Is the “self canceling” of the Columbia University Marching Band a big joke?

September 17, 2020 • 1:15 pm

The Columbia University Marching Band (CUMB) is a group of latter-day Merry Pranksters, always up to hijinks, often with behavior so irritating to the University administration that the band isn’t allowed to perform at sports events. Read the sections on “Miscellaneous instruments” and “Controversies” on the Band’s Wikipedia page.  Here’s one:

  • After being allowed to play at Fordham in 2012 following their ten-year ban, the band made posters referencing the death of Christians at the hands of lions in the Bible. For this they were banned again for an unspecified period of time.

Their latest controversy is cancelling themselves. In a Facebook announcement (below), they admitted to all kinds of misdeeds and then “unanimously and enthusiastically decided to dissolve”. Read and laugh. This is, as Brian Leiter believes (I’m with him) an act of trolling—a spoof of wokeness that is so accurate that it’s taken seriously. I may, of course, be wrong, but the language is way over the top:


But, as Brian notes, the New York Times (and the Columbia University Administration) bought it—hook, line, and sinker. Here’s the article:

An excerpt. The antagonistic relationship between the band and the university administration should have alerted the Times!

The band had an antagonistic relationship with the administration, which banned it from football games last year and tried to stamp out its mischievous tradition of bursting into a campus library each semester to entertain stressed-out students on the eve of finals.

But the latest news from the band was more startling. Its board announced on Monday that after 116 years of performing it was disbanding, citing “a history riddled with offensive behavior.”

The behavior did not pertain to its ongoing lampooning of university policies and officials but more serious self-levied charges — posted in a statement on the band’s Facebook page — that the band had long been rife with “sexual misconduct, assault, theft, racism and injury to individuals and the Columbia community as a whole.”

The decision highlights the intense atmosphere on college campuses across the country as students scrutinize behavior and incidents that might have attracted less attention in the past. But it also touched off a backlash from alumni of the marching band, who disputed claims that it engaged in actions that were offensive to people of color or women.

In a statement, Columbia University officials said, “We respect efforts of the band’s student leadership to address in a serious manner recent reports of offensive and unacceptable conduct entirely at odds with the values of our university.”

The band’s statement did not provide any details of specific episodes. Instead, it described a virtual meeting held on Saturday among more than 20 band members “to discuss numerous anonymous postings and allegations of” misconduct.

After that discussion, the band decided “unanimously and enthusiastically” to dissolve itself, the statement said.

Now this “confession” and dissolving may be real. Or, it may be bogus and leave the NYT with egg on its face, in which case they’ll have to retract their article. I hope it’s the latter, as I want to see the paper admit they were taken in but not admit that they couldn’t discern possible satire. Stay tuned.

Here’s that ragtag band of misfits: Homecoming 2014:

h/t: Greg

21 thoughts on “Is the “self canceling” of the Columbia University Marching Band a big joke?

  1. So there’s an obvious opportunity here for the band to rename itself something ridiculous as the “new spirit group”.

    This one’s pretty tame, but might I suggest the “Contemporary Unbigoted Columbia University Marching Band”, so that they can call themselves CUCUMBers?

    1. “Are you the Columbia University Marching Band?”

      “F*** you! We’re the Marching Band of Columbia University!”

  2. On the Columbia Marching Band post – of course it is a joke. That’s why the group exists: to make jokes. As an alumnus of Columbia (class of ’69, which might indicate a basic mindset totally aligned with the utility of protest by ridicule) I was cheered immensly by reading of their latest action. If the NYT really bought into it … well, I might have to start agreeing with you on the deterioration of the paper as journalism.

  3. Yes, this seems very odd. I hadn’t thought of the possibility that it might be a joke or a hoax of some kind. That would make more sense. Besides, can the band dissolve itself? Isn’t it a University organization? The members could all resign, but I doubt they could really disband.

      1. I can play the bagpipes, and simultaneously a small accordion with my bare feet. Marching properly could be problematic. Where’s the application form?

      1. I doubt it – almost the entire cello repertoire was written by dead white dudes whose patrons probably failed to denounce slavery and certainly never spoke out against transphobia. ;o)

  4. I witnessed the irreverence of the Columbia Marching Band first hand as a member of the Rutgers Marching 100 back in 1970 or so. The 20 or so members of the Columbia Band ran out on the field with a bass fiddle, an alpine horn with the lower end on wheels and an assortment of other more traditional instruments.

    I don’t remember what they played, but the halftime show was about birth control (or more correctly its absence) as they used the alpine horn as a phallus symbol, and someone ran from the end of it on the field with a white sheet (simulating you know what).

    As an 18 year old, I thought it was both funny and disgusting (I just thought that’s what they do at Ivy League schools). Our administration was not amused – they forever banned them from future appearances at Rutgers.

  5. The Columbia Marching Band’s statement was priceless, and so, more and more, is the NYT. I would be pleased to join the now extinct marching band in spirit, playing my own extinct, capped double reed instrument, the rauschpfeife. I last performed on it at a wake, in an experiment to find out if it could wake the dead. The instrument went extinct in the 17th century, and to hear me play it is to know why it went extinct.

  6. I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t also confess to horse theft, cheating at poker using marked cards, coveting their neighbour’s ox, cavorting wantonly on the sabbath, and untruthfully claiming that tge dog ate their homework…

    1. “coveting their neighbour’s ox”

      If I was Catholic, I’d probably need to say 10,000 Hail Marys for the number of times I’ve done this! Why do all my neighbors always have such great oxen? No matter where I move, there are at least two more neighbors with at least five more oxen for me to covet. But I guess God is always testing us.

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