Reactions to Orgo Night

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Let’s recap: on Thursday Dean Shollenberger condemned the Marching Band for their posters about Orgo Night in an email sent to all undergrads. In a meeting with Shollenberger, he explained that the posters were brought to his attention by students who felt marginalized by them. On Monday night, a meeting was held with a coalition of students from various groups, the band, and Dean Martinez to discuss their problems. According to Dean Martinez, it was a respectful conversation but ended with unresolved issues. The band denied a request by the students to have their Orgo Night scripts reviewed for offensiveness. However, CUMB did offer to take down the fliers and issue an apology. According to Band Manager Vicki Birmingham it was on Tuesday afternoon that the CUMB board was asked to meet with members of the “Bias Response Team,” which consisted of CUMB’s advisor and two administrators. CUMB proceeded to meet with the coalition of student group representatives on Thursday morning, the morning of Orgo Night.

Shollenberger told Bwog that he understands freedom of speech, and knows it is not the role of the administration to censor speech or to guarantee that no student will ever be offended at Columbia. But, the administration reserves the right to criticize speech they find inappropriate—especially in this case: a Columbia tradition and not a forum for political debate. The deans sent the email to the student body to show that they have a stance on the issue and so we know there was a dialogue about the posters.

A protest was organized by a number of activist student groups. Student Affairs was privy to this and told protestors not to obstruct the event. Extra Public Safety was brought in to ensure that the band could hold the performance undisturbed. Orgo Night happened, and protesters came, wearing duct tape over their mouths and raising signs at jokes they found objectionable. CUMB went ahead with an outrageous show which lampooned the protestors and Dean Shollenberger’s reaction to their flier. The crowd was overwhelmingly hostile to the protestors and favorable to CUMB.

Below are statements from relevant groups. If you want to judge it for yourself, CUMB has released a full video of Orgo Night.

First, from CUMB:

 I want to thank the members of our community who attended Orgo Night, and I hope that seeing the show gave people a better understanding of what the Band does and how it crafts its comedy. Comedy has the power to entertain and to sting, but also to create conversations, and that power was on display this Thursday night. I encourage everyone to read the Orgo Night script and watch the full video of the show on YouTube so they can draw their conclusions about the Band’s performance straight from the source. I am proud to have played a role in writing Orgo Night for four straight years, and I hope that this semester’s increased attention has corrected some misconceptions. It has certainly made me think about how I approach humor as well.


Tyler Benedict
Poet Laureate Emeritus


We stand by our apology to those who felt hurt by the flyers, but we also stand by our Orgo Night script. As always, our goal as a comedy group is to provide topical humor, which we understand can sometimes be controversial. We believe that this brand of comedy has a valuable place on campus, just as the message of the groups protesting us does. We greatly appreciate our right to make this commentary, and respect that others groups on campus have the right to comment as well. However, we are disappointed in the administration’s hasty and ill-informed reaction to our poster. At the same time, we owe huge thanks to all of the students who came out for the event, to Public Safety for working double shifts in order to keep everyone safe, and to the library staff for, once again, letting us invade Butler. With that, we’ll see you in the Spring!

Vicki Birmingham
Head Manager


I’d mostly just like to say that I think that there was a lot about the protesting that was really just ridiculous. I appreciate the fact that they didn’t try to shout us down and were mostly respectful, but overall I feel many of their responses were unwarranted. Specifically, I think that there are no reasonable connections between the Gaza poster and rape culture. How anyone could think that the poster was making any kind of comment about sex workers is beyond me.

I think the Band could have been slightly more sensitive over this difficult issue, but I find absolutely nothing sexist or racist about it. I think these groups shouldn’t just throw around the word rape.

Also [quoting from the protestors earlier statement, here]:
 It is because we respect our community that we think all people of color should be able to attend Orgo Night without having to watch other students laugh at the murder of Trayvon Martin, as was the case last year.”
I’m pretty sure this didn’t actually happen. [Keith is correct; there is no mention of Trayvon Martin in the Spring 2012 script.]

Keith Patrick Nichols, SEAS 2014

Now from Gavin McGown, CC ’13, President of GenderRevolution, and an organizer of the protest:

We were silent so that we will not be silenced.

To anyone who stood in 209 last night and laughed heartily at fat-shaming, jokes about suicide, jokes that contribute to rape culture, racist humour, sexist humour, and homophobia, all I want to ask you right now is to consider your identities and privileges.

