Miguel, this year’s Spring Fling concert headliner, was accused of forcibly grabbing the breast of University of New Mexico student Xian Bass and removing it from her shirt without her consent in 2017. While he denied the allegation, students have organized a Facebook event, titled “Stand Against Miguel at Fling,” encouraging students to walk out of the concert early or skip it entirely to “protest his predatory behavior.”
The Social Planning and Events Committee’s choice to book Miguel as this year’s headliner is indicative of a larger problem in SPEC’s selection process. Miguel is the third headliner since 2010 to face significant backlash from students — it’s time for SPEC to take these concerns seriously and implement a more rigorous vetting process for potential artists.
The students who created the event also took issue with misogyny in Miguel’s song lyrics.
"In hiring a sexual predator who is going to sing a song about how cool it is to use alcohol as a weapon to assault women at Fling, that’s just sending the message to all the perpetrators of sexual violence on campus that their behavior is encouraged by Penn,” College senior Erica Rego told The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Still, SPEC President and Wharton senior Elizabeth Goran told the DP that SPEC does not regret booking Miguel.
“I wouldn’t say I regret the decision at all,” Goran said. “I would say as a leader of SPEC, we appreciate that people have varying opinions of the artist, and we’re very sensitive of the concerns that students were bringing up.”
Goran also said that SPEC leaders were unaware of the allegation when they booked Miguel. However, the allegation was reported in 2017 in media outlets including Billboard, TMZ, Ebony, Vulture, and Spin.
This apathetic reaction to the allegation is deeply troubling. When SPEC pays performers to come to Penn, it is sending a message that these artists are representative of the Penn community’s values. There are so many possible artists for SPEC to choose from. The Penn community shouldn’t be endorsing artists who have sexual assault allegations against them.
SPEC’s reaction is especially troubling in light of the history of controversies around Fling artists in recent years. This is the third year since 2010 that students have complained about problematic headliners and called for SPEC to reevaluate the way it selects performers for Fling.
In 2013, when Tyga was slated to perform at Fling, students formed a group called “We Can Do Better” to protest Tyga’s misogynistic lyrics. Students petitioned for SPEC to reform the selection process that led to booking an artist who raps “Need a bitch that can f**k, cook, clean, right. Turn a bitch out, make her lick twice.” That same year, students also objected to Fling performer Girl Talk’s misogynistic lyrics.
Similarly, in 2010, students spoke out against Snoop Dogg’s offensive lyrics by holding a discussion at the Penn Women’s Center and sending a letter to SPEC calling for the organization to carefully consider the messages and behaviors promoted by the artists it invites for Fling.
Protests like these drew campus-wide attention to the problematic nature of these select artists and serve as an example of why student activism is vital to the Penn community. Students can’t remain silent on Miguel if they want to see concrete change in the future.
Still, the responsibility does not just fall on us. The fact that students have raised these objections to at least three of the past ten Spring Fling headliners highlights a systemic problem in the vetting process for artists. SPEC needs to conduct more thorough background checks on potential performers and bar artists who have sexual misconduct allegations against them from coming to Penn.
In March 2018, Penn’s administration sent an email to students calling for suggestions on how to improve sexual harassment procedures. "Creating a campus free of sexual violence and sexual harassment is one of Penn's highest priorities," the email read.
SPEC’s unequivocal support of Miguel conflicts with the University’s stated commitment to creating a safe campus culture. In the future, SPEC must be more proactive in soliciting student feedback on potential Fling artists from student leaders in groups like the 6B minority coalition and Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention. SPEC should conduct more thorough research on potential performers in order to ensure that it does not overlook issues as serious as reported sexual misconduct allegations.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.