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The wages of excess (Apr. 1999)

While Dartmouth inspired the classic fraternity film Animal House, and Princeton has more recently made the national news for its “Nude Olympics,” Yale should not be thought of as exempt from undergraduate excesses.

Every April, on the weekend after classes end for the year, the Yale College Council holds Spring Fling, an outdoor festival featuring live music, a barbecue, and faculty-dunking booths. In the same way that a bachelor party is intended to be one last wild and crazy night before a lifetime of commitment, Spring Fling is one last weekend of fun before exams bring two weeks of little sleep and lots of studying. Think of it as a kind of Woodstock for people who want peace, love, and an admittance letter from a really, really good law school.

The only trouble with Spring Fling is that tastes in music and food vary enough among undergraduates to make a consensus nearly impossible. Disputes about what kind of band to book and what kind of food to serve have caused more than one YCC member to wonder if there are better ways to pad a résumé.

Things started out well enough. In my freshmen year, as a reward to students for making it through the dining hall strike, President Levin provided extra funds for Spring Fling, which meant that the YCC was able to bring George Clinton and his funk band to the Cross Campus lawn. Clinton was known for his wild outfits and multicolored hair long before Dennis Rodman. On that day, George and his bandmates, at least one of whom was wearing something that looked like a diaper, did not disappoint the crowd.

But the next Fling was not such an unqualified success. That year, the Yale Student Environmental Coalition was a major Spring Fling sponsor and, despite student protest, successfully lobbied to have meat banned from the barbecue. And in order to discourage freelance barbecuing by disgruntled meat-eaters, it was announced that police officers at the gates to Old Campus would confiscate any grilling devices Yalies attempted to smuggle inside. In order to show my support for my fellow carnivores, I participated that year in the Yankee Doodle hamburger speed-eating contest—and lost by a mouthful. (The winner consumed eight burgers in seven and a half minutes.) I went home sick and missed the main act, the Lemonheads.

While last year’s Spring Fling ended up a success, it was preceded by a month of heated discussion about its main act, the female folk duo known as the Indigo Girls. A certain segment of Yale’s population thought the Indigo Girls were too much of a “chick band.” Irate students wrote impassioned letters to the editor of the Yale Daily News arguing both sides of the issue.

In order to avoid a similar controversy this year, the YCC passed out survey forms to find out what kind of band the students would prefer. But instead of explaining my musical tastes, I asked that hamburgers be included on the menu again—my stomach simply would not survive another Doodle challenge.

Filed under Spring Fling, 1990s
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