Why is it funny to you to hear a joke about Somalia, while hearing a joke about Sandy or Aurora may have rubbed you the wrong way? What does your reaction say about your assumptions about the identities and experiences of those who stood in the room last night?

And most of all, why do youwant to make racist and sexist jokes? Why is that important to you? What would you really lose if you didn’t? Why do you want to say it? Don’t tell me that you want to because you have the legally enshrined right to, viz., because you can. Why do you want to say it?

You call it freedom of speech; I call it assertion of dominance that leaves others unable to be heard.

From Evan Burger, a protestor:

As for myself, I would just say that the Columbia community that I want to be a part of is the one formed around fighting back against injustices (even those perpetrated under the guise of humor), not the one that is built around excluding entire classes of people. If the administration really cares about creating a healthy campus community, I think it should be obvious that they need to promote the former and condemn the latter. And as for the student body, I just hope that those who took such great pleasure in mocking the protest on Thursday realize on some level how shameful it is to treat the people they live next to and study beside that way.

Last, but not least, from the Internet: some people made a KevSho meme.

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  1. seriously

    Gavin McGown, shut the fuck up.

  2. Van Owen

    I for one was very offended by Orgo Night. Barnard girls' hymens exploded WAY before NSOP week, and I found it *very* triggering to have my Days on Campus hookups ignored.

  3. BC '15

    Gavin McGown, you're a wonderful human being.

    • anon  

      Gavin McGown, you are a fine person, but you're missing the point. You've made a mountain out of a mole-hill and now you're increasingly trying to serve as Columbia's one-twue-arbiter of acceptability. Take a deep breath, reorganize your bow-tie collection, and get some perspective again.

      • Anonymous  

        Gavin McGown, you're an ass. The spotlight you've enjoyed here as a "campus character" is going to fade once you're beyond the curtains of Philo and GR and then you're going to have to the reality that the world is not Columbia University.

        Assertion of dominance? Exactly right. If you're not asserting dominance, you're affirming submission. Seems to me the protesters have simply assumed the position best for them.

  4. Bob  

    People laughed plenty at the Sandy jokes, even people who were personally affected. Why can't we just accept that some people respond to tragedies with laughter and others don't?

  5. angry humor theorist  

    "Comedy has the power to entertain and to sting, but also to create conversations"

    "It has certainly made me think about how I approach humor as well."

    "As always, our goal as a comedy group is to provide topical humor, which we understand can sometimes be controversial. We believe that this brand of comedy has a valuable place on campus, just as the message of the groups protesting us does"

    Please don't philosophize about comedy. You guys don't know shit. Orgo night humor isn't humor. CUMB is not a comedy group. Not saying that "zomg I hate you guys cause your racist," I don't think any of you actually are, this is a purely aesthetic argument. When deconstructed, your sense of humor doesn't derive reactions of laughter from the audience through a heightening of reality or an illogical rendition of logic or other methods that conventionally invoke laughter (see Bergson, Eco, Bakhtin), but rather, derives reactions of disgust from the fact that you guys "went there." The reaction is a groan instead of a laugh, which anyone can pull off. Example (WARNING I DO NOT THINK THIS IS FUNNY JUST AN EXAMPLE OF SHITTY HUMOR):

    "Q: What’s the last thing that went through the minds of the 9/11 jumpers?
    A: Their ankles."

    And like your script:

    "And as for the moral of this drama? Don’t take anything seriously that is yelled in your face! Except that last thing that I just yelled!"

    That is the moral of our reactions of protest to dead Palestinians?

    "In honor of two parties who never learned to share, the band now forms the sandbox at kindergarten and plays “Dynamite”"

    That is stupid fucking false metaphor that doesn't reflect the deep implications of the conflict at all.

    It's not funny. It's just provocative, which anyone can pull off. And don't say "well, that's 9/11, it's different." You can relativize tragedy and arbitrarily place limits on what you can joke about or not joke about, and when people do, it's always incredibly US-centric. The idea of "starving kids in Africa" has almost become a piece of iconography as opposed to a harsh piece of reality. So please don't act like you are the staff writers of The Onion theorizing about humor's role in civic discourse. Or if you're going to, at least put a little more work into your script. Orgo Night reactions are similar to those of watching Fear Factor, not SNL or The Daily Show, which actually provide insight and catharsis.

