Billing itself as “the cleverest band in the world,” the Columbia University Marching Band became infamous during its 116-year history for its penchant for pranks, irreverent performances, and colorful covers of popular songs.
The so-called “scramble band” also had a predictably antagonistic relationship with the school's administration. Still, this year performers came under fire for a different reason: In a statement on their Facebook page, the band admits they've faced numerous allegations of “sexual misconduct, assault, theft, racism, and injury to individuals and the Columbia community as a whole.”
According to anonymous reports, the complaints included band members using a Native American war cry during a performance, lewd behavior, binge drinking, sexual harassment, and non-consensual sex. In response to these allegations, the band apologized to the university and the community and dissolved itself as of mid-September.
What the Band's Decision Means for Students
The band's decision to shut itself down offers a powerful example of one appropriate response to allegations of sexual misconduct and other inappropriate behavior. As students and school organizations face heightened scrutiny for all types of misconduct, the Columbia University Marching Band could emerge as leaders in national efforts to reexamine and reform cultural institutions rooted in racism and sexism.
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.”
While the band has indicated it will issue more thorough and specific statements regarding the allegations in the coming weeks, it is not yet clear whether any individual members will face more serious charges related to sexual misconduct.
How Sexual Misconduct Laws Have Changed
In early May, the United States Department of Education announced new rules regarding sexual misconduct in colleges and universities that require live cross-examination, alter the definition of sexual harassment, and narrow the scope of complaints that schools can consider.
According to the original text of Title IX, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” The policy did not mention sexual harassment or sexual assault.
But based on various interpretations of the law over the years, sexual misconduct in all of its forms – sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape – became considered gender-based discrimination. This required federally funded schools to investigate complaints of sexual misconduct and conduct hearings to find out whether an alleged perpetrator was guilty.
Why You Need a College Sexual Misconduct Advisor
The Department of Education requires universities to investigate all forms of sexual misconduct to ensure students can pursue an education free of discrimination. In many sexual misconduct cases, Title IX will no longer apply, but students still need a lawyer to protect their rights.
If you attend a college or university and have been accused of sexual misconduct, contact skilled sexual misconduct advisor and legal professional Joseph D. Lento today for assistance by calling 888-535-3686.