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Breaking: Columbia University Marching Band Prohibited From Performing At Athletic Events

The Columbia Athletics Department has pulled all funding from the Columbia University Marching Band (CUMB) and prohibited it from performing at future athletic events, according to an email from CUMB Head Manager Cameron Danesh-Pajou (SEAS ‘20) sent to band members this afternoon. In addition, CUMB members who attempt to play instruments at Athletics games will be held “in violation of Ivy League regulations and subject to individual sanctioning under Dean’s Discipline.”

Danesh-Pajou attributed this development to CUMB’s lack of recognition by Undergraduate Student Life, as “Athletics is unable and unwilling to provide the necessary oversight and structure.” Band leadership learned of this information in a 2 pm meeting with Athletics Director Peter Pillig, Associate Athletics Director Bob Steitz, and Executive Director of Student Engagement William Lucas.

As a replacement, the Athletics Department told Bwog that it has already booked external “community music groups” for home games during the rest of the calendar year. In an official statement released publicly at 5:19 pm, CUMB also added that Athletics is planning to create its own band under a faculty director. “According to Athletics, those who wish to join this band will have to audition,” the statement said. “The Band’s mission has been to create an inclusive organization that welcomes everyone regardless of income, identity, or musical ability. We are currently the only campus musical organization that does not require members to audition or interview to join.”

CUMB has been a prominent organization on campus since 1904, known for promoting school spirit through musical performances and humorous skits at various Athletics games, as well as for hosting Orgo Night, a tradition historically held in Butler 209 the night before the Organic Chemistry exam. In the last few years, however, the band has faced rebukes from administration and a loss of university funding.

In December 2016, Columbia administration, led by Vice Provost and University Librarian Ann Thorton, prohibited the band from performing Orgo Night within the library, claiming that it disrupted students – despite decades of the tradition taking place within 209. While the following two semesters oversaw students congregating outside Butler, sometimes in freezing temperatures, to participate in the tradition, CUMB eventually snuck instruments back into Butler 209 to perform Orgo Night in the fall of 2017. Following the defiance of the ban, the administration held several meetings with CUMB; under the threat of sanctions on individual members, CUMB moved Orgo Night back outside.

Regardless, Columbia administration further moved in October 2018 to cut all University Life funding from CUMB, which composed $15,000 of its $25,000 budget. The other $10,000 was previously provided by Athletics. This funding had in the past been used for transportation to and from games, as well as for free musical lessons to Band members, who might have come from underprivileged backgrounds and otherwise not have had these opportunities.

After this cut of funding, the administration instead pointed CUMB to seek funding from the school’s various activities boards. As the deadline for the spring 2019 funding had by then passed, CUMB instead submitted an application for the fall 2019 funding cycle, which, according to CUMB’s statement, was under the knowledge of both the administration and the Athletics Department. However, Athletics stated that the department pulled funding because “CUMB failed to meet deadlines during the 2018-19 academic year for submitting applications to become a recognized student group.”

CUMB has also been the subject of various controversies since the 1960s, ranging from the creation and distribution of flyers featuring puns about “Gaza Strip” in 2012 to references about the death of Christians at the hands of lions at a Fordham football game after being released from a ten-year ban.

The full statement from both CUMB and Columbia Athletics are included below.

Update September 25, 2019 6:51 PM: The article has been updated to include further information on CUMB’s background in disputes with the administration, as well as the explanation of the Athletics Department’s withdrawal of funding. Additionally, the statements of both organizations have been added.

Athletics Department’s Statement:


Having failed to meet deadlines during the 2018-19 academic year for submitting applications to become a recognized student group, the Columbia University Marching Band (CUMB) is not able to perform at Columbia athletic events.

Last fall, CUMB was informed by Undergraduate Student Life that funding provided by Columbia College and Columbia Engineering would not continue beyond the end of the 2018-19 academic year, and they were counseled to seek recognition as a student group from our undergraduate life student activities/governing boards. Members of Undergraduate Student Life communicated repeatedly with CUMB, informing them both of the need to seek recognition from the governing boards and of approaching deadlines during the 2018-19 academic year. Nevertheless, CUMB failed to submit an application for recognition in accordance with the governing boards’ established deadlines.

