The administration’s decision to cut the marching band’s budget by $15,000 adversely impacts the people they are supposedly here to serve: the students. As treasurer of the marching band, my goal and that of past treasurers has always been to keep band affordable—a goal which will only get harder to achieve with a smaller budget.
Some students might wonder where all the band’s money goes. We attend every Columbia Ivy League football game in the fall and every home basketball game in the spring. Our biggest expense is travel to away football games, and the administration’s decision will undoubtedly make it more difficult for us to attend them now. But even more concerning is the impact the cuts will have on our efforts to keep band affordable and accessible for everyone.
Many students can’t afford to participate in music groups on campus since these groups often require them to have their own musical instruments. With our budget, we’ve been able to provide those to our members for free, removing one of the most significant barriers to participation in a music group on campus. We also use this money to purchase uniforms, musical equipment, breakfast in the morning before football games, and to provide reimbursements for our members when they have to purchase their own food while traveling.
Without these initiatives, there is no doubt that membership in the marching band would be an undue financial burden upon low-income students whom the administration purports to be serving. This is a concern we’ve repeatedly brought up in meetings with the administration that have gone unaddressed. If the administration really does want to support low-income students, then why make a decision that will harm us the most?
The administration has given us one option—to become a recognized student group under a governing board—which ignores the fact that we were de-recognized 20 years ago on the administration's own accord, without any input from the band—with no guarantee that we would receive the same resources and funding we’ve relied on to keep band accessible.
CUMB’s budget is already one of the smallest of any Ivy League band, both in absolute terms (Yale’s has a $1 million endowment) and on a per-student basis. Through the CUMB Bored’s discussions with other Ivy band leaders, we’ve learned that despite our limited budget we’ve managed to serve the University almost equal to what other bands are able to do, while also being one of the most financially accessible. This decision does not accomplish anything other than trying to cow the band into meeting the administration’s unreasonable demands, all while the administration conveniently ignores the impact this decision will have on low-income students whose ability to fully participate in band will now be jeopardized.
The band prides itself on being a place that welcomes anyone regardless of socioeconomic status. It’s a space where people can socialize, have fun, and find a sense of belonging that can sometimes be hard to find at Columbia. As a low-income student myself, I value the accessibility the band has worked hard to provide. It’s been one of the few places where I could be involved without having to worry about any financial cost, especially given how expensive everything is in New York. Throughout my time as treasurer, I have heard from multiple members who feel the same way. Cutting the band’s budget suggests that the administration cares more about ending Orgo Night than they do about the low-income students this decision will affect the most.
The band is one of the oldest student groups on campus, and it plays a necessary role here, so no matter what the administration does, we will continue to exist. The administration’s decision only serves to punish members of the marching band and is emblematic of its wider disregard for student concerns.
The author is a senior in Columbia College studying history and sustainable development. He is treasurer of the Cleverest Band in the World™, the Columbia University Marching Band.
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