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Massive media coverage gets banned Columbia band back in the game

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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Never underestimate the power of the media. A day after every national media outlet — including this one — reported on Columbia University's decision to ban the marching band from the Lions' final home game for making fun of its 0-9 football team, the decision has been reversed. From the Columbia Spectator:

"We have reconsidered our decision regarding the Columbia Band's performance at this Saturday's last game," athletic director M. Dianne Murphy said. "We are proud of our talented and dedicated student-athletes—but as we have discussed this issue over the past day, we come to the conclusion that the core free speech values of the University are best served by providing a forum both for speech that might sometimes offend—as well as for the kind of open discussion that ultimately leads to greater understanding and collegiality among all members of our community."

How's that for succumbing to the national pressure?

Two days ago, the Columbia University athletic department told the band it would not be allowed to perform at the Brown game after the band altered the words of the alma mater, "Roar, Lion, Roar" to explicitly make fun of its lowly football team. The band sang the new words, which included, "We always lose, lose, lose; by a lot, and sometimes by a little" as the team walked by them following a 62-41 loss to Cornell. {YSP:MORE}

News of the school's penalty—imposed in reaction to the alternative lyrics to the school fight song the band sang as the Lions (0-9, 0-6 Ivy) exited the field following their loss to Cornell—provoked polarized reactions. It sparked sharp criticism of the athletic department for its censorship, but also seemed to provide an opportunity for some to express long-brewing resentment of the raucous student group.

Parents complained about the band's overbearing and sophomoric antics, while some CC alums threatened to withhold donations unless the decision was reversed. Meanwhile, the band maintained a conciliatory and apologetic public tone.

"I think they're trying to be fair, in the context of the situation. If you're not willing to be a part of the program, there are consequences," outgoing band manager José Delgado said Thursday after being informed of the ban. "We did not act in the way we want to act, and those are the consequences."

The game against Brown traditionally signifies the changing of the guard for the band's leadership. Prior to this decision, that ceremony was going to be held during the evening basketball game.

If Columbia loses Saturday, it will mark its first winless season since the Lions lost 44 straight from 1983-88. In 1985, the band played the Mickey Mouse Club theme when the team came on the field.

"The band is grateful to have been told this evening that the athletic department will allow us to attend the football game this Saturday against Brown," the Columbia University Marching Band said in a statement sent to the Columbia Spectator. "We look forward to honoring the senior class—both on the football team and in the band—and cheering the Columbia Lions on to victory."

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Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham.

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