Stanford marching band, suspended, to appeal decision

Charged with violating policies, band is put on hiatus, faces loss of student authority

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.


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18 people like this
Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 12, 2016 at 11:15 am

I find that the Stanford Band has more often been an embarrassment than an asset. And the culture, sadly, has also infected local high schools. My children played band instruments in high school, but the Gunn and Paly marching bands [portion removed] tried to emulate the 'big kids' across the street or down Foothill Expressway.

14 people like this
Posted by DENNIS
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 12, 2016 at 11:48 am

I totally agree with the previous comment. Back in the early Seventies the band may have been avantgarde but its look, behaviour, and premise have been way overworked to the point of being a liability and embarrassment to the number one sports and academic university in the world. The Stanford band needs a one hundred percent makeover that should start with the inept administration of the band. Just look at the wonderful bands in the Rose Bowl parade with their color guards, beautiful and colorful uniforms, etc., bands that make their school proud. Without a doubt the present band is a joke, the worst in the nation, and a terrible role model. Take for example the USC marching band with their great uniforms, discipline, and their majestic horse and rider. That is the kind of band we need here at Stanford. Get rid of the present band NOW, and make it one that we can be proud of; and that means getting rid of the dancing tree also and creating a new leader for the new band that would show the world that not only does Palo Alto have the best university in the world, we also have the best band.

16 people like this
Posted by Seventies Redux
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Back in the Seventies, many colleges suspended fraternities for YEARS because they had gotten so out of control with drinking, drug use, sexual assaults and other troublemaking-- including off campus in downtownPali Alto.

The Stanford Band is quite tame compared to what the fraternities do every weekend and even during the week.

It's high time to rein in the fraternities again, before harassing the band!

17 people like this
Posted by cm
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2016 at 12:17 pm

It's about time that Stanford finally got rid of that ridiculous excuse for a band. They have been denying talented musicians that might want to be in a real band the opportunity to express themselves for decades. [Portion removed.] Let's see if Stanford can actually field a real band that musically and behaviorally lives up to at least a minimal standard and if not just kill the entire program.

16 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 12, 2016 at 12:19 pm

I love it when non-alumni state they want a band like the USC one. They don't realize that the University does not want this type of band. Stanford is not USC (thank goodness)

23 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2016 at 12:49 pm

I am an alumni of Stanford, graduated in 1972. I say get rid of that sad excuse of a band. It seemed to be cool, when cool was the thing back then, but it is arthritic now. Bring in an adult, like Arthur Barnes to lead the way. He at least provided some dignity when the band played the National Anthem.

4 people like this
Posted by fd
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2016 at 12:57 pm

[Post removed.]

25 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2016 at 12:58 pm

We Love the irreverent Stanford Band! My husband attended Stanford and we have tailgated at every home game for years. The Stanford band greatly adds to the Joy of the football games. Of course, they need to make some changes as directed, but please appreciate how unique and Special they are. Fear the Tree!

Like this comment
Posted by Not a Stanford Alum
a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2016 at 1:12 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by bobby
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 12, 2016 at 1:41 pm

[Post removed.]

14 people like this
Posted by AddisonJordanPaly'83
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 12, 2016 at 2:47 pm

Wow! Such animosity.
We love the band and all its wonderful character. So many great memories of hanging out after games on the sunny side to soak up the rays and good vibes from the band and its music. Let them remain unique and the very best at what they do!

17 people like this
Posted by lrock
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 12, 2016 at 3:17 pm

lrock is a registered user.

Yes, the Band's act has gotten old and kind of forced. But saying that Stanford should somehow channel Ohio State or USC? Please. The Band is the anti-band. Sure, rein them in a little. But come on, Stanford, lighten up!