  6. CC '15  

    Seriously, Gavin McGown is the most offensive part of this whole thing. He doesn't like a poster so he thinks he has the right to throw around accusations of rape jokes and racist humor?! What I find offensive and silencing is a student that believes he has the right to marginalize a group on campus because they don't respond to images of a female body with horror. And there was absolutely nothing homophobic in the Orgo night joke. The only joke that even mentioned the LGBTQ community on campus was MAKING FUN of homphobic Bwog comments in response to Q House getting a brownstone.

    As someone who would actually like a frank discussion of racism, sexism, and homophobia on our campus and in our society in general, I think we have to start by recognizing when things are actually offensive rather than trivial. The Orgo night poster was an entirely trivial battle and calling it "triggering," racist, and sexist, and claiming that it promotes rape culture is not only a lie but makes light of these very powerful words. Gavin is doing more harm to his cause than good by belittling the importance of what should be very strong words. GendeRevolution just lost all credibility in my eyes.

    And CUMB, keep doing what you're doing. You aren't always in the right. But this time you were.

  7. tourettes guy

    nervy hub bbb bbbbbb bb bbbbbb bBBOB SAGET

  8. GS '13

    I am unashamed of the fact that I laughed. I am also unashamed that I boo-ed your presence. What I am ashamed about is that you, and the rest of the protesters, feel as if hurt feelings are an invitation to censorship. You tried to censor speech. Next time you see op-eds like that written by Alex Collazo, who called your classmates "professional murderers," I am sure that you will feel obligated to stand up and protest against the injustice done to your fellow classmates.

    • Anonymous

      A silent protest is in fact a form of speech. That conduct had an expressive element. The protesters were offering a counterargument on a public issue. Among other things, they were saying that the jokes made at orgo night and on the fliers silence and subordinate certain groups. I can't comment on the group wanting to review the script because it's hard to know what "review" means in this context, but the protest itself was not a form of censorship.

  9. Anonymous  

    Gavin isn't wrong, but comes off as condescending as hell. Evan is on point though. It is damn shameful to get self-righteous as hell about your free-speech rights to marginalize members of your own community. We can have fun and unwind without systematically excluding anybody, especially our own.

    Now can we stop fucking talking about Orgo Night? I'm sick of this shit.

    • Let me get this straight  

      You're calling the people who mocked the protesters self-righteous. Funny, I saw it the other way.

    • Columbian  

      Being made fun of during Orgo night isn't's a mark of inclusion into the Columbia community. There's love in those jokes: the lonely, awkward SEAS boy, the naive then wild Barnard girl, the CC nonsense-spewer, JTS girls in jean skirts, a hostile administration, idiot athletes and drunken frat boys, the hapless up at Harvard and the unfortunate hipsters at NYU. These are the communities that make up our lives. The familiarity with which we treat them and the mode of pleasantly calling them out on your hypocritical shit are signals of love.

      If you're too busy with critical theory to be able to hear the basic human tones and feelings underlying a campus-wide moment like Orgo Night, you should question why your head is that deep in a book, oh humanities major, if you cannot participate in the human world.

  10. Anonymous

    But...but if we stop talking about it, how will Bwog get those precious pageviews/comments?

  11. is no one  

    going to bring up the fact that so many protestors TOOK THE TAPE OFF THEIR MOUTHS and laughed at orgo night jokes? or that they didn't hold up their signs when LionPAC was made fun of? or that they DID hold up their signs when PrezBo's HAIR was mocked? those reasons, to me, above all else, are why this protest was silly. (i mean, the other reasons too, but also this.)

  12. hmm  

    I'm pretty sure the aim of the protest was never to censor Orgo night. Just to consider keeping hate speech and rape jokes out of it. Which CUMB ignored, but, ya know, whatevs. How dare someone suggest that rape jokes mightn't be the best way to build community! The nerve of it! LOL

    What gets me is how everyone here acts like being racist and sexist is somehow new or maverick, and that the mere suggestion its not funny is the old tradition that must be dismantled. It's actually the other way around guiseee.

    • GS '13

      "The band denied a request by the students to have their Orgo Night scripts reviewed for offensiveness."

      The aim wasn't to censor Orgo Night? The article claims otherwise.

    • The Filthiest Bandie Alive  

      Yeah I don't think the script had any rape jokes... Please correct me if I'm wrong.

