On the morning of Monday, October 1, the online textbook rental service Chegg announced that Harvey Mudd College won the “Taylor Swift on Campus” competition and will receive a free VH1 Storytellers Taylor Swift concert on October 15, 2012. Harvey Mudd also won one of five $10,000 grants to improve and add to its music department, provided by Chegg for Good, Chegg’s corporate social responsibility branch, and Taylor Swift.
VH1 Storytellers is a VH1 original series that started in 1996. For the program, VH1 films an interactive concert in which the featured artist discusses his or her life and work with a small audience. This season, VH1 is featuring female artists, including Taylor Swift, Alicia Keys, and Pink. For her Storytellers concert, Taylor Swift, in partnership with Chegg and Papa John’s, decided to hold a competition between high schools and colleges to host the concert. The voting system was normalized so as to give no advantage to larger schools over smaller schools. On August 21, 2012, Chegg and VH1 announced the competition for Taylor Swift’s concert.
Shortly after voting opened, the competition garnered national attention when users on 4Chan and Reddit started a campaign to send Taylor Swift to perform at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf. The prank was widely condemned for its cruelty, and Chegg eventually removed Horace Mann from the competition. However, Taylor Swift and four other sponsors came together to donate $50,000 to the school as well as tickets for Taylor Swift’s next local show.
On August 22, Yeahmoon Hong HMC ’15 started a Facebook group campaigning for 5C students to unite and vote for Taylor Swift to come to Harvey Mudd. Hong, along with fellow Mudd student Travis Beckman HMC ’15 implored students from all 5Cs to vote for Harvey Mudd. The Mudd students argued that it made more sense to rally the support of the 5Cs behind one campus instead of dividing the votes between five colleges.
While many 5C students have reacted with excitement at the news, many have also expressed skepticism about the legitimacy of the victory. In 2009, Harvey Mudd students hacked a Victoria’s Secret competition, and many 5C students suspect a similar trick in the voting for the Taylor Swift concert. If true, this might result in a loss of the concert. However, students from Harvey Mudd deny these claims. Josiah Gaskin HMC ’13, President of the Associated Students of Harvey Mudd College (ASHMC), has stated that “no illegitimate activity (such as using computer bots to vote) was used in this contest by Mudd.”
Another worry is whether or not the event will be open to students of all five colleges. Gaskin promises that “the event will be open to all the 5Cs” and “will take place in the Big Bridges Auditorium on Pomona.” ASHMC has not decided how the ticketing process will work yet, as the “ticket distribution is still being discussed by [Mudd's] Business Affairs and Advancement Offices.” Gaskin also noted that, “while there are costs associated with the event, it will be free for attendees.”
According to Gaskin, the $10,000 music grant will go to Mudd’s joint music program.
The concert will happen on October 15, but VH1 will air the show on Sunday, November 11, the same weekend as the Claremont Programming Board’s presentation of Childish Gambino.