In Defense of Orgo Night #7
On Thursday, December 15, 2016, at midnight, the Columbia University Marching Band (“the cleverest Band in the world™”) performed a show of music and satirical comedy in sub-freezing temperatures on the steps outside Butler Library on the Columbia campus after Vice-Provost and recently hired Head Librarian Ann D. Thornton, with the support of President Lee Bollinger and Columbia College Dean James Valentini, banned the Band from performing the show in its traditional location inside the library. Ms. Thornton stated that the reason for the sudden change in tradition was a desire to maintain quiet study space inside the library, and President Bollinger publicly maintained that it was based on “complaints” from students about the Orgo Night show. University officials claimed that the ban was not related to the content of the shows and that they were not trying to censor the Band’s speech. This series of essays, drafted by concerned alumni, addresses the university’s claimed reasoning for its decision, the process by which it was implemented, and the reasons why the decision should be reconsidered.
Previous pamphlets can be accessed via the links on the right margin.
The assault on the Band is an affront to Columbia parents and families
One of the reasons that many alumni have reacted so strongly to the Orgo Night fiasco is that the university’s action didn’t just affect us or our legacies - it affected our children. Literally and figuratively.
Many of us have had a historically strong relationship with the Columbia/Barnard community. Some of us have parents who are Columbia/Barnard couples, many have parents who are alumni, some of us have spouses who are also alumni, and many of us have children who are either former or current Columbia or Barnard students. When our sons and daughters were accepted into Columbia, it was one of the proudest and happiest moments of our lives.
For those of us with children in the current Band, we were all looking forward to December’s Orgo Night performance. When we learned at the last minute that the Band was being banned from Butler Library, it was a hurtful slap in the face not just to the Band, but to all our families. Our sons and daughters, who had been excited about the show and who had been writing and planning for months, were suddenly placed into an unnecessarily stressful situation by the administration. Additionally, as parents we worried about whether the other Band members were going to suffer physically from the fact that the Band had no meaningful choice but to perform outside in 18-degree temperatures on the eve of final exams. During the post-Orgo Night parade around campus, the valves in the brass instruments froze solid because they had been outside for so long in the sub-freezing temperatures.
We know the students in the current Marching Band. While they may be raucous, they are ultimately fine young men and women - they have each other’s backs and take care of each other and constantly strive to entertain and do their best while simultaneously juggling heavy course loads, student jobs, internships and a multitude of other duties. They show up hours before every football game to entertain the fans and alumni both inside and outside the stadium.
For homecoming this year they played for fifteen minutes inside the alumni hospitality tent to loud applause.
They sacrifice their Friday and Saturday evenings when there are home basketball games – both for the men and the women.
The Band is always the most vocal and enthusiastic group at any event, supporting Columbia in every imaginable way.
Are some of the cheers of an adult nature? Sure. But they are the voice of the student body.
These students did not deserve to be treated so poorly at the end of a stressful semester. As parents, we were extremely concerned for our children’s physical and emotional welfare. As a group with hundreds of cumulative years of associate with Columbia University, we feel betrayed by this administration. We sent our children to Columbia on the assumption that they would share our common experience, both in the classroom and through campus events like Orgo Night. We now feel that we have in a way failed our children by encouraging them to attend Columbia based on the false assumption that the university that meant so much to us and our families for generations would treat their welfare as a priority.
We sincerely hope that the University reverses last semester’s arbitrary and mistaken decision and realizes that Orgo Night is important to the entire Columbia family - past, present and future.