Last weekend’s Kickback Music and Arts Festival, organized by Students of Georgetown, Inc., Georgetown Week of Welcome and the Georgetown Program Board, might have struck some umbrella-toting passersby as a decidedly dreary affair. Yet, even as the day’s most violent rains lashed Copley Lawn, a small cluster of students remained. “Rain is a social construct,” one student band posted to its Facebook page. And so it was. The small audience, soaked to the skin, danced like mad. They shouted lyrics to the skies, and the show went on.
The scene attests to a fledgling yet dynamic arts community found among the folds of Georgetown’s undergraduate body. Yet against the backdrop of this rain-soaked spectacle lies a glaring disconnect between the university’s rhetoric of cura personalis and the administration’s response to a burgeoning music culture.
The past several years have witnessed a modest revival of Georgetown’s chronically bemoaned “music scene.” Although Kickback stands as the most visible element of that revival, other student-led initiatives such as the live-music community GU Jam Sesh and record label Clock Hand Records serve as crucial pillars of support. Together, these and other ventures reveal a small but emphatic pocket of students working to build a more nurturing environment for Georgetown musicians.
The university, meanwhile, has largely failed to accommodate such enthusiasm. Beyond the 2006 formation of the Guild of Bands, a course that serves as a songwriting and performance springboard for student groups, there has been almost no administrative response to the grievances of Georgetown’s music community. To cite a common refrain: Georgetown only provides six practice rooms for an undergraduate enrollment pushing 8,000.
While a reorganization of its academic departments and a full-scale construction project are perhaps not in order, the university owes even its smallest clusters of students a good-faith commitment to its promise of cura personalis. Expanding practice rooms and hosting more artistic programming are steps the university may consider if it wants to fulfill its promise. Failing to do so in its intransigence, Georgetown has skirted this commitment and denied its students a more enriching academic life.