others who share the same interests could attend. In addition, my SBU student activity fee is being put to waste.

The Student Activity Center’s rooms and hallways display various posters of past concerts. Musicians like Billy Joel, Pink Floyd and comedians such as John Oliver and Dave Chappelle take up the walls; I would’ve gladly seen these artists if I was attending the university at the time. And although a section on the poll also includes a space where students can submit suggestions for their favorite artists, let’s face it, no presidential candidate who was ever written into a ballot ever won an election.

Looking at SBU’s history, it’s apparent that the Student Activities Board has failed its concert series through the past few years. Past concerts such as 2017 Brookfest suffered from low sales and energy. 2018’s Brookfest suffered from a last-minute lineup change. 2018 and 2019 Back to the Brooks never even saw the light of day. These issues display that the current Student Activities Board, under Dansoh, are unable to host a reliable concert. 

Well USG, it’s in your hands. Now that you have cut the judicial branch of your government, which you claim cost over $10,000 to operate per year, you should have plenty of money to plan a large variety of concerts and performances that caters to every interest at SBU. It’s time for the USG concert series to be refurbished and renewed in the interests of the undergraduate student body — the whole undergraduate student body.

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