Stanford administration suspends student-run marching band

Citing policy violations, officials place group on hiatus until end of June, plan to bring on professional music director

The famously boundary-pushing Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band has been suspended for the rest of the academic year, Stanford administrators announced Dec. 9 -- a decision that has sparked an outcry from current and former band members, students and alumni.

In addition to the enforced hiatus, the irreverent student-run organization will be revamped and placed under the leadership of a professional music director, who will be responsible for the group's membership and operations, stated a letter to the band from Greg Boardman, vice provost of student affairs.

The move, Boardman said, stemmed from what he called the band's repeated violations of university policy and a failure of the group to reform its culture.

The irrepressible band has long been under scrutiny from the administration, but in May 2015, it "was found responsible for a number of violations of university alcohol, Title IX and organizational conduct policies," the university's announcement of the suspension noted. "Over the last 18 months it has been operating under an alcohol suspension, a travel ban and a requirement that the band make a series of reforms to improve its culture.

Following a recent investigation, the university's Organization Conduct Board on Dec. 1 said that it had found fresh violations.

"We are deeply troubled by the fact that (the) band has not yet fulfilled the requirements set forth in the May 2015 outcome letter," the board's hearing report stated. "This leaves us feeling that the outstanding issues have not been taken seriously by the band or its leadership and that nothing more will be accomplished without extreme consequences."

"We do not feel that the current leadership or membership is capable of creating the necessary cultural change," the board wrote. "We feel there is a total lack of accountability and responsibility in the current organization."

While the conduct panel recommended a suspension of the band through the end of the 2017-18 academic year, Boardman shortened that penalty, citing his belief that the band would have difficulty reassembling after such a long hiatus. In addition, his letter stated, the punishment would affect new and future band members as well as the campus community as a whole.

Leadership of the band using a professional music director is not a new idea: 30 years ago the band had a "collaborative" leadership model of students and music director Art Barnes, Boardman said in his letter to the band.

Backlash against the university announcement on Friday was immediate, with some students online criticizing what they called the university's "hypocrisy and authoritarian perspective" and "nanny state."

The editorial board of the Stanford Review chastised the administration for making a decision that it said completely overlooked reforms band members have instituted in the past two years.

"The university's punishment is clearly unfair," the editorial board wrote. "The band has clearly done more than most student organizations to reform its ways and to comply with university policy.

"As has been true for the past two years, Stanford's treatment of the band is both unnecessarily punitive and inconsistent with that of other student groups," the editorial board said.

Sam Weyen, the Stanford Tree, told the Review staff, "The band is being held to a standard to which no other organization has ever had to comply."

Among the violations the band has been charged with, the editorial stated, were "buying pitchers at Treehouse, showing up drunk to rollouts, and violating a travel ban by using band funds to rent a cabin at Lake Tahoe.

However, "band members have disputed all of these claims to the Review," it stated.

The editorial board argued for the value that the wacky, creative band has brought to the university.

"The Leland Stanford Marching Band is one of the few traditions left that unites an increasingly disparate student body in a celebration of idiosyncratic culture. The university could have pursued a more moderate course of action, but instead chose to make the band a political scapegoat," the editorial board wrote.

Plenty current and former band members took to social media to denounce the university's decision.

"If you weren't accepted into Stanford today, don't worry about it. Take your energy somewhere else. Somewhere that still values irreverence, vitality, and the importance of criticism and self-expression. Somewhere where Big Brother hasn't been yet," wrote one sophomore band member.

As part of the suspension, band members cannot access the Band Shak or band funds and no longer have the rights and privileges afforded band members.

The band can appeal the sanctions to Provost John Etchemendy; members have until Jan. 23 to do so.

VIDEO: Watch a "First Person" video interview with the Stanford Tree from 2012, hosted by Lisa Van Dusen.


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23 people like this
Posted by stanford band lover
a resident of Mayfield
on Dec 10, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Isn't it the tradition that the Stanford band be wild and rambunctious? Everyone loves them. They bring so much joy to the game. Don't kill their spirit. The rest of Palo Alto is changing so fast and becoming so uptight...please don't take away the fun and lighthearted Stanford band from us too.

