Sad, dispiriting news from the world of college marching bands: Columbia University effectively disbanded its wonderfully anarchic and mischievous marching band Wednesday, after years and years spent actively antagonizing the group and suppressing its creativity. The university communicated to the scramble band’s leadership board that due to flimsy bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, the band and its members are “prohibited from performing at all Athletics events for the foreseeable future.”
The Columbia University Marching Band (CUMB) has never been super popular with university leadership. For one thing, they approach their occupation with a healthy lack of seriousness, and have a history of trying to slide jokes and gags at the expense of their school and its nightmarishly bad and largely ignored sports teams into their routines. For another thing—and this one is near and dear to our hearts here at Deadspin—the university chose to crack down on the band’s choreography years ago due to their habit of incorporating dick formations into their routines. From a bittersweet report from this very website:
Then there was the school’s frantic, never-ending fear of penises. I do understand that, actually. For a long time, the band could make about three formations: a “C” for Columbia, an amorph, and a penis. My freshman year came at the tail end of the golden age of penises, when the university finally cracked down. But even after the band retired the dick formations, it was assumed every single formation we wrote into a script was secretly a penis. They weren’t, but for years, we were asked if something was secretly a penis. France? Penis. Arrow? Penis. Lee C. Bollinger, President of the University? Big penis!
More recently, the band was barred from directly participating in a fun Columbia tradition stretching back decades, which led to a new round of tensions. For years, the band would use a room of the school’s library to host something called “Orgo Night,” where the band would perform, in typically chaotic and disruptive fashion, the night before the Organic Chemistry final exam. The school suddenly exiled the band from the building ahead of Orgo Night in 2016; after two semesters of acquiescence, members defied the banishment order and snuck instruments into the library in 2017. The school responded with a threat of sanctions, pushing CUMB back outside into the cold for subsequent Orgo Night festivities and largely defeating the purpose. Then, in October 2018, the school informed the band that $15,000 in annual funding would be cut from its $25,000 budget, according to a report from Bwog, a student-run Columbia news website. All that was then left of CUMB’s funding came from Athletics, and that partial defunding maneuver was the start of the end:
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.”
Athletics withdrew its funding of the band Wednesday, and the school officially banned the band from performing at future athletic events, based upon the band’s inability to gain “recognition as a student group from our undergraduate life student activities/governing boards.” I have no idea what that means, but I know it sucks. Here is a delightful video of these lovable goofs performing at halftime of a game against Yale in 2014, joyfully and enthusiastically sprucing up an athletic event attended by roughly nine people.
CUMB has always freely admitted anyone interested in joining into their ranks, without auditions or interviews, and used a portion of its funding to provide music lessons at no cost to its members. Their act was fun and dumb and messy, as befits an organization run by college kids and dedicated to brightening some pretty fucking dismal sporting events. In its place, the university plans to establish “a new spirit organization overseen by a faculty director,” which in this context is pure cop shit, and should be rejected by everyone, everywhere.
Deadspin reached out to CUMB for help deciphering the university’s baloney-ass red-tape angle of attack, and will update this post with anything interesting or illuminating they have to say. Hopefully the band’s leadership hasn’t yet responded because they’re busy cartwheeling through some administrative office, playing a tuba loudly and poorly and making off-color dick jokes. They will be sorely missed.