Blame Game

SXSW 2019 controversy continues after UT counters festival's blame game

SXSW 2019 controversy continues after UT counters fest's blame game

Sixth Street downtown Austin SXSW police security safety barriers March 2016
SXSW 2019 dates will not line up with AISD or UT spring breaks. Photo by Nicole Raney

Traditionally, the dates for SXSW have nicely aligned with the spring breaks of both the Austin Independent School District and the University of Texas, ensuring that many students and families will be gone, traffic will ease up, and the city can effectively turn into one big party. However, that won't be the case in 2019. 

Following the conclusion of the 2018 festival, SXSW announced next year's dates on the marquee of the Paramount Theatre, as per tradition. In a break from years past, SXSW declared the 2019 festival will run March 8-17, a week before the AISD and UT spring breaks, which are scheduled for March 18-22. (Cue the chaos.)

In a statement to KVUE, SXSW put the blame on the schools, saying the 2019 dates originally lined up, but AISD and UT deviated from the plan. Festival organizers also claimed they approached the university in late 2017 to inform them of the misalignment. 

And while UT didn't confirm or deny that SXSW reached out last year, the university did punch back in a March 27 statement: 

"The university publishes its official academic calendar about a year before the start of an academic year to give the thousands of stakeholders who use it ample time to plan. The dates for Spring Break 2019 were set and published online in the fall of 2017, about 18 months in advance of the vacation. There were no changes to the calendar after it was published. It was set following a standard formula the university has followed for many years based on the common calendar of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the educational needs of our students."

Not so, said the festival. "SXSW’s 2019 dates and contracts were originally in sync with Spring Break based on decades-long precedent set by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board," SXSW said in the statement. 

As for AISD, the school district also went on the defensive, noting trustees approved the 2018-19 school calendar back in January.  

In the end, UT did point out the long history between the university and Austin's homegrown festival, saying, "UT Austin deeply values its relationship with SXSW. Our students and faculty love participating in all aspects of the conference. We regret that SXSW chose to schedule their 2019 conference at a different time than UT Austin's Spring Break."

In this he said, she said, they said world, it's hard to know where to lay blame, but come March 2019 when traffic is a beast, we'll surely find someone.