The Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band is fighting a decision university administrators announced Friday afternoon that the group is suspended until June and, when reconstituted, will no longer be led by students.
In a press release Sunday night, the band said that it will appeal the decision, which university officials stated was made in response to the band's repeated violations of university policy and a failure of the group to reform its culture.
"The suspension jeopardizes the vitality and viability of the organization," the band wrote.
Further, the suspension "threatens the integrity of one of Stanford's few remaining independent student organizations -- and with it the values of free expression and irreverence, which we believe are vital to a healthy university culture."
The famously boundary-pushing group also went on the offensive in its statement, accusing administrators of valuing instead "a lucrative brand, a well-manicured image and administrative expedience."
The band has long been under scrutiny by the administration, but in May 2015, it was placed under several restrictions after the group was found to have violated university alcohol, Title IX and organizational-conduct policies, according to the university's announcement of the suspension.
A fresh investigation into the band by the university's Organization Conduct Board allegedly found new violations: band members showing up drunk to band rollouts, drinking pitchers of beer at campus restaurant The Treehouse and using band funds to travel to a rented cabin at Lake Tahoe, in violation of a travel ban.
"This leaves us feeling that the outstanding issues have not been taken seriously by the band or its leadership," the board's hearing report stated, "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."
The band, while not disputing earlier transgressions, denied the Treehouse alcohol violation and noted members have taken great strides to meet the university's expectations.
"We have held hundreds of hours of trainings and discussion, explicitly formulated our values, restructured selection processes for band roles, evaluated and made appropriate changes to our traditions, and rewritten our founding documents to reflect the present cultural attitudes within the organization," they wrote. "The work has resulted in genuine and substantial progress in creating a band that better mirrors the organization we want to be."
The band also argued that the unique, nonconformist spirit it brings to the student body is invaluable.
"It is a place where self-expression is not only accepted but encouraged. ... Band offers a powerful and exuberant counterweight that reminds students that life ought to be enjoyed," members wrote, adding that students of disparate backgrounds are able to unite in the band.
Vice Provost of Student Affairs Greg Boardman, in his Dec. 9 letter to the band informing them of the university's decision, didn't deny the unique character of the band and place it holds in the hearts of students and alumni.
"The Stanford Band has been a beloved component of Stanford culture since the early 1960s, when it traded its military uniforms and precision marches for cardinal red blazers and an irrepressible, exuberant style," he wrote. "It plays a joyful role in many campus traditions. On the field, it is recognized as a prominent symbol of Stanford University, and in this role, has been alternately a source of pride as well as consternation for students and alumni alike."
While the band pushed back against the idea of restructuring, the university's decision to bring in a professional music director to lead the band is not a new idea: 30 years ago, the band had a "collaborative" leadership model of students and music director Art Barnes, according to Boardman's letter.
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.
On Saturday, hundreds of students rallied on campus to show support for the band, the Stanford Daily reported.
The band has until Jan. 23 to appeal the sanctions to Provost John Etchemendy, which members say they will do. In addition, they said they hope "this situation can be resolved with clear and open dialogue that both understands the organization's progress and preserves the organization's fundamental character and structure."
In signing off, the band asked rhetorically: "The funkless still need funk, and who else will bring it?"
VIDEO: Watch a "First Person" video interview with the Stanford Tree from 2012, hosted by Lisa Van Dusen.