In light of CUMB’s lack of official recognition by our student governing boards and the time needed to identify and procure alternative musical entertainment, the Department of Athletics moved to secure community music groups to perform at home athletic contests.

CUMB’s Statement:

CUMB Official Statement by Bwog on Scribd

CUMB via Bwog Archives.

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous banned band

  • sandy alum says:

    @sandy alum Congrats admins, you’ve won the war on fun!

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous A Pyrrhic victory, if ever there was one.

  • Antifa says:

    @Antifa have fun setting up a Vichy Marching Band regime Athletics!

  • Really sad says:

    @Really sad The administration continues to demonstrate its disdain for students and alumni by pulling this sneak attack on one of the precious few repositories of school spirit at Columbia. Deans who don’t get it and athletics officials who so want us to be like a Big Ten school that they just toss everything else aside. What the hell is wrong with these people?

  • Paul Bua says:

    @Paul Bua Student life/traditions are under assault… As an active alumnus of 27 years, this is a knife in my chest. Students you have a student activites fee, and a University Senate… you should engage the entire Columbia Community on referenda deciding the future of student life/traditions that encouraged you to study and spend your formative years on the Morningside Heights Acropolis… Fight !!!!

    The Administration of Columbia College of Columbia University can kiss my heretofore baby-blue ass.


    Columbia College Class of 1993, Drum Major


  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous the scandals listed at the end of this article occurred well before any current member of the band started college. this is poor representation of the organization as it stands now.

    1. gtbtb says:

      @gtbtb i was literally 13 when the most recent of these happened. this isn’t applicable to the current organization and has nothing to do with the what’s happened today. also, the administration only really started cracking down after we started actively taking steps to make our organization a better, more inclusive space.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Wait, the Fordham ban was lifted?

    1. sandy alum says:

      @sandy alum the band was banned in 2002, and after it was lifted 2012, the band was re-banned

  • CC 2016 says:

    @CC 2016 Yet another part of this admin’s war on fun. The CUMB has been controversial, sure, but it’s one of the few relics of school spirit left at Columbia and forms part of the dwindling traditions that make our school special. Shame on the admin for this sneak attack on the band.

  • BC '95 says:

    @BC '95 Honestly horrified by this. Yes the band isn’t for everyone (unless you are student, then each and everyone of you is welcome in the band). Yes the band can be controversial (then again – what isn’t these days). This assault on the band, a 100+ year tradition, and fun in general is disgusting.

  • This is no longer Columbia says:

    @This is no longer Columbia The alumnus above said what many, many of us are thinking: “The Administration of Columbia College of Columbia University can kiss my heretofore baby-blue ass.” Good luck with those fund-raising letters.

  • Paul Bua says:

    @Paul Bua #ColumbiaKills115YearStudentTradition

  • @cumbresister says:

    @@cumbresister Any attempt to “reinvent a new spirit organization” should be treated as a betrayal of the values for which Columbia should stand. There is, and always shall be, only one CUMB.

  • CC 2014 says:

    @CC 2014 The band has made Columbia special for years!! It is so emblematic of who we are—that we are a school that values wit, humor, and good old nerdiness over jocks (nothing wrong with jocks, but let’s be real, Columbia is for the nerds)

    This is a true shame. The band must live on!!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous lol. between this and paying students to watch games – athletics is really doing a bang up job at improving school spirit.

  • @LizCollegeMama says:

    @@LizCollegeMama Seems that someone other than fun is in charge at my alma mater.

  • off topic, but not says:

    @off topic, but not A band that generates controversy due to humor that is in good fun, is banned from athletic events. A world leader who declares himself a “proud” hater of a particular group of people, and a denier of their genocide, is accorded the pride of place of a slot in the University’s crown jewel, the World Leader’s Forum. Surprise, surprise– a denier of the very same genocide was given that coveted podium a decade ago. I’m not going to repeat his name– most people know who and what I am talking about. Why is it that every prejudice is intolerable at Columbia University, except this one?

