Last night was Orgo Night, which occurs every year as the Columbia University Marching Band performs a satirical skit the night before the Organic Chemistry final to ruin the curve (despite the fact that the Orgo final is never actually the following day). This year, CUMB was hit with its own curveball when, a week before the event, the Columbia administration announced that the band couldn’t perform in Butler 209. Bwog followed our own tradition and sent two first-year staffers, Victoria Arancio and Elana Rebitzer, to review the event.
2016 has been a year of craziness and disregard of tradition, and Orgo Night was no exception. Like with everything else Orgo Night-related, the student body had mixed reactions to the news of Orgo Night’s relocation: some were mad at the administration, some were mad at the band, and some were mad at other people for caring about Orgo Night at all. The administration wanted the band to relocate and perform in Lerner Hall, but CUMB had made other plans: since there was Public Safety already in 209, the band placed itself in front of Butler, blocking its entrance. In Columbia fashion, Orgo Night became the Orgo Night Protest, and even before 11:30, loyal Columbia students stood outside of Butler, patiently waiting for the marching band to arrive.
As CUMB began marching towards Butler, the crowd was unsure of what to expect: would we see the band try to fight against the Public Safety members guarding the doors to Butler, or would we be forced to shiver outside in the cold for an hour? Though the crowd started chanting “209! 209!” multiple times before and during the event, the band never actually tried to enter Butler, and broke with tradition to deliver the skit in the ridiculously cold weather right outside Butler. Unfortunately for the few students who managed to grab seats in 209 to study for real, the event was so loud that they probably didn’t get much studying done anyway.
The band began, of course, by making fun of the administrative mess that caused Orgo Night to be held outside to begin with. Their jokes centered around making fun of Ann Thornton, the Vice Provost and Chief Librarian who announced the official change. The band defended themselves by talking about stress culture, proclaiming that “Orgo Night reminds us that yes, you are allowed to laugh during reading week.”
Next on the Orgo Night hit list was the election, and they didn’t hold back. CUMB managed to sum up the entire election perfectly: “The election began as a DG mixer and ended in a Wein single.” Jokes were directed less at Trump and more at his supporters, and getting Trump elected was telling the elite, “When you go high, we go as low as humanly possible.” Although this topic was expected for Orgo Night, the band was successful in recognizing Columbia’s own liberal bubble: “While we’re here in the bubble, we skipped class because we knew our professors were also crying into their bowls of ice cream.”
The Barnard section of Orgo Night focused mostly on President Debora Spar leaving the school far before her term was complete. The band echoed many Barnard students, calling her out for leaving so many projects unfinished, and for not completing many projects with a tangible impact on the community. “The one innovative promise she’s made is to build a Teaching and Learning Center, which begs the question, what’s the rest of Barnard for?” got a particularly large amount of applause from the audience. They also poked fun at the interim president Rob Goldberg, saying that “the women of Barnard College have succeeded in the ultimate feminist goal: to return to a structure in which a man is in charge!”
Inspired by the Harvard men’s soccer team’s ranking scandal, CUMB decided to do one of their own by ranking each Ivy based on their sex appeal. From highest to lowest, they started with Brown and their sexual habits, saying, “they tend to prefer sex through the back door– after all, they already got into Brown at least once!” If you think that’s bad, it got even worse, as the band showed no mercy to Cornell. The band made a Cornell suicide joke that might have gone a little too far: “Cornell students always get really excited when they see a big hole– they just want to jump right in and gorge themselves.”Isn’t that the spirit of Orgo Night: creating satire that is meant to be controversial and daring? The jokes played on every school’s stereotype, and ranked last on CUMB’s list was Columbia, and the school-shaming directly attacked the marching band in a funny way: “Columbia students are okay, but in sexual prowess, just as in musical talent, the band brings the average down.” The Ivies each got their share of laughs, except for UPenn, because who cares?
The band’s roast of Bwog was both funny and entirely deserved. They mentioned the scandal with the wrestling team that led to many players’ suspensions from competition, poking fun at the intelligence of the wrestlers. They then moved to discussing the more recent findings of a book with recruitment files for the “Dark Enlightenment,” a covert neo-nazi group that “lets anyone in as long as they’re not actually ‘dark.’” The band pointed out that the article was published without a full knowledge of what the terms in the book meant, and that the article was taken down and then re-published later in a more respectful manner after Bwog was made aware of the meanings of those terms. This section of the event was one of our favorites, not just because we were mentioned, but because it did a great job of combining campus-related events with jokes and socially-aware satire, exemplifying what Orgo Night can be at it its best.
The highlight of everyone’s week had to be mentioned at Orgo Night: Columbia Buy Sell Memes. As our feet started to get numb from being outside in below freezing temperatures, Orgo Night took an expected turn as they discussed some of the more popular meme topics, including the BErnard memes that started a feud between CC and BC students. CUMB recognized the lack of interest from GS students for the memes: “Every undergraduate school tried to prove their worth in the escalating meme trench war… except for GS, because their students fought IN A REAL WAR, IN CASE YOU HADN’T HEARD.” The band was right on one thing: memeflation is real, and if we don’t put a stop to it, Ann Thornton will shut us down and leave us out in the cold. Procrastination is procrastination, and whether you’re in the comfort of your own dorm making memes or outside freezing your ass off for Orgo Night, your work isn’t getting done, and there’s nothing that Prez Bo or Vice Provost Ann Thornton can do about it. Sucks.
Last semester, in our review of Orgo Night, Bwog said that “we can’t remember many moments where a harsh or unnecessary jab was made just for the sake of shock value laughter,” and hoped that would hold true in future semesters. Unfortunately, that did not hold true last night. A strikingly inappropriate joke occurred at the very beginning of the show, when a callous joke was made about “Aleppo going down.” The crowd seemed very uncomfortable at that remark, and rightfully: there was no need for the band to make a joke about one of the greatest human rights violations in the 21st century – it wasn’t Columbia related and it wasn’t even funny. Another joke about 9/11 later on touched a similar nerve – while the Band has a right to free speech, and can of course make whatever jokes they want, by making fun of these tragic events, the Band cheapened the rest of their humor. Though the show was still highly enjoyable overall, moments like these reminded us of the reason so many activists on campus become enraged with Orgo Night each year.
Overall, despite a few bad jokes and the almost unbearable cold, our first Orgo Night was quite an enjoyable experience. The band was at its best when it parodied anything Columbia-related, like Buy/Sell/Memes, Bwog, and the administration, making jokes that parodied the craziness of the school we all know and (occasionally) love. Despite a rough start, CUMB proved last night that this long-standing tradition isn’t going anywhere. Orgo Night, whether in 209 or in the cold, will continue to insult Columbia students everywhere for years to come.
Cold but standing their ground via Bwog Staff