This morning, Bwog received a tip from the CU Marching Band. Attached was a letter from the CUMB addressed to Ann Thornton as well as the Columbia community, demanding change after last semester’s act of censorship by the school which kicked the Band out of Butler 209. In their letter, CUMB stated its grievances yet again: Columbia tradition is fading, this act of censorship was neither negotiated nor discussed, and trying to get rid of Orgo Night proves that the administration is “actively trying to silence [their] voices.” According to CUMB, Ann Thornton has advocated for frisbee parties in the library, blatantly disregarding the Orgo Night debacle. Also, when CUMB alumni began creating a pamphlet in defense of the Columbia tradition, Thornton along with other administrators released a statement that claimed that they were collaborating with students for Orgo Night, which the Band claims to be false.
While the future of Orgo Night might remain uncertain, one thing seems clear: CUMB is not going down without a fight. Want to see the letter for yourself? You know what to do.
To Ann Thornton and the Columbia Community,
Students have poured into Butler 209 year after year in order to participate in Orgo Night, one of the few remaining Columbia traditions. Alumni, students, and trustees alike have expressed their frustration and dissatisfaction with Vice Provost and Head Librarian Ann Thornton’s decision to oust the tradition from Butler 209. Despite the controversy that often surrounds Orgo Night, the Band has the support of many students on this campus, who deserve to have their voices acknowledged.
The Band has received conflicting information as to why the decision to move Orgo Night was made. Ann Thornton cited “disruption” as her primary impetus to push the Band out of 209. Yet in February, Thornton advocated for frisbee parties in Butler – which would similarly cause noise and displace studying students. Either she’s had a dramatic change of heart on the purpose of libraries, or she never truly believed that Orgo Night’s main problem was its disruption. If the irony hasn’t forced your eyes out of your head yet, here’s another quotation from Thornton: “One of the things we do have is space. So the question now is how can we make that available, especially in collaboration with student groups who really care about those things?” The Band is one of the only student groups that cares immensely about the way space is being used in Butler – but we have received no requests to collaborate with Thornton.
As though that hypocrisy was not enough, a group of alumni who have been composing pamphlets in defense of Orgo Night recently received an email from Thornton and other administrators claiming that the administration was “working closely with the student members of the Band on future Orgo Nights.” This claim is blatantly false, as the Band has heard nothing from Thornton’s office concerning Orgo Night. In fact, the Band leadership has been actively ignored by Dean Valentini when an attempt to start a dialogue was made. If the administration is so desperate to be seen as cooperative, why has no actual cooperation taken place? And if this was a space issue, why was 209 next to empty on Orgo Night?
The University’s decision to oust Orgo Night from Butler 209 is no doubt an attempt to censor the CUMB. By using the venue as their scapegoat, the administration does not have to admit that they are actively trying to silence our voices. Despite its many attempts to preserve its status as an oasis for free speech, Columbia continues to show students that this university only cares about free speech in principle, not in practice.
Orgo Night will go on. We will continue to perform, even if it takes place in single-digit temperatures, because Columbia spirit does not die when one new administrator decides stomp all over a tradition. We will write, play, and sing outside Butler every semester until Provost Coatsworth and Vice Provost Thornton come to the table. We invite you to join us on May 4th at 11:59 pm to celebrate another semester of Columbia spirit and tradition.
The Columbia University Statement Writing Band