Reactions to Orgo Night
Written by Bwog Staff
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.
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!
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.