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0Part 1: Columbia University Marching Band votes to disband after 116 years

Part 1: Columbia University Marching Band votes to disband after 116 years

September 15, 2020

After a history of disagreements with University administration and students, the Columbia University Marching Band voted to disband on Saturday night. Photography by Kate Della Pietra.

The self-proclaimed “cleverest band in the world” voted to disband the organization on Saturday evening after 116 years of performing music, making controversial jokes, and disputing with both Columbia’s administration and the student body.

In a statement provided to Spectator by band leadership, the club’s leadership, known as the Bored, wrote, “The Band has unanimously and enthusiastically decided to dissolve. The Columbia University Marching Band will not continue to exist in any capacity and will no longer serve as a Columbia spirit group.”

This announcement came after a year of transition for the CUMB. Three days before Columbia football’s 2019 home opener, Columbia Athletics stripped the band of the remainder of its University funding. One year prior, Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science withdrew their portion of the CUMB’s funding in response to the band storming Butler Library during Orgo Night in December 2017. The athletic department informed the band that in order to maintain the band’s funding from the department, it must become a recognized group. The marching band did not submit its paperwork for recognition and was subsequently financially cut off from the University and prohibited from performing or bringing instruments to any official athletic events.

The marching band protested this decision by holding weekly field shows on Low Steps and starting a GoFundMe, which raised over $25,000 in less than a week. The marching band and the athletic department agreed that the CUMB would play at Homecoming, putting to rest the latest iteration of a decades-long struggle between the band, the University, Columbia Athletics, and the student body.

The internal movement to disband the CUMB began when five former and current members wrote a letter to the remaining members of the Bored. The members called to dissolve the band in all capacities, arguing that alleged traditions of misconduct were too steeped into the band’s culture and reformation could not remove the traces of the harm those practices caused.

In response to those confessions, the Bored released a statement on Sept. 2, writing, “The CUMB has very serious problems when it comes to racism, sexual assault, and alcohol culture.” The statement was followed by multiple Bored member resignations and repeated calls to dissolve the organization.

It remains up in the air whether the marching band will lose its funding through dissolution. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not an official marching band exists is up to the discretion of Columbia Athletics, which has not responded to a request for comment. Without sporting events until at least January, the CUMB cannot play this fall.

“The current Band hopes that the Band’s dissolution will provide relief to the present suffering of the Columbia community and time to heal from the decades of harm caused by this organization. We also hope that the CUMB’s disbandment can create a space that allows for the formation of a new spirit group that will provide a safe and inclusive outlet for students to play music at Columbia,” the Bored wrote in a statement.

However, the band's acknowledgment of its troubling past has struck a negative chord with some. Steve Greenfield, CC ’82, a former drum major for the band, expressed his disdain for this shift in opinion on the band’s Sept. 2 statement condemning its actions. Greenfield claimed that any new iteration of the band would not have the same “irreverent” spirit of the version that has existed for the past century.“The band is gone, and if and when it returns, it will be exactly what the corporations bankrolling Ivy League sports specifically because Ivy League sports is an essential establishment power identification and training system, want it to be.”

This is a breaking news story; please check back for updates.

Sports Editor Lizzie Karpen can be contacted at elizabeth.karpen@columbiaspectator.com. Follow her on Twitter @LizzieKarpen.

Columbia University Marching Band CUMB Columbia Athletics Disband Disband the band marching band
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