The Columbia University Marching Band (CUMB) has announced that it will be dissolving and not functioning in any respect.
Content warning: mentions of sexual violence and racism
On September 14th, the Band released a public statement on their Facebook page regarding the dissolution. In this letter, the Band writes that they will have more to say “in the coming days with a more thorough apology and logistics concerning our dissolution,” but that “it is impossible to reform an organization so grounded in prejudiced culture and traditions.” This decision comes following a vote held at a Band town hall held Saturday night.
The Band’s decision follows weeks of anonymous submissions to Columbia Confessions, a Facebook page on users can send in anonymous confessions about experiences at Columbia through a Google form. Although there is no way to verify these confessions are coming from students, the page is targeted at current, former, and future Columbia students. These submissions detailed multiple alleged acts of racism, antisemitism, theft, sexual violence, and assault committed by CUMB members. Many of the posts describe the culture surrounding drinking at parties and stealing items from both students’ dorms and other campuses.
Confessions of this nature were posted to Columbia Confessions throughout the summer. A confession posted to the Facebook page on September 2nd, in which the poster accused a member of the marching band of stealing their personal items after sexual intercourse, prompted an uptick of posts describing similar experiences with CUMB members. Following that confession, the Marching Band released a statement on September 2nd addressing the anonymous confessions, condemning the actions described, and publishing an anonymous form to submit any concerns to the Band’s executive board. In that statement, the Band’s executive board acknowledges that “it is clear that the toxic culture within the CUMB built up and emphasized over the years is what has enabled these people to do damage to others… it is the task of not only the Bored [CUMB’s term for executive board], but the band as a whole, to undergo major internal and external change to make the band a safer, more inclusive place, and to repair our relationship with the Columbia community.”
Even after the CUMB’s initial statement suggesting reform, students continued to submit more confessions. These confessions garnered even more attention in the Columbia community, with students voicing their disdain for the actions described in the comments. All confessions can be found on the public Facebook page, Columbia Confessions. In the Band’s second statement, they decided upon dissolving the band instead of reforming and making internal and external changes as they had previously stated.
In the letter, the Band mentions that their absence will leave Columbia without a marching band; they “hope that the CUMB’s disbandment can create a space that allows for the formation of a new spirit group that will provide a safe and inclusive outlet for students to play music at Columbia.” It is yet unclear who will lead the creation of this group.
The Band, founded in 1904 and established in its most recent form as a scramble band in the 1960s, had its funding revoked in September 2019 by the University’s Athletics Department. The University then cited the group’s failure to submit documentation renewing their status as a student group. The department also barred the band from performing at campus events. Following national press coverage and outcry from current students and members of the Band’s Alumni Association, the Athletic Department restored funding to the group and took further responsibility for the band’s supervision. At the time, President Bollinger wrote: “The Columbia University Marching Band has been a University tradition for over 100 years. It is my strong hope that this tradition continues for the next 100 years and beyond.”
Bwog has reached out to Band’s executive board, the Athletics Department, and the University itself. We will update this post with their statements once they are received. It is also mentioned in the Band’s September 14th statement that another statement is forthcoming in the next few days. Bwog will continue to cover this story as it occurs.
The first statement by the band published on September 2nd:
TW: mentions of sexual assault and racism
September 3rd, 2020
To the Columbia University Community:
As many of you know, in recent Columbia Confessions posts on Facebook, the CUMB and its members have been cited for causing hurt, injury, and worse to members of the Columbia community. We know there are probably many more stories that have never reached a platform as wide as this. While many of these posts make reference to individual members, it is clear that the toxic culture within the CUMB built up and emphasized over the years is what has enabled these people to do damage to others, and it is not merely a problem of finding and punishing the individuals in question. Rather, it is the task of not only the Bored, but the band as a whole, to undergo major internal and external change to make the band a safer, more inclusive place, and to repair our relationship with the Columbia community.
While the explicit goal of the band has always been to provide entertainment and school spirit to the Columbia community, that goal has not always seemed to come first. The image of the band many people have described in these posts is one of hedonism, disrespect, and unforgivable behavior, and it is clear that regardless of what the band has provided, or claimed to provide, to our school and its students, it is overshadowed by the hurt it has caused. The Bored acknowledges that the CUMB has very serious problems when it comes to racism, sexual assault, and alcohol culture, and although we know nothing we could do would ever be enough to erase the pain and hurt the band has caused, we will do everything in our power to give our support to those who need it and make sure incidents like this never happen again.