7 people like this
Posted by DENNIS
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 13, 2016 at 12:50 am

Listen, to all of you responders that would be even more amused if the band ran around in pjs and played endless renditions of "All right now," Bands are big business and many high school students would love to be part of a real band such as they have at Mountain View High School. Their are big competitions, and money for the schools, in events throughout the country. To those that poo poo the marching bands at other major universities, I wonder what they think when they see those wonderful bands marching in the Rose Bowl and other parades. A major marching band at Stanford would also help to fill empty seats at football games and even at the bottom line I wonder how many alumni have withheld giving money to the school for a band that is worse than even the worst middle school band. Remember, it is supposed to be a Marching Band that represents their school at athletic and other events.You watch, the tide has turned and the "band," will be given back to the control of the administration. [Portion removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Max
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 13, 2016 at 6:19 am

[Post removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by betsy
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 13, 2016 at 11:19 am

Dennis, cm, mutt
Why do people who don't have a connection to Stanford other than watching theirfootball team have such opinions.
[Portion removed.]
We like the band as it is.

13 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 13, 2016 at 12:58 pm

There is a difference between being "irreverent" and simply being "petulant." Can anyone -- outside of band members -- even remember a song that the Stanford band has performed during the last decade?

The marching band's mission should be to represent the school rather than to represent the childish attempts to "push the envelope" or singularly endeavoring to be "different" for the sole reason of being "different."

The band can still be unique, fun and even "irreverent" without being selfish, over-the-top offensive or even cringe-worthy.

5 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 13, 2016 at 1:11 pm

@betsy - You wrote: "We don't really care what you think. Perhaps that is why you did not get into Stanford. We like the band as it is."

Is that really the best attitude to have in this case? It seems somewhat condescending and even pretentious.

When were you admitted into Stanford? The competition to gain acceptance into Stanford has increased quite a bit over the last decade. It now boasts the lowest acceptance rate out of all of the top tier schools in this country. If you were accepted more than eight years ago, then there is a good chance that you might not have been admitted either.

Now, I freely admit that I didn't go to Stanford. I didn't even apply (despite graduating near the top of my high school class) because I didn't know much about the school or opportunities to help fund a costly education at such an elite institution. If I did apply, I think that I would have had a good chance of being accepted by the school.

In fact, my sister recently graduated from Stanford. She -- like many Stanford friends of ours -- just roll their eyes when it comes to some of the band's antics. It's certainly a part of the Stanford culture, but it is an always-evolving culture.

The point isn't that the Stanford Marching Band has to change EVERYTHING. Rather, they simply need a bit of guidance to help them avoid some of the bad decisions that they've made over the last few years.

13 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2016 at 1:17 pm

I don't care about the Stanford "marching" band, but they sure are self-centered, childish. Gee, I wonder why? (read some of the above comments from alumni (plural, incidentally...not "an alumni") Sheesh.

30 people like this
Posted by LSJU79
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Many high schools, colleges, and universities celebrate their athletic achievements by hanging banners in their gymnasiums which list the years of championships and other notable achievements. A couple of years ago the athletic department quietly removed all of the banners hanging in Maples Pavilion as a concession to Mr. Arrilliga whose sense of aesthetics and/or order were offended by the banners.

I suspect the band's disorderly appearance does not comport with Mr. Arrilliga's small-minded sense of aesthetics and is at odds with his vision for the El Camino side of campus as some sort of athletics oriented Disneyland.

The all new and improved LSJUMB: Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Denise
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Wow, what a lot of uptight and gleefully punitive Haters posting here. Gotta say: I and a huge swatch of the Stanford Alumni and especially The Student Body LOVE THE STANFORD BAND, THE DANCING DOLLIES AND THE TREE. The moment the announcement came out HUNDREDS of students posted laments and protests -- many telling stories about how SEEING and EXPERIENCING a band rally on Admit Day made their minds up about coming to Stanford vs. Harvard or Yale or etc.

The band is Stanford Campus' equivalent of Saturday Night Live: irreverent, poking political or social satire when things need a bit of deflating or just being wacky in a place where students toil under relentless pressures and competition. It's a breath of exuberant fresh-mouthed air!