  • Harold Smithson Jenningst CC ’49 says:

    @Harold Smithson Jenningst CC ’49 How unfortunate. As a follower of the band since 1942 (three years before I entered The Collegr!), I must say I am quite disappointed.

    In my day, marching band performances were the only opportunities students had to hear good comedy. Think Pal and Sanders on the Dick Michaels Show. Think Roxie Sherwin the time he brought a tennis racket to the bodega. To us, CUMB were as good as the best.

    When I went to Columbia, we had never even heard of microphones. Last year, as I understand it, they started using iHomes. Never again now, I suppose.

    A pity.

    (Excellent reporting, BOWG)

  • EK CC'04 says:

    @EK CC'04 Some of my best memories of Columbia were made with the CUMB. This is a sad day and I hope the band prevails once more in the war against fun. G(tb)^2

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous What is it exactly that we’ve lost with this other than a poorly-uniformed group of musicians, only some of whom are good, doing the same songs and anti-comedy bits over and over and over again. Is it possible that athletic events might generate more attendance if the band was….well trained and not doing everything in the name of irony. This has nothing to with nerdiness…nerds are good at something.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous You’ve obviously never been to a Columbia football game in November.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Where do you think said well-trained band would come from? None of the Ivy Leagues have a real marching band. Also, more attendance? There are games where the ONLY people there are those in the band.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous The “band” is being replaced with other music, so attendance won’t go down. It can only go up now that we don’t have to hear who wrote Plato’s Republic for the 97th time. It’s not just that the band’s jokes stopped being edgy, the music stop being good, and the chants interesting. It’s the fact that they make absolutely no effort to get better and revel in being terrible. As if being uninteresting is some sort of additive.

        What CUMB’s even attempting to do isn’t unique. At least Stanford’s marching band tries when they do it.

        1. susan slonaker says:

          @susan slonaker I have seen Stanford Marching Band in person many times. There is no comparison between their brand of self-congratulatory half-baked humor and CUMB’s sharp-witted hilarity. We had sons in both the USC Trojan Marching Band and CUMB…two musical organizations about as different from one another as is possible. There’s room in the world for both!

          1. Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous Congrats on raising two virgins

    3. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous my man out here with the spiciest and wrongest take

      cumb or die, baybee

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Groups like the “CUMB” precisely illustrate the problem when you let the “monkeys run the zoo”, as is increasingly the case at liberal left-wing cesspools like Columbia University. These “students” should go STUDY in the library instead of fooling around. Every single one of these maggots should reflect on how hard their parents worked to raise them to the point they are in life. Go get a job!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Columbia hates free speech. Bollinger is a scumbag and a dirty hypocrite with a backbone as thin as his hairline.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous But his hairline is most impressive, no?

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous That rug on his head isn’t real.

  • The Band Saves Students says:

    @The Band Saves Students In a school with such a problem with stress and suicide [which incidentally, admin doesn’t seem to do much real action about], the band provides a support network for a large number of students, as well as an outlet with weekly opportunities for non-academic fun.
    This is a strong preventative factor for suicide.
    The band is also especially unique because it is completely inexclusive (you don’t even have to know how to play an instrument) and provides a strong social network for students who might otherwise have no one, and nothing to do except study. Those most vulnerable and at-risk students will be the most affected by this misguided action.

  • Band 2014 says:

    @Band 2014 I graduated in 2014. If it weren’t for me being in the band, I would never have gone to a single Columbia football game. Instead I went to almost all of them for 4 years (not to mention all the home basketball games). When I arrived at Columbia I didn’t even know the rules of football. By the time I graduated I was a true Lions fan and could follow the games perfectly.

    The people I knew in the band were the biggest fans the football team had outside of the team itself, and at many games we were almost the only people there. I am very sad to hear of this recent development. There has always been a large contingent of band alumni at Homecoming (actually, some I know have season passes) and I have always wanted to go. Unless this decision changes, I am now sure I never will.

