Article Image
Columbia Spectator Staff

The microphones were shut off, the lights went out, and the audience was left in a state of momentary shock. That's what happened during the first few seconds of the performance by Columbia's Kingsmen. As they began their original "Columbia Drinking Song," the Kingsmen were forced off the stage in an act of blatant musical censorship last Sunday night during the NSOP Performance Showcase. I was in the audience when this happened and could not help but be confused.

Was it a technical difficulty? Did the power go out? After about a minute, however, I realized that it could not be the power, because the lights over the audience were still on. It then dawned on me that what had actually happened was a blatant and egregious mistake by the organizers of the performance showcase: They had censored one of our own a cappella groups.

Admittedly, the Kingsmen's drinking song does have some suggestive lyrics regarding first-years skipping class and drinking excessive alcohol—likely why it was censored. But this is not valid reasoning, because this definition of censorship would have warranted several other groups be censored during the performance showcase. It should be noted that the hip-hop group Onyx, which performed after the Kingsmen, had a performance with sexually suggestive lyrics, motions, and what could be considered racial slurs, yet the group was not even interrupted. The fact that Onyx was mildly reprimanded afterward seems like a slap on the wrist compared to the outrageous treatment the Kingsmen received.

Moreover, about two performances before the Kingsmen, the all-female, long-form comedy group Control Top performed with some profanity, and it was not censored either. These inconsistencies in censorship highlight the fact that there is a completely arbitrary set of standards that is held at the performance showcase, for which the Kingsmen, rather unfortunately, suffered the consequences.

The song which was censored is essentially a satire of the first-year collegiate experience. The lyrics poke fun at the age-old traditional American image of the start of college, a time when first-years gain newfound freedoms and are exposed to new social situations, such as parties with alcohol and the ability to skip class. The sarcastic song would have fit perfectly during the showcase, where we present first-years with Columbia's wide range of talent, whether it be comedy, improv, song, or dance. Instead, we regrettably sent them the message that censorship is to be freely applied at Columbia.

Is this really the message we want to send during NSOP?  Unfairly censoring a satirical song sends a much more questionable message to the first-years than the song itself. It suggests that at Columbia, unsanctioned takes on the college experience will not be allowed.

Ultimately, it seems to me that in the hopes of saving the incoming first-years (most of whom are probably 17 or 18 years old—old enough to see R-rated movies or buy profanity-laced "Parental Advisory Label" music) from the horrors of a comedic and satirical song about alcohol, the leaders of the performance showcase chose to tell them that it is more important not to joke about alcohol than to showcase our talent.

This is why the inconsistent and poorly thought-through censorship at the performance showcase was so inflammatory: If we truly value differing opinions and perspectives at Columbia—especially when it comes to performing arts—shouldn't we at least have more trust in the ability of first-years to handle adult alcoholic themes?

The author is a Columbia College junior majoring in biological sciences.

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact

Kingsmen NSOP Censorship drinking Alcohol