The Stanford Band was recently suspended until the spring of 2017. They’ll now miss most of the basketball season, but it could have been much worse, as a university conduct board recommended that they be suspended for the whole year.
The band was suspended because they ran afoul of their probation (which they were placed on as a result of a “sexual hazing” scandal from early 2015) and committed a slew of new violations of their alcohol and travel policies. As Stanford tells it, the band was a menace that was given the opportunity to change and failed to do so. They’ll no longer be student-run, and the school will install a professional music director to oversee operations.
However, the band has since told their side of the story, and they claim that the school is trying to silence them in an effort to preserve the school’s brand as an elite institution that takes itself and its student life seriously. The band released a lengthy statement yesterday, in which they accused the administration of prioritizing “authoritative control and administrative expediency over student freedom.”
The band chalks all their current trouble up to a mere “pitcher of beer - shared by three of-age band alumni at a friend’s farewell dinner.” That doesn’t address the allegations that the band had a culture of alcohol abuse and hazing, but even though the statement ignores the specifics of their case, their larger-scale points ring true. Stanford is an incredibly staid institution and the band—while a faux-subversive organization with a shoddy sense of humor—is a genuine outlier at a place that strives to be a streamlined Silicon Valley finishing school.
On a campus centered around the push for perfection, Band offers a powerful and exuberant counterweight that reminds students that life ought to be enjoyed. The quest for mirth through humor and music has brought students of all backgrounds - musical, cultural, and other - together. A ‘sanitized’ Band under administrative control can never serve these same roles, and a valuable student community will wither for the sake of perceived threats to the University’s image.
The editors of the Stanford Daily, Stanford’s student newspaper, penned an editorial this weekend about the matter and agreed with the band that the school’s prioritization of their image has taken precedence over the need to protect student culture. They noted that the announcement of the suspension was curiously timed to come a day after a grad student filed a civil lawsuit against the school for their alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases.
Whatever problems the band had, using their suspension as a way to divert from allegations about Stanford’s supposed sexual assault problem would be incredibly cynical. As the Daily notes, Stanford’s public statement on the sexual assault lawsuit was insensitive to victims because of the disclosure of lewd details. That statement was in sharp contrast to Stanford’s code of secrecy, where they keep alcohol policies and admissions statistics (for the first time in five years) from the public.
The band has plenty of problems of their own, and their suspension may well have been warranted. But that’s not an excuse for Stanford to use them as a shield against damning allegations against the university. You can read their full letter below.