17 people like this
Posted by Scapegoat
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 10, 2016 at 1:33 pm

This is clearly a attempt to distract attention from the recent stories involving sexual attacks against female students and violations of Title XI . The band makes a convenient scapegoat

16 people like this
Posted by Alum
a resident of Los Altos
on Dec 10, 2016 at 1:48 pm

I've noticed real change in the band this year. For example, at a recent tailgate a band member who stopped by was repeatedly offered hard alcohol by the tailgate host (who is 50 years old and should have known better). The band member politely but firmly declined to even have a sip "because I'm in band today." Also, I know several non-partying upperclassmen who joined the band this year because of the changed culture. I wish the administration had affirmed these positive changes, because the band is such a big part of Stanford's school spirit.

15 people like this
Posted by Srsly??
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2016 at 1:57 pm

This is getting to be an annual thing!

Picking on the band is an obvious attempt to detract from the REAL issues on campus the past several years!

6 people like this
Posted by Not a Stanford Alum
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 10, 2016 at 2:15 pm

The comments above truly show why the "graduates" of Stanfurd will never get it...

But I guess when you live in that kind of bubble, that shouldn't come as a surprise.

8 people like this
Posted by allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 10, 2016 at 3:08 pm

I can't recall, did they suspend the swim team?

10 people like this
Posted by allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 10, 2016 at 3:59 pm

I just heard that the drinking violation was too many band members went out to dinner and had beer (legally). But as it was more than 5 people, it was considered a band meeting. I hope the band is successful on appeal as they really are an important part of Stanford.

On a side note, I wonder how long the professional band leader will last...

23 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 10, 2016 at 4:53 pm

I am so tired of the Stanford Band, not because they get drunk, etc., but because they are ridiculous and uninteresting. Their act is way too old and tiresome and they lack any semblance of musical talent. Don't ban them because they get drunk, ban them because they are too lousy, too often.

15 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Classic Stanford. Easy to pick on the nerdy band kids, without deep pocketed alumni or lucrative TV contracts. While the toxic masculinity of some athletic teams and fraternities is simply ignored. Interesting timing too. Did Stanford release the story to distract the media from the more important story earlier this week: accusations they paid victims of sexual assault to silence them?

10 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 10, 2016 at 9:15 pm

"The move, Boardman said, stemmed from what he called the band's repeated violations of university policy and a failure of the group to reform its culture."

This is laughable. Substitute "fraternity" for "band", and where is the disciplinary action there?

5 people like this
Posted by Bandfan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 10, 2016 at 10:03 pm

Political correctness gone wild. And people wonder why Trump won.

8 people like this
Posted by Love and Kisses
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 11, 2016 at 11:42 am

The LSJUMB's act funny and amusing 45 years ago when I was a student.

But for the past 30 years, their act has been time tired, unoriginal, hackneyed, and at times embarrassing.

Time for them to crate a new shtick.

2 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto neighborhood
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 11, 2016 at 3:34 pm

To be honest, I don't need the band speakers during half time. The people I saw
in the audience like to meet their friends and weren't interested in following some

When you compare the music of Stanford Band to Oregon State,
the Stanford Band I thought was terrible. The trumpets from Oregon State could
be heard all over the stadium, and sounded great. They did have a lot of trumpets.

The cheerleaders have changed, more gymnastics, guy callers, and just more interesting
entertainment then what was a few years ago.

In my opinion the Stanford Band needs to make big changes and really make the music
something special.

8 people like this
Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 12, 2016 at 2:32 am

The Stanford Band is a bunch of entitled nerds trying to be cool since they weren't in high school, yet they are still outcasts. I'm not laughing with them, I'm laughing at them. The band is an embarrassment and should start marching in line like a band is supposed to.

2 people like this
Posted by willard stump
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2016 at 7:07 am

Sounds like super secret probation... about time. But they were the perfect example of spoiled children.

3 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 12, 2016 at 8:23 am

The Stanford band is a delightful group! The band and the dollies are very generous in participating in Palo alto events whenever asked and are the best public relations tool that the University has!

The hypocrisy is a joke...ever been to Frat row on a Sunday morning? red solo cups littering the grounds everywhere! why crack down on the band and ignore similar violations else where on campus including title IX ????

these are just kids letting out steam and being kids!

Do you think members of the USC Trojans band ( for instance ) with squeaky clean appearance don't drink and try to violate title IX?????

Ridiculous double standard..... FREE THE BAND

2 people like this
Posted by hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 12, 2016 at 8:35 am

Will the Band Shak be opened up so all of the borrowed signs can be picked up by their rightful owners?

2 people like this
Posted by bobby
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 12, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Not an alum

That is why you work for us

Eyes Rolling
Vida supra. Who says bands should march in a straight line

Jim and Willard
also vida supra

Palo Alto
Vida Supra. More people go to the restroom during the game and stay and watch the band

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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