Celebrate! sends a mixed message

As no one could have failed to notice, Celebrate! took over campus for most of last Saturday. As always, Celebrate! descended with its popcorn vendors and pony rides and its stages of various musical entertainment. Celebrate! is billed as “Lawrence’s spring festival of the arts,” but we wonder which arts Celebrate!, was celebrating. We would not presume to restrict our definition of the arts too narrowly, but we wonder if this Celebrate! in its current form, with its county fair assortment of vendors, is a festival of the arts that represents Lawrence at its best. For example, the auction of art produced by Lawrentians, tucked away in Riverview, took a notable backseat to the various handicrafts of the vendors on the lawn. Why couldn’t this have a more prominent place or at least be better advertised? Dozens of students worked tirelessly to prepare Celebrate!, and of course Lawrentians were well represented on the musical stages, but then again a great deal more money went to hiring a rock band than supporting Lawrence talent. It seems that Celebrate! has become a Lawrence event largely because it takes place on its campus and is managed by its students, not because it represents the university. Celebrate! was originally a student honors project, something more akin to a Renaissance fair. Perhaps if the university revisits the festival’s origins we might once again see a Celebrate! that is more representative of the university.

Celebrate! also presented another problem. This year it was scheduled over reading period. Surely this was a bit of pragmatic scheduling. It seems logical to put an event of Celebrate’s scale on a long weekend. With that pragmatism, though, came yet another mixed signal about the nature of the recently created and more recently reaffirmed reading period. Not surprisingly, Celebrate! has quite an effect on life on campus. The library was more a host to amplified salsa music than assiduous study. Among other inconveniences, Main Hall was closed to students. And, of course, just crossing campus or finding a quiet place to work was a challenge to say the least.

The academic virtues of reading period have always been largely nominal, but this term the name seems a particularly poor fit.

Celebrate! is a long-standing Lawrence tradition and Lawrence should take better care that it not only reflects well on the university, but is in the student’s best interests.

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