For the second year in a row, members of the campus group Poeting punctuated a Saturday night Parents Weekend performance of lighthearted a capella, dance, and drum acts with a highly-charged presentation of controversial social and political issues. While we respect Poeting's well-intentioned mission, we wonder if this Parents Weekend event is the proper venue for such inherently divisive racial issues.
Poeting is indeed a performance art form, not unlike many other acts that appear on the Parents Weekend bill. At the same time the group's acts are, more often than not, overtly political, channeling contentious issues and thus distinguishing itself from the line-up of a capella groups and dance routines. "Poeting is not just an artistic organization, but a strong political one," co-founder Michael Chan '05 has said in these pages. "A lot of our poets use poetry as an outlet to express their political views."
Do such strong political views connect with an audience that has, just moments before, been singing along with Ursus Versus or clapping along with the Unity Step Team? Each audience member will inevitably react differently, but we believe that Poeting's performance constitutes a significant departure from the spirit of the evening, which is one of relaxing entertainment?not one of political discourse. As we have argued in the past, it is imperative that these political discussions occur. The student performance on Parents Weekend is not, however, the place.
Granted, one could argue that any one of the groups that perform that night could easily tackle a political issue in song or dance. But the very nature of Poeting's performance raises the question of intensity. Is it the time to address contentious political and social issues when many students are reuniting with their families, often for a fun and relaxing evening? It is important to remember that families are visiting the College during the weekend. Issues that strike many students as perfectly normal to discuss under most circumstances may make others uncomfortable or even angry. Such reactions should not result from any performance at this event.
While we again affirm the importance of active and vibrant political exchange, we hope that Poeting is able to find a more appropriate venue for future Parents Weekends.