Mayfest: An open letter to the Northwestern community


Dear Northwestern Community Members,

We love putting on Dillo Day. For the past 50 years, we at Mayfest Productions have produced the nation’s largest student-run music festival, an event that has garnered recognition from industry professionals and other universities. It’s a privilege to be able to organize an event the NU community can be proud of and look forward to each Spring Quarter. We feel compelled to leave Dillo’s legacy as NU’s music festival better than we found it.

However, it has become clear to us that, unless a change is made at the administrative level, Dillo 2023 could be NU’s last.

This year has brought unprecedented financial struggles. Associated Student Government’s Student Activities Finance Committee supplies the core of our budget, and we request senior administrative funding to fill in the gaps. This year, we received 13% of the funding from the senior administration that we received last year, but production costs have increased by 60%. We acknowledge that much of this is due to financial restructuring and inflation. In response, our members have worked tirelessly to collaborate with the administration: going in person to offices that didn’t reply to emails, cutting committee budgets across the board, trying to fundraise through donors and seeking out corporate sponsors.

When we reached out for support, we were ignored until it was too late.

Our difficulties are amplified by the administration’s lack of accountability and responsiveness, leading to the loss of our originally booked headliner only 30 days before our originally scheduled talent booking deadline. Our Corporate Committee spent weeks looking for the right office to process sponsorship funds, tirelessly contacting administrators only to be referred elsewhere every time. Surprisingly, an office to process corporate sponsorships doesn’t seem to exist. We spent months working toward a solution only to learn that this critical revenue stream was cut short.

The sole reason we can expect Dillo Day 2023 to happen anywhere near the quality the NU community has come to expect is because of the help of an anonymous donor. A month passed before the administration allowed us to accept the donation, and funds were only secured after the donor directly reached out to senior administration to intervene. We have an unbelievable amount of gratitude for this donation, but we cannot rely on this type of external support to hold the festival afloat in future years. 

The lack of clarity from administration with regard to our budget since the start of the academic year has severely impacted the way our Booking Committee has operated. With each day, the pool of available talent shrinks while the costs of artists and production elements continue to grow. 

If funds continue to be cut in future years, as we anticipate, Dillo Day will be in jeopardy. At the very least, the NU community should temper its expectations for this and future Dillo Days.

Dillo Day is a free event for all undergraduate NU students, and it is one of the University’s most beloved traditions. The University even uses Dillo Day to draw in applicants by mentioning it on campus tours and featuring it in promotional materials. Live music can be inaccessible to many NU students, with the ticket prices of many Dillo Day-scale artists being $100 or more. Our festival is a rare example of a completely barrier-free event on campus, available to students of all financial backgrounds. Above all, Dillo Day is an essential piece of the shared experiences that unite the NU community.

We understand that these problems aren’t unique to Mayfest. Student organizations are one of the largest sources of community on NU’s campus, and, as a significant presence on campus, we feel a responsibility to bring attention to these issues. We encourage other student organizations that have felt similar pains to also speak out about their experiences.

The Mayfest Executive Board would like to thank our advisor, K. Parker Hess, as well as Brent Turner, Joe Lattal and Tracey Gibson-Jackson for their support so far this academic year. None of these individuals were aware of this letter, nor should they be held accountable for the real and/or perceived lack of support. They have done their best to help us given the information and resources that they and the Office of Student Organizations and Activities have.

We would also like to thank Assistant Vice President of Student Engagement Kelly Schaefer for taking meetings with us and for her interest in understanding our concerns.

We urge the administration to find a solution that ensures a sufficient amount of continued and stable financing for Dillo Day and other events that are essential to the student experience at NU. A more attentive senior leadership is critical to fulfilling the needs of student organizations like ours and, thus, the larger NU community.

We’ll see you soon on Planet Dillo.

With so much dillove,

2022-2023 Mayfest Executive Board

Amya Scott, Co-Chair of Mayfest Productions

Nicole Tank, Co-Chair of Mayfest Productions

Jack Ding, Director of Booking

Anabel Marre, Co-Director of Community

Sabrina Scheinberg, Co-Director of Community

Stuart Sumner, Director of Corporate Relations

Elina Rawat, Co-Director of Finance

Priya Dave, Co-Director of Finance

AJ Rosenthal, Co-Director of Operations

Hannah Cheves, Co-Director of Operations

Sierra Thoulouis, Co-Executive Producer

Caitlin Riley, Co-Executive Producer

Hannah Magrisi, Director of Programming

Catherine Duncan, Co-Director of Promotions

Darya Daneshmand, Co-Director of Promotions

Jeff Lee, Director of Tech Team
If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.