We sincerely apologize for the suffering the CUMB has caused and the failure of past and present Bored to address these issues to the extent they should have been addressed. This apology should have come a long time ago and we deeply regret that it has taken this long for serious conversations about internal change to occur. We also would like to acknowledge our privilege as a PWI and our abuse of this privilege. The band has a disturbing lack of inclusivity and respect for people and their property. The Bored has no tolerance for racism, sexual assault, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, bullying, personal theft, and other forms of abuse, and we will do our absolute best to erase the aspects of band culture encouraging these behaviors that have come to light in various confessions posts.
Since many of the confessions made refer to incidents that took place before the current Bored members were elected (and in some cases, before they were Columbia students), it has been difficult to track down the members who have harmed others and deal with them in the appropriate manner. While the Bored absolutely believes the survivors/victims’ confessions, we were horrified to discover these stories as this was our first time hearing about them and we lack the sufficient information to uncover who the offending members are. In light of this, we have created an anonymous form for reporting members and more broad concerns to the Bored, and we hope you feel comfortable sharing this information with us so we can give you the support you need. While there is little we can do about the members who have already graduated, we are more than willing to impose the appropriate sanctions on current members and report them to the appropriate offices if necessary. We send our deepest thanks to those who have been brave enough to share their experiences on social media and we appreciate any and all feedback you have for the Bored.
While we know these changes are coming far too late, the Bored is engaging in discussion about how to make the band a safe and fun place for everyone, and hope that during this period of online-only activity we can undergo major changes before returning back to campus. Band culture has definitely changed since the incidents in many of these posts occurred, but it is not enough. We are working on measures to stamp out alcohol culture, prevent sexual assault, and generally make the band a place where all feel welcome, which it should have been all along. These measures include but are not limited to doing away with and changing certain band traditions, having Bored members undergo diversity training and sexual assault prevention training, restructuring how social events function, reassessing our presence and privilege in public spaces, and reflecting on who we want to be as an organization and who we are here to serve. We know we must do better and are prepared to take drastic measures to change what the CUMB is and what it means to people. We are taking this time of isolation to listen and reform so that the band can become once and for all an organization to serve Columbia, especially in these dire times. It is our hope that while this effort may be coming too late to prevent the pain of the past, it will be lasting and will be a group effort to steer the CUMB towards the goals of safety, inclusivity, and the happiness and wellbeing of the Columbia and Barnard community as a whole.
CUMB’s statement announcing their termination published on September 14th:
September 14th, 2020
To whom it may concern:
On Saturday, September 12th, the Columbia University Marching Band held a town hall in order to discuss numerous anonymous postings and allegations of sexual misconduct, assault, theft, racism, and injury to individuals and the Columbia community as a whole. The meeting had more than twenty Band members in attendance, all of whom expressed their tremendous dissatisfaction with the organization and the injury it has caused to our members and the broader Columbia community. With this decision, the current Band attempts to take responsibility both for harm directly caused by present Band members and for injuries which occurred at other times in the Band’s history.
The Band has unanimously and enthusiastically decided to dissolve. The Columbia University Marching Band will not continue to exist in any capacity and will no longer serve as a Columbia spirit group.
The Columbia University Marching Band apologizes for insult and injury victims have experienced as a result of actions perpetrated in its name. The Band has maintained a club structure founded on the basis of racisms cultural oppression, misogyny, and sexual harassment. While substantial efforts have been made in recent years toward undoing decades of wrongdoing, we as a Band feel ultimately that it is impossible to reform an organization so grounded in prejudiced culture and traditions.
The Band understands that for many, the damage experienced at the hands of the CUMB may be irreparable, and the Band will not be asking for or expecting any forgiveness. The current Band hopes that the Band’s dissolution will provide relief to the present suffering of the Columbia community and time to heal from the decades of hartn caused by this organization. We also hope that the CUMB’s disbandment can create a space that allows for the formation of a new spirit group that will provide a safe and inclusive outlet for students to play music at Columbia.
The Band will release a full statement in the coming days with a more thorough apology and logistics concerning our dissolution.
Note: There are former members of the CU Marching Band also on Bwog’s staff, none of whom contributed to our reporting of this story.
CUMB via Bwog Archives