Scheduling International Fest alongside Spring Fling is a mistake.
There are, the way we see it, two possible outcomes. Spring Fling, the much larger, more established and well-known festival, could dwarf International Fest. Though the two events were scheduled to be side by side, Spring Fling will likely subsume International Fest, and students won’t recognize it as a separate event from Fling. International Fest is one of the most important annual opportunities for minority and international students to showcase and share their culture with the broader campus, but if students see those groups as just more tables for free prizes and food, International Fest might as well not even happen.
Alternatively, students could see that Spring Fling is spread across the Spine, on the higher ground, while International Fest is relegated to the Peace Quad. Sure, more students may pass through International Fest than would have attended otherwise. But the point of International Fest isn’t to attract as many students as possible as much as it is to draw students who would open up to learning about the cultures of their peers.
International Fest has been a successful event the last two years, since the International Connection Club started it in 2012, along with the office of the vice president for multicultural affairs. The past few years’ events drew hundreds of students without the help of the Spring Fling crowd. What did the Student Association, specifically the office of multicultural affairs, have in mind in organizing International Fest this way? Was there really no other date available?
It is also noteworthy that many of the groups tabling at International Fest are ordinarily part of Spring Fling anyway. In that sense, these groups lose out on a significant part of their spring-time opportunities for tabling and representation. For many of the smaller cultural groups, that could be a harmful lack in exposure.
Lastly, Spring Fling and International Fest simply have different goals and energies. Spring Fling is a fun, lighthearted way to end the year — complete with classic “American” snacks and music. International Fest is also fun and celebratory, but represents an atypical opportunity for cultural engagement on our campus. Removing intentional cultural expression by jamming it within our our very American celebration of fried Oreos and pop music is almost culturally imperialistic.
In this framework, we suspect many unknowing students rolling through the Peace Quad won’t even recognize International Fest as a separate event from Spring Fling. Many students, unfortunately, will likely see the different cultures represented at International Fest as merely opportunities for more free crap. This is sad because International Fest has the potential for — and has provided in the past — a more deliberate cultural engagement, something that’s not all that common here. For the students tabling and presenting at International Fest, we speculate that they, too, would have hoped their event received the scheduling and attention it deserves.
Hopefully next year, International Fest will get the recognition it deserves. For now, we hope Spring Fling revelers will make the Fest a part of their Fling.