Updated October 11, 2018 at 10:58 a.m.
The Columbia University Marching Band will be forced to look for a new source of funding after being informed last week that a large portion of its budget provided by the University will be cut starting next academic year.
CUMB went head-to-head with the administration last fall, after it defied administrative orders by holding Orgo Night inside Butler Library. After being threatened with sanctions in the spring, the band held Orgo Night outside Butler.
“From where we sit, it looks like the band is being punished for Orgo Night,” President of the Columbia University Band Alumni Association Samantha Rowan, BC ’96, said. “We are not going to stop fighting for the band. We have tried, [and] we have gotten very little response, which is very disappointing.”
Unlike most student groups, the band is not a recognized group under either the Student Governing Board or the Activities Board at Columbia, and is funded separately.
CUMB head manager Vivian Klotz, BC ’20, said the administration’s decision stemmed from its desire to have more direct oversight of the band.
“After last Orgo Night, they said they wanted more oversight,” Klotz said. “Because we are not recognized, we have no official structure above us. They don’t like that.”
Klotz said that during a weekly meeting with Undergraduate Student Life Dean Cristen Kromm and Executive Director of Student Engagement Josh Lucas, Kromm informed her that the band would no longer be receiving $15,000 of its $25,000 annual budget, marking a significant loss that has the potential to seriously impact the organization. Of this $25,000, $10,000 is provided by Columbia Athletics, while the remaining $15,000 that is now being cut comes from Columbia College and Columbia Engineering.
“Suddenly, [the funding] is all gone. … Buses alone are $15,000. ... We cannot even get to the games,” Klotz said. “That is the thing we are most worried about.”
Kromm confirmed in a statement to Spectator that USL told the band to seek recognized student group status.
“The band has not been accountable to any structure or support network because they are not a recognized student group. … This would give the band the same privileges and responsibilities as all other recognized student groups and would allow them to be funded in the same way as those groups,” she wrote in statement to Spectator.
Klotz said the band will have to turn to SGB or ABC for funding next year. However, these groups are not required to recognize them, and, even if recognized, the band—like most newly recognized student groups—would receive less funding next year. Currently, the band books practice rooms and stores its instruments in Teachers College, rather than on campus.
“The timing is not arbitrary. [Administrators] want us to become a recognized group, but [we are] not required to be taken in by any board,” Klotz said. “When you’re a new group, you get barely any money from the governing boards. We know we won’t get all our money, at least in the first year. … We are the least-funded band in the Ivy League; we get as much as a high school band.”
Klotz highlighted the need for funding to allow to band to accommodate all students, regardless of financial need. Currently, CUMB does not require students to pay for their uniforms or instruments and helps mitigate the costs of traveling and buying food off campus. The band also provides free music lessons for its members.
“The thing that we pride ourselves on is being a group that is very approachable for students of all economic backgrounds, and that is really what we use all of our money for,” Klotz said. “[The funding cut is] really hurting those students the most.”
CUMB alumni pointed out that the band is one of few student groups that contributes directly to Columbia’s sense of school spirit and tradition.
“One of the first things you hear when you start looking at Columbia as a prospective student is that this school needs more spirit, [Columbia does not] have the tradition and all that,” Dan Carlinsky, CC ’65, said. “The band is one of the few organizations that actually does that and contributes to that spirit on campus.”
Carlinsky, who has served previously as the director of college relations for Columbia College and director of publications for the University’s Office of Public Affairs, pointed to a disconnect between the administration and the undergraduate community as contributing to the decision to cut the band’s funding.
“The band provides the old-fashioned school spirit, if you will, the tradition. The [administrators], they do not quite get it,” he said.
Carlinsky also said this decision would impact whether students donate to Columbia.
“They are creating students who are becoming alumni who do not give a damn and will not give a dime,” he said.
A previous version of this article stated that the band’s funding came from a unique channel from Undergraduate student life, where in reality the band has been funded directly by Columbia Athletics, Columbia College, and Columbia Engineering.