The band and the crowd.

The band and the crowd.

This semester’s Orgo Night was slightly less, ah, hyped than the last, but was still a great respite from the tension on campus throughout this week.  Freshman daily editor Zachary Hendrickson tried to get a comprehensive grasp on the tradition.

I think it’s important to start by saying that I have close friends in the band, and Orgo Night is quite possibly my favorite Columbia tradition. That said, this semester’s Orgo Night was much like ordering food from Legends; it delivered, it just didn’t manage to impress. Nevertheless, it was a much needed break from this shit storm of a week. From the minute CUMB pulled out a stuffed raccoon and proclaimed how great it was to be in this “big ass administrative building,” I knew I was in for a show. (Crowd surf the raccoon! Like, what!?) However, Bwog couldn’t help but feel like something was off. Maybe it’s unfair to judge Orgo Night by the standards of last semester (this Bwogger’s only other Orgo). There was fanfare, controversy, and a ton of pressure put on the band to really step up and perform last semester. But maybe that was a good thing.

This year certainly started off strong. As someone sitting next to this young Bwogger remarked, “It is 11:22pm, and it is already REALLY F***ING LOUD IN HERE! Put that in your write-up.” The room was crowded–and good and sweaty like any good Orgo. As I looked around, I observed a handful of premature bookshelf climbers quickly brought down by Public Safety. (A little word of advice from Bwog: patience is key. There’s always gonna be another Orgo. Public Safety’s always gonna make you move – unless it’s at least 11:50.) Little did we know that across campus CUMB was already pissing people off getting laughs in Uris. Yes, our grand Columbia University Marching Band marched into Watson Library, took the form of all undergraduate aggravation, and played a resounding “F*** You!” by CeeLo Green. For that alone, they are Bwog’s heroes!

When the band made its way to 209, it was greeted with the usual uproar and out-of-time “Roar, Lion, Roar!” that we’ve all come to expect and cherish. After the normal opening lines (sans the bit about Barnard girls and vibrators, in exchange for a dig at the B-School), it was straight into the jokes. Led by veteran Orgoer Tyler Benedict, CC ’13 and the sharp-witted Ziyad Abdelfattah, CC ’15, things moved at a quick pace, but still allowed time for laughter. As with CUMB’s kind-of-sort-of-not-really rival, the Varsity Show, it wasn’t the performance that fell short this semester so much as the material they were given. It seemed like the band was pulling its punches this year. This Bwogger was definitely surprised, both by what was and wasn’t mentioned by the band. (HOW COULD YOU PASS UP POONSPEEDING!?) But this year was a decided departure from expectation.

It is a well known fact that Barnard is a favorite subject of Orgo Night, but despite having been given the Holy Grail of Barnard material they hardly did anything with it. Google being the “10th Way of Knowing” garnered chuckles, but there wasn’t anything like last semester’s quotable line relating sexual experiences during NSOP to the Israel/Palestine conflict. In fact, most of the set actually seemed to be in defense of Barnard. I feel like the following line is very representative of Orgo Night this year: “What do you get when you cross a Barnard girl with a slutty lesbian? A slutty lesbian with a world-class liberal arts education at the country’s most prestigious women’s college!” The band wanted everyone to seem like they were being edgy and raw, but they weren’t really saying much of anything at all. A clever subversion of expectations and a quick knock at the Varsity Show–great. But what was a bigger issue on campus: the Varsity Show or the cheating scandal? The whole thing felt like it was brushed over to make jokes about the Core and call out things like the honor code and pass/d/fail policy, the latter of which could have easily been an entire section of the show on its own.

I’m not saying that I wanted an Orgo Night full of attacks on Barnard students. I just think it’s important to note that this year was almost empowering and had a sort of social consciousness on display that isn’t normally what students think about when they think of Orgo Night. CUMB could have practically been RootEd if they had just provided ice cream and not made that quip about how “death is the only way to become a valued member of the Columbia community.” (Full disclosure: I clapped. Loudly.) There was a full section about the need for marriage equality and tighter gun laws (both super awesome though super not-Columbia specific at all), they called out Lanbo Zhang’s now infamous Spec op-ed, they attacked the University’s quick fix “solutions” to mental health issues, and even managed to bring up involuntary hospitalization.  Again, these are all great things! They just aren’t what you expect from Orgo Night. The new direction, intentional or not, could be seen as good or bad depending on who you ask. But it certainly has Bwog interested about whether this marks a departure from the crude cynicism that has been a staple of Orgo Night in the past.

Granted, the band didn’t pull ALL of its punches. The band’s final set on the hate crime/racist football tweeting scandal was incredibly on point. Perhaps my favorite bit from Orgo Night this semester was their genius role inversion of football players and minority communities, “It’s wrong to push around and harass football players just because they look a little different than you, or because they conform to certain academic stereotypes, or because their grasp of the English language is shaky at best. We should embrace this unique culture and its values…because at the end of the day, football players are people too. A select few of them are just really shitty people.” This joke expertly addresses the ridiculousness of racist logic while reminding us that we all should be careful not to judge any group based entirely by the actions of a few individuals–no matter how shitty they may be.

And so, despite it’s small stumbles, Orgo Night ended with it’s best foot forward. CUMB reminded us of how incredible it can be when we all loosen up a bit and laugh about our issues. It’s hard to tell whether or not the band will continue this not-so-offensive streak for next year, or if this whole social awareness thing was just the product of a perceived lack of campus material. However, it has me excited about what the future holds for Columbia’s best tradition, respectively.

You can read the entire Orgo Night script right here