Back when I was a high school student, my school held a festival each year for the students to enjoy. There would be booths where parents sold delicious foods, and a big concert featuring dance groups and bands from neighboring high schools that attracted students from all over at night. But the most amusing part of the festival for me were the signs in front of the club booths, where all our school’s clubs held events meant for everyone to enjoy. At a boy’s high school, spending time with girls our age was not easy.
This is probably why all these booths had signs reading ‘Only girls are welcome.’ While my friends and I laughed it off, it did make me wonder whom this festival really was for. If all the effort that was put into making the festival a success was done just to impress students from another school, why did our school have to hold these festivals in the first place? This was all years ago, and it does not concern me too much anymore. However, recent events at HUFS have led me to recall this certain memory. I am referring to none other than the controversy of inviting celebrity guests to our school’s annual spring festival. Though it may be a bit sensational to call it a controversy, it is also a fact that many students are against.
Most universities in the nation hold festivals every spring and autumn. And though some festivals are more popular and larger in scale, they are all held for one reason: for the enjoyment of the students who attend those schools. Though it is impossible to satisfy every student, the events that are prepared should be centered on the students and their guests. This is not necessarily a hard thing to do. The preparations for the main events should simply be done with the students in mind. Since students can participate in these festivals as both guests and entertainers, students who prepare booths for school clubs should be as important to the festivities as those who enjoy them. In other words, the students should be the stars of these events.
However, many express doubt that this can be achieved by inviting celebrity guests, mostly singers, to perform for the students. Celebrities naturally attract lots of attention. Whether they attend a public event, or simply show their faces in a local supermarket, they become the center of attention. Consequently, the star-studded concerts headlined by celebrities become the main event in most, if not all college festivals. Thousands gather in front of large, flashy stages to catch a glimpse of talented singers who are there just to perform for them. This is where we can find a problem with inviting celebrity guests.
The students are no longer at the center of things. The booths and events prepared by and for the students receive little to no attention compared to the grand finale of the celebrity concerts. Students from other schools gather in groves to see their favorite celebrities, giving the actual students of the school fewer chances to enjoy the stages that were originally set for their enjoyment. Even in our school, where the celebrity stages are relatively minimal compared to other schools in the area, the spring festival’s most popular event is the celebrity concert. It is more of a concert than it is a students’ festival. It may have come to a point where these two can no longer be differentiated.
Furthermore, the ‘success’ of school festivals seems to be decided by the celebrity lists themselves. To put it simply, how many A-list celebrities was your school able to invite to your festival? This certainly seems to be an odd way to measure the success of a school festival, but this is the reality when celebrities become the main attraction. Therefore, the effort that students put into the preparations are unimportant compared to the celebrity list that acts as the cherry on top of the school festival.
This means that as long as the celebrity list does not live up to the standards of students, it will not be enjoyed to the fullest by them. This may be the case for our school, as students usually grumble about the relatively short, less glamorous celebrity lineup. Some students even seem to consider these lineups as a source of embarrassment for the school itself. Such way of thinking is unhealthy not only for those who think it, but also for the school’s overall culture. It is as if the school should invite as many A-list celebrities as it possibly can and if the school fails, the students turn their backs.
Though festivals can act as a source of pride for a school’s students, their main objective is to promote school spirit by providing a platform for students to actively participate in and enjoy celebrating with others. For this platform to be taken over by celebrities, and for it to become a bidding war between schools vying for more celebrities, is a shameful turn of events for festivals that once represented more positive, fair values.
In the end, inviting celebrities to our school to perform may be inevitable. After all, every other school is doing it, and no school has shown an indication that it will refrain from doing so in the future. And it truly is what the students want the most in their school’s festivals. You could even defend the act of inviting a group of A-list figures to the center stage, as it has become the most popular and exciting platform for school festivals. If students prefer to have fun and interact with others as part of an audience in these stages, schools should rightfully be able to give students this chance.
Celebrities may also be the best way to promote a school and its festival, which could be beneficial for everyone in the long term. However, the fact of the matter is that celebrities are taking over school festivals, including our very own spring festival at HUFS. And though singers like Epik High and Cheese will provide enjoyment to the audience, they will not be able to create an atmosphere that fully embraces what these festivals are about. I am tired of a festival whose value is decided by the invited celebrities. I am tired of a festival where students flock to see the celebrity stages over student concerts or booths. It is my hope that our school will better reflect on the true meaning of school festivals in the future and work to diversify preparations that could offer more to students than celebrity stages.
By Shim Kyu-han Guest Reporter