    Not sure what Athletics hopes to gain by alienating some of its most ardent supporters.

  • finally! says:

    @finally! this has been the highlight of my week. the marching band has been a plague on every finals season i’ve experienced at this school, along with their rude and offensive and unfunny jokes and shitty covers. also can we highlight the fact that they were derecognized because THEY FAILED to apply for funding from USL??? this is no one’s fault but their own. there are no victims here!

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous dilate trannee

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous The band and their spirit is one of the best parts of Columbia. The alumni should immediately begin pouring in money to refund and reinstate the band and build them their own building at Baker.

  • anon says:

    @anon Alumni should immediately rally and donate and support this band. And build them their own building at Baker.

  • CC '90 says:

    @CC '90 The administration is scrapping half a century of tradition.

    Please reconsider this action. Alumni have long memories.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Class of ’92 here. The Columbia University Marching Band saw our football team through its darkest days. They went to every game and provided cheer and humor in the face of ongoing, crushing disappointment. At the time many of us thought they were crazy to dedicate themselves to such an embarrassing, maddening athletic program. Many of us were inclined to just way away from the whole thing. But the Band showed us what true school spirit meant, and in a genuinely Columbia way. That the administration is now quashing the Band is shameful.

  • Salty alumnus says:

    @Salty alumnus The band are the football team’s (and basketball team’s) biggest fans… aside from homecoming they are the only people who show up to many of the games and they are the largest school spirit institution in the University. It’s kind of ridiculous that the admins are fine with white supremacists talking on campus but god forbid once a semester someone plays music in the library for an hour. You can forget about getting donations from this alum.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous The band members are really devastated. They could use alumni support and encouragement.

    1. We're behind you all the way says:

      @We're behind you all the way Fear not. There is enormous alumni support out there. Many of us are working to spread the word and to reach the administration in ways that matter, to explain to them the folly of their short-sighted, totally un-Columbia-like thinking, which is destroying alumni belief in our university. We stand behind the band–for its history and for its central role, then and now, in bringing humanity and humor to the community. Stay strong, kids, and GTBTB!

    2. We've got your back says:

      @We've got your back Stay strong, kids. There’s plenty of alumni support out here. We know what you give to the teams and the fans and the whole Columbia community. Warts and occasional screw-ups? Sure. But that’s as it should be. What it should NOT be is some scrubbed, non-Columbia aggregation under the control of hypocrites who talk about free speech but run scared when someone complains about a joke they don’t care for. We’re doing our best to educate other alumni and administration. This can be resolved. This should be resolved, if Mr. Valentini, Mr. Pilling and Mr. Bollinger want to stop the bleeding of alumni warm feelings for the school, and the donations that come from those warm feelings.

  • tdhimpersonator says:

    @tdhimpersonator specsucks… it still sucks… but not as much as USL and ABC


    @MICHAEL GARRETT As the former Lion Mascot (1963-66) and an honorary member of the both the Football Team and the the Cleverest Band in the World, I am saddened by and frustrated with the College, the Library and the Athletic Department at their having been unequal to the simple task, in their collective maturity and perspective, to have worked out a solution in which the Band continues its 115-year tradition of hilarious musical service to the University. To the extent that the Band members and alumni have contributed to this tragedy by being pig-headed instead of lion-smart, they share the responsibility for this outcome. The grand tradition of the oldest Columbia activity,150+ years, the Glee Club has been neglected and abandoned and pretty much gone down the same drain under similar circumstances. The traditions of Columbia include that are essential to maintaining the unique Columbia character are more that the McKim Buildings and Core Curriculum, but we are witnessing these treasures disappear. We need a wake up call lest that sacred continuity be lost entirely. Roar Lion Roar!!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Destroying a 100 year tradition that is student led makes absolutely no sense. The Administration and athletics are wrong headed on this . The only reason I went to athletic events was to see the band.

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