      • hmm  

        yeah you're wrong. there was a joke about being roofied among others. It's pretty much statistically impossible that there weren't multiple people in the room who hadn't been raped, if not roofied. which is why it wasn't funny

        • Anon  

          I've been raped and have been to a couple orgo nights, and I know of a few other people in the room that have been too, but orgo night is still our favorite campus tradition. Just because you feel like you should be offended doesn't mean you should choose to be. Stop making trivial things matter so much so that when serious things actually happen people aren't too desensitized to take action. YOU are the one here promoting rape culture, IMO

        • Anonymous  

          It's true that this was a rape joke. As a sexual violence survivor who has been triggered by rape jokes before, I personally didn't find anything wrong with it--my experience with sexual violence was the furthest thing from my mind during Orgo Night. (That is NOT to say that other people might not have been triggered or otherwise bothered by it.)

          HOWEVER, the only reason I didn't find this problematic is because the intent of that particular joke was to criticize the rape culture that is often times perpetuated by fraternities, not to condone or to trivialize sexual violence, as many rape jokes do.

          • same anonynous  

            I'd also be curious to know if any survivors actually were triggered/bothered by that joke. Sometimes, I feel like the people who are the most passionate about censoring rape jokes to avoid triggering survivors are people who aren't survivors and, therefore, really have no idea what is/isn't triggering.

        • Anonymous  

          In my opinion, it's more important to talk about issues like this than tiptoe around them, and comedy is one way people do that. It's not always done "right," or at least not in a way you might approve of, but I agree with the poster below me that the jokes at this Orgo Night were more about raising issues and providing commentary than doing anything malicious. There are some people who will never find certain topics funny, and I get that. There are some jokes that I don't find funny, some of which have been told on campus in years past. But again, this time around, I didn't have that experience.

        • The Filthiest Bandie Alive  

          Alright, fair enough. I would argue that the joke is a criticism of rape culture in frats so I don't feel it was really making light of anything. As someone who has never experienced sexual violence, I don't really think I have a place to weigh in on this, but it seems that others have expressed the same opinion.
          Also, the audience of the joke doesn't affect whether or not its funny. A rape joke is unfunny whether survivors are present or not.

    • Anonymous  

      This had to have been one of the least offensive Orgo Nights in recent memory (and I'm a senior). I've been through the transcript and the only "rape joke" I can find is a reference to frat guys who "roofie half the freshman class," which is MUCH more of a criticism of frat culture than it is a "mockery" of rape. I've definitely heard things that were too much at Orgo Nights, just not at this one.

  13. I love RG  

    I'll go with Ricky Gervais on this one:

    "People confuse the subject of the joke with the target of the joke, and they're very rarely the same."

    These jokes weren't mean-spirited or meant to hurt anyone. There was no one, single subject for jokes on Orgo Night. As far as I can tell, CUMB did a pretty good job of making fun of everyone. Why get upset whenever someone makes a joke about something that I care about? Especially when it's a good joke.

    I honestly don't see how we can address serious issues like racism, sexism and the horrible things that happen in the world without humor. It helps us see things from a different angle, and good comedy is often the most thought-provoking one that I encounter.

    These jokes weren't mean-spirited or meant to hurt anyone. They were meant to be funny, to entertain, and to make us think. They did a much better job of making ME think about sexism and racism and homophobia than any of the protests.

    It seems pretty clear to me that you're primarily protesting people who agree with what you say you stand for, but happen to have different senses of humor. I feel like there are better ways to spend finals week.

    • Anonymous  

      Ricky Gervais is a prick and both he and the people who run Orgo Night feed off of the proliferation of stereotypes and the marginalization of certain groups to the bemusement of others.

  14. CC '15  

    @Just a note: Yep. I saw a comment above that indicated as such only after I posted my comment. Apologies to everyone for that.

  15. But...  

    @hmm: That joke was aimed at the frats. I felt it condemned a culture that encourages date rape more than anything. Which is awesome. Which is why it was funny.

  16. Anonymous  

    I'm pretty sure Gavin doesn't know a thing about social justice and is merely enjoying a short lived, misconceived moment as "Crusader for the Good." I'm glad the campus can see how much a farce this entire spectacle, and that we, as a whole, are informed enough about rape culture, sexism, racism, etc. to know when some person with a superiority complex is simply making a ruckus.

    • however...  

      Gavin and GendeRevolution will see this comment section and conclude that the campus is full of horrible, privileged bigots. They will take it as validation of their offense, instead of learning to chill out a bit.

