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Columbia Spectator Staff

Two months after reading the Orgo Night script atop a desk in Butler Library, Averill Leslie, CC '05 and former scriptwriter and reader for the Columbia University Marching Band, still has strangers come up to him, expressing disappointment that the band had not apologized.

Out of guilt, Leslie says, he resigned from the band two weeks ago, and wrote an opinion piece in yesterday's Spectator offering an apology to those hurt by the marching band's script.

Now Leslie is feeling a new pressure, this time from several band members who have privately accused him of being hypocritical. He has criticized the band for not releasing an apology for a script he wrote.

"I wish he could have done it without publicly shifting so much blame to the band," band manager Dan Binder, CC '05, said.

On the same day that Leslie released his apology to the community, Binder released a long-awaited apology on behalf of the band, two and a half months after Orgo Night.

"I am deeply sorry that I didn't act responsibly in my role as Head Manager and censor the offensive jokes and posters," he wrote in an e-mail to Dean of Studies Kathryn Yatrakis, Spectator, and the Concerned Students of Color, the newly recognized student group coordinating this week's protest.

Now Binder too is feeling the heat of a backlash. Since he posted his apology to the board yesterday, one alumni and one board member have argued that he should have consulted with the board before issuing the apology.

Last December, CUMB, through Leslie, delivered the Orgo Night speech that likened Barnard women who enjoyed the band's jokes to a "battered woman who keeps coming back for more."

Leading up to the event, the band put up fliers that prompted the formation of an ad hoc committee criticizing the fliers for what they perceived to be racial slurs.

One flier featured a photo of Michael Jackson with "Who needs ethnic studies?" written beneath.

Binder's apology arrived on the second day of silent protests on Low steps, where 300 black-clad students convened to protest what they perceived to be racist and sexist comments made by CUMB, in addition to the Columbia College Conservative Club and The Fed.

After an editorial and an article in Spectator early this semester received little reaction, Binder and the rest of the board put the issue aside.

Binder attributed the delay in response to failing to understand "how badly we'd messed up." According to Leslie, who at the time stood by the band's decision to remain mum, the board was "eager and happy to let the issue fizzle out," despite a suggestion by Yatrakis, who is also the band's unofficial adviser, to release an apology.

"He was following the path of, 'if we're not going to get in trouble, we don't have to deal,'" Leslie said.

Binder characterized his delay in terms of pragmatism.

"If we issue an apology every time we got a complaint, we wouldn't have anything left to say," he said. "It's hard to gauge how much is in the public sphere."

In late January, Binder told Spectator and Student Government Association president Jeeho Lee, BC '04, that the band would likely respond, especially as it was the first time the band had struck a negative chord with its target audience.

"I did feel that Dan responded to me, personally," Lee said. "I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt."

Yatrakis said this was the first incident in which the band had seriously offended people at Columbia. At the time she urged Binder to consider a response.

"I told Dan, this is your community," she said, adding that for many students at Columbia, the issues with the marching band wouldn't start to be resolved without some response.

Yatrakis was clear that the University would not impose a speech code in light of Orgo Night or the Fed cartoon that appeared in last week's issue and that sparked the protest on the steps.

In the apology, Binder referred to "safeguards" the band would implement to ensure a better script. Those safeguards have yet to be determined, but for now include the return of two experienced senior band members, including a former scriptwriter and band manager.