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:
STATEMENT REGARDING THE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MARCHING BAND
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 via Bwog Archives.