In light of the recent controversy on Facebook regarding the cultural and racial politics of the music of Asian-American rappers Awkwafina and Dumbfoundead, both scheduled to perform in Goodrich Hall on the 17th of April as part of the upcoming REACH Conference, the Office of Student Life announced this morning that all scheduled performances by visiting artists would be indefinitely suspended. In an email addressed to the student body, OSL declared that all musical events at the college have been put on hiatus pending the creation and subsequent approval of a new subcommittee, which will be responsible for reviewing every proposed musician. Among the responsibilities of the new Subcommittee for Investigations Leading to Ending Needless Cultural Exploitation are in-depth analyses of each artist’s lyrics, genre, musical style, affected accents, Twitter and Facebook posts, memoirs, tabloid interviews, and subconscious attitudes. In an internal memo to the faculty of the college, OSL explains, “We feel that any sort of vague insinuation of cultural appropriation or bias, real or perceived, whether it happened five days ago, five years ago, or even five years from now, will no longer be tolerated at this institution.”
One postholder in OSL, who asked to be identified as Zero so as not to risk offending anyone, admitted, “Until we can find an artist whose work is completely independent of any kind of cultural appropriation — indeed, any cultural influence whatsoever—we just don’t feel like our community will remain one we can be proud of.” When asked about the possibility of bringing in artists who perform entirely in monotone, however, he was hesitant. “Williams is fortunate to have one of the largest populations of Gregorian monks in not just the NESCAC, but across the entire eastern seaboard. We would need first to evaluate what kind of effect such performances would have on that community,” Zero said.
As of April, OSL’s new policy only covers performances by visiting artists, but if the program succeeds, SILENCE’s governing authority may be extended to student events as well such as theatrical performances, improv comedy, and athletic competitions. Early next week SILENCE is scheduled to meet with college administration and student representatives to discuss the possibility of having a completely silent concert at Homecoming next fall, though one student, James Cage ’16, is already protesting the idea saying “this in an intolerable and hateful act of cultural appropriation against my family by people seeking to steal and defame the music of my grandfather John and I will not allow it to occur.”