Like all comedians of any note or worth -- they walk the line -- and sometimes go over. But it is always in the spirit of good fun and wacky wiles. (I cannot say the same for the vitriol spilled here!)

The Band has worked HARD over the last few years to "clean up it's act", bring its social sensitivities up to date. The "pitcher of beer" noted by the hard ass, humorless Admin review? Was a group of of-age, adult, alumni (not current students!) celebrating someone's farewell party. And THAT kind of over-the-top judgement and harassment is the RULE.

The Stanford Band, the Dollies and the Tree were by far my FAVORITE experience at Stanford. And I am not alone -- the stands around the band stay full of folks rocking out and hooting with and for the band after every game (they are allowed to play.) When they weren't there the fans SANG "All Right Now" -- missing the band's presence.

This harsh, overkill is a travesty. The punishing-conservatism overtaking our country is scary. And I say, "Bring back the Stanford Band" the university NEED you for balance, for spirit, to celebrate diverse voices!

3 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2016 at 6:07 pm

Nayeli: I can think of at least 2 songs - "All right now" and "Hail Stanford Hail" that the LSJUMB plays at every game. The more the former gets played the better, especially when it is in lieu of that annoying USC musical fragment all Stanford fans despise. On the other hand, I freely admit that if they play any song written after about 1975, I might not recognize it...

9 people like this
Posted by betsy
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 14, 2016 at 10:17 am

I graduated two years ago and am now in Stanford Law.

My point is that the band does represent most of the students and alums - of course not all. But the vast majority don't want a USC or Big Ten type band. We like the irreverent antics. Most of the songs are from several years back as Dr Barnes arranged them. The unfortunate part is that the admin does not want another musical director such as him - the new babysitter won't even get an appt in the music dept.

Thus, we don't really care what you think. If you don't like it, then go to the bathroom during the half and don't cry with the anthem. But you will notice that there are lots that stay during half (and do their "thing" during the game) just to watch the band and stay after the game to dance with them.

7 people like this
Posted by Mongo
a resident of Addison School
on Dec 14, 2016 at 10:20 am

Were Stanford to encourage the kind of mind-numbing conformity represented by the USC band, there would BE no Silicon Valley. The frame of mind that enjoys partaking in 10-15 hours/week of marching drills is for drones, not leaders. (Indeed, perhaps one of the earlier posters here reflected that frame of mind on his application and thus found himself rejected.) Stanford culture is ALL about pushing the envelope, and non-conformity, and it is that culture that has driven innovation in Silicon Valley for decades. Granted, some of what the LSJUMB does no longer amounts to innovation, but discouraging innovation further is not the answer...the answer must be found by the students themselves through their own creativity.

3 people like this
Posted by Mongo
a resident of Addison School
on Dec 14, 2016 at 10:42 am

And, re. songs the Stanford Band regularly plays: Crazy Train, by Ozzy Osbourne; Welcome to Paradise, by Green Day; Livin' in the USA, by the Steve Miller Band; and Everybody's Everything, by the Steve Miller Band. Stick that in your USC tuba neck! " the only song we know...the only song we know..." If I were up on more recent popular music, I'm sure I'd be able to name more.

10 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2016 at 12:21 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

The message of the band is pretty clear - we get the irony - and really - so unique and clever! No wonder you got into Stanford.

Here's the problem with the irony / cleverness argument about the Stanford band. Most of us learn in middle school that being smart and clever is not enough. If you think marching bands are so dumb, sit down, satisfied with the knowledge that you're better than everyone else.

But lots of people care. And it's insulting for this pack of clowns to mock everyone else.

As a Cal grad I am biased, but I don't think I'm wrong. Think of it this way - lots of people think competitive sports is stupid and pointless. What would the reception be if Stanford sent a team of similarly idiotic "football" players to mock the whole concept of sports? You know, they didn't play seriously