Updated: Dec. 16, 2015 at 10:05 p.m.
The Columbia University Marching Band will still perform on Barnard Lawn after Orgo Night this year, according to an email sent to the Barnard community from Dean of the College Avis Hinkson and approved by Barnard Student Government Association on Wednesday afternoon.
Last December, the Marching Band's Orgo Night faced heavy criticism by some students who said the performance was offensive and inappropriate, especially given the numerous student protests against police brutality which occurred at the time.
Though the event was ultimately held in Butler as planned, Hinkson closed Barnard's main gates in order to prevent the band—which has performed in the Barnard Quad following their show in Butler Library in past years—from entering.
But the following semester, Barnard allowed the Band to perform on Barnard Lawn—but not the Quad—so that students living in the Quad could choose whether or not to hear the Band's performance.
This semester, Hinkson asked Barnard Student Government Association to make a recommendation about whether and to what extent the Marching Band should be allowed to perform on Barnard's campus.
"While they [SGA] discussed the issue at Rep Council this past Monday, they have decided instead to spend the early part of next semester gathering data via a campus survey to determine the best course of action," Hinkson said.
SGA President Shivani Vikuntam, BC '16, said that SGA decided to recommend that Barnard should allow the Marching Band to carry out Orgo Night as planned, but wanted to seek student feedback to better get a sense of how the entire student body felt about Orgo night after all students—namely, first-years—had a chance to experience it.
"We were very cognizant of the fact that one fourth of our student body has no idea what Orgo night is because they have not experienced it," Vikuntam said. "That's a huge percentage of the population, and we wanted to take that into consideration as well because we are representative of the student body."
Vikuntam said that she and SGA were under the impression that the recommendation would allow the Band to choose wherever on campus—even the Quad—to perform. But Hinkson said in an interview with Spectator on Wednesday evening that Public Safety is responsible for directing the Band to a location to perform on campus, and since the Band did not contact the College with any plans on where they wanted to perform, she made the decision to let them perform on the lawn.
Though the campus-wide survey will not be released until next semester, Vikuntam said that SGA is open to receiving feedback now.
"We recognize that this is an issue that students feel strongly about on campus," Vikuntam added. "If any student has any concerns that they'd like to voice to us right now they're welcome to email us. We will take that into consideration next semester when we have all of the survey details."
The email can be read in full here:
Dear Barnard Students,
I am writing to you regarding Orgo Night. The CU Marching Band has a long-standing tradition of coming over to the Barnard campus on the night before finals. While some find the behavior of the Band to be fun, others are deeply offended by the interruption. Last December, following a student protest on the issue of police brutality, I was asked to close the Barnard Gates and not allow the CU Marching Band on campus. I obliged as a show of respect for the protest. In the months that followed, I received heartfelt messages asking that the CU Marching Band be allowed to return to campus and equally compelling messages asking that the CU Marching Band not be allowed on campus again. Due to this significant split, this past spring I opted to allow the CU Marching Band to return, but required that they stay out of the Quad and perform only on the Lawn. This would keep students from being forced to listen to the Band due to their room assignment in the Quad, and yet still allow those who wanted to see the Band to do so on the Lawn.
In the last few weeks, I have again heard from students expressing strong opinions about the CU Marching Band. Columbia administrators have spoken with the Marching Band and strongly encouraged them to be much more respectful of the community in their Orgo Night activities. I asked SGA to make a recommendation about the presence of the CU Marching Band on campus and, while they discussed the issue at Rep Council this past Monday, they have decided instead to spend the early part of next semester gathering data via a campus survey to determine the best course of action. If you have strong sentiments, one way or the other, I encourage you to share your thoughts with SGA as they determine a course of action.
In the absence of a decision from SGA, we will continue to allow the CU Marching Band to play only on the Barnard Lawn, as was the case last spring. I know that this decision will be well received by some students and upsetting to others. I do hope that the removal of the Band from the Quad will allow those who desire to study or sleep the opportunity to do so.
I wish each of you good luck with your finals and a relaxing winter break!
See you at Midnight Breakfast,