This Saturday evening, artists J.I.D, EarthGang, and AVSTIN JAMES will perform at 7 p.m. in Worth Courtyard, following a last-minute change in artists. Henry Han ’20, who spearheaded the event now known around campus as “Fall Worthstock,” secured $60,000 from the Swarthmore Budgeting Committee. The event was organized in tandem with the college’s Office of Student Engagement.
Han secured funding for the concert through an SBC supplementary funding request this past summer. Because only a chartered student group can apply for supplementary funding, however, Han used the student group LaunchDeck, which provides resources for “personal development projects,” as a proxy for securing the funds. This process is not explicitly against the bylaws of SBC. Immediately after SBC allocated the funds to LaunchDeck, the $60,000 was transferred to OSE.
According to SBC bylaws, if a single supplementary request exceeds 1 percent of SBC’s total operating budget of roughly $617,000, SGO’s Executive Board must vote to approve the request.
Chair of SBC Yin Xiao ‘20 said this was the first time the bylaw was invoked to his knowledge. He explained the committee’s rationale for approving such a large sum of money for a single event.
“Ultimately, it came down to ‘do you want a fall Worthstock or not?’ It became very obvious that if we don’t fund it, no one’s gonna fund it… so eventually most of the people agreed that this is gonna be good for the student body. [W]e do have the financial flexibility to allow this to happen, … so we said yes,” Xiao said.
He also noted that SBC eventually granted the request under the condition that OSE would work directly with Han to help with event logistics.
Xiao later mentioned five points that SBC’s voting body discussed during deliberations on Han’s proposal. These included whether it was a bad precedent to grant the money; the sheer size of the request; how much money would be left in SBC’s supplementary budget after the event; the fact that Han had filed the request through LaunchDeck; and finally, how the proposal was itemized between talent, lighting, sound equipment, and food.
Regarding SBC’s remaining supplementary budgeting, Xiao insisted that it is very unlikely that SBC would come close to depleting their budget. Of SBC’s total $617,000 operating budget for the year, approximately $444,000 was distributed during spring budgeting this past semester. The remaining $172,000 was set aside for supplemental funding. SBC was left with about $110,000 after the dust settled at the beginning of this semester.
“I don’t expect that we’re gonna even come close to running out of supplemental funding this year,” Xiao said. At the end of last year, SBC had around $90,000 left over from its supplementary funding budget, and SBC granted 90 percent of student groups’ budget proposals during last year’s spring budgeting period on average.
SBC passed Han’s final request unanimously, 7-0, with one abstention. Because it’s standard practice for the SBC Chair to only vote in the case of a tie, Xiao did not vote on Han’s final proposal for Fall Worthstock. The vote cast by SGO’s Executive Board similarly passed by a wide margin, voting 6-1 in favor of the supplementary funding request.
Last spring, Han served as SGO’s Chair of Internal Affairs. Because part of his responsibilities included appointing students to various committees, Han appointed the SBC members who eventually approved his supplementary funding request.
In total, Han has applied three times to SBC in order to secure money for concerts. Han first applied last spring for $60,000 on behalf of the spring Worthstock Committee. SBC only allocated $10,000 toward last spring’s Worthstock. This past summer, Han submitted two separate proposals for a Fall Worthstock. Han’s second Fall Worthstock proposal was eventually passed by both SBC and SGO.
SGO President Gilbert Orbea said that executive board members were surprised that the first proposal for Fall Worthstock passed through SBC at all.
SBC approved Han’s first funding request in late July with a vote of 7-0. However, the Executive Board shot down the proposal within hours, saying it was an “irresponsible use of money,” according to Han.
One of SGO’s main concerns when deciding whether to approve the funding proposal was the fact that SBC previously denied SGO funding this spring for a transportation initiative. Earlier this year, SBC was reluctant to give SGO $20,000 to fund a pilot program designed to help low-income students on financial aid with transportation costs to Philadelphia, said Orbea. SBC denied their request, but gave the group $4,000 to pilot the program, leaving the door open for more funding in the future.
“A lot of us on the executive board were blindsided by the fact that [Fall Worthstock] could’ve been railed through as quickly as it was, and that it was so unanimous of a vote, when it felt like we were by the skin of our teeth trying to get a third of that funding for, what I would consider, a cause,” said Orbea.
According to Xiao, SBC was hesitant to give SGO more funding since SGO had only used $25,000 out of its $50,000 budget last year. He also said SGO did not have a clear plan at the time for initiating the program. Orbea said SGO still intends to start the transportation initiative, and potentially apply for further supplementary funding.
The Executive Board was also concerned with the lack of a clear mechanism for choosing an artist that would appeal to the majority of the student body, Orbea noted. When planning the spring Worthstock and LSE concerts, OSE has a student committee to make final decisions on the featured artist and other spending concerns. In the case of Fall Worthstock, Han said he chose the artist based on his own discussions with students and the results from past Worthstock surveys.
According to Han, last year’s survey indicated that students wanted rap and EDM artists, so he subsequently looked for artists from those genres and eventually settled on J.I.D, EarthGang, and AVSTIN JAMES by the beginning of this week, although Ski Mask the Slump God was initially slated to be the headliner.
On Monday, due to “mental exhaustion” after his three-month tour, Ski Mask cancelled his performance at the college. Han signed J.I.D. and EarthGang shortly after, with no additional cost incurred.
“What was the process through which we said ‘this looks like someone most of the campus wants?’” asked Orbea. “By my knowledge, there wasn’t one.”
Han said his main intent for organizing the concert was to show the college that increasing the budget for the actual Worthstock in the spring would let the Worthstock Committee, the group of students and OSE staff who plan the event, bring larger talent to campus.
“… The overall plan is to use this concert and attendance to go to the school in the winter when they’re doing institutional budgeting, and try to argue for more budgeting for Worthstock. [H]opefully from then on, we’ll have a little bit of a larger budget,” he said, adding that even a marginal increase of $5,000 or $10,000 would go a long way.
The full budget for spring Worthstock and LSE ranges from $70,000 to $80,000, and is completely financed by the college, independent of SBC. On its own, the Worthstock budget ranges from $30,000 to $40,000. In comparison Han’s event this weekend has a budget of $60,000, the majority of which is going toward talent, sound, and lighting equipment.
Nevertheless, Han’s second official application for SBC supplementary funding was approved after further deliberation by SBC and SGO.
According to both Xiao and Han, SBC does not intend to fund this sort of event in the future. Pending fall Worthstock’s success this Saturday, both think there should be a more established process to make a large fall concert happen in the future, with financial support directly from the college, separate from SBC.
Fall Worthstock is registered as an all-campus dry event, meaning students should not plan on bringing alcohol into the concert.
Featured image is of AVSTIN JAMES