      • Mounia Abousaid  

        Yes, we will - not necessarily in reaction to all of the comments in this thread (some of them are earnest engagements with what we were protesting). But certainly in reaction to the assholes who decided that disagreeing with someone means that you get to disregard their preferred pronouns and disrespect their identity. No matter how much your positions may differ, basic respect is kind of necessary.
        Here's where my thinking's at, now, if anyone's interested: I still think that some of the jokes at Orgo Night were hurtful and offensive, notably the Barnard jokes, and the Chris Christie jokes. I didn't find the only joke that explicitly mentioned rape particularly hurtful, precisely because it wasn't making fun of survivors. Mostly, what I'm now upset by is some people total unwillingness to engage. Look, a significant portion of the people on your campus think that an event you previously regarded as innocuous is hurtful. Isn't it worth it to find out why?

        We're not dumb, and we're not out to cause a stink for no reason. If you do want to have that conversation, please shoot me an email (uni's ma3084). I promise I'll answer earnestly. I feel like most of us are trying to be the least hurtful possible, but that we have radically different frameworks to evaluate what's hurtful/what isn't. I'm more than happy to explain where I'm coming from, and listen to people's opinions. I'm just tired of unwarranted insults on these threads.

        • hey yo

          If you're referring to the poster "CC '15" they seem to have apologized further down in the thread. Otherwise, no one seems to have disrespected anyone's pronouns. But good job misrepresenting your opposition so that you ignore their views and pretends to have the moral high ground. Thank you for posting your email and encouraging actual dialogue in further contact with you. But do not try to discredit valid concerns raised in this thread without really engaging with them.

          • Mounia Abousaid  

            I was mostly referring to the comments in response to the CC '15 comment (I hadn't seen the apology, thanks for pointing me to it), which deliberately make fun of Gavin's pronouns.
            My apologies if it seems like I'm dismissing actual concerns. I do recognize that a bunch were expressed, both here and in other thread. Because of the comments I already mentioned, and others, I don't feel like bwog comments are the best way to engage with reasonable concerns/critiques.
            But I still think that this conversation needs to happen, which is why I'd love to have people reach out and email me. If there's enough of us who hold different opinions on this matter but are still willing to engage, then we can have an IRL meeting next semester. This conversation's important, and it can't happen with the respect/civility/engagement necessary on a comment thread.

  17. That awkward moment when protesters laugh at the jokes they're protesting.

  18. :/

    But if there's one thing they got right:
    Bwog's shitty layout matches its content.

    Ohhhh, snap!

  19. Who really has the power, Gavin?  

    Yo Gavin, I saw you holding up the Power Fist at Orgo night. You might be aware that
    although other groups have used the symbol across history, the Raised Fist remains synonymous with Black know that it is called the Black Fist? You are someone who wants to for fight gender equality. That is applaudable. You, however, are not a student of "ecolor". Because you are phenotypically white and appear phenotypically male (even if you do not identify as a male) you are in a position of more privilege than my own. Gavin, are you aware of cultural appropriation? Did you don a galabiya to protest the Kingsmen's posters last year? Gavin, please, check your privilege.

  20. Agreed But...  

    @please: Previous attempts to apologize for this error are still awaiting moderation by Bwog. Sigh. Hopefully this one will get through. But yes, sorry for the typos. Of course we should recognize Gavin's right to choice their pronoun. I do agree. It was merely an oversight.

  21. The hosts  

    are both cute

  22. You can...  

    ...check my privilege all you want ;)

  23. bandie  

    yo gavin yo gavin yo gavin, when the hell did we fat-shame at orgo night?

    • anon  

      I think Gavin's talking about the Chris Christie jokes.

      • Concerned American

        Can someone explain what fat shaming is? Can't be bothered to read the transcript but Governor Christie deserves any fat jokes he gets. Fact of the matter is he is very obese; he's unhealthy. He's in the public eye and is thus setting a horrible example for the youth of New Jersey (and America). Take other unhealthy practices - smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, binge drinking. There's a rightful stigma to those practices - why can't it be the same for obesity? Our founding fathers did not risk life nor limb so Americans could be fat and corn-syrup addicted sheep.

  24. Jacks  

    We have to protect the club

  25. Gavin McGroan  

    This sketch from Portlandia is a perfect parody of certain people at this school.

  26. Seriously

    Who the eff cares? Get out in the real world and you'll find real things to protest, and real bad people causing real harm. Until then STFU and finish your finals.

  27. GS

    Wait; the protestors weren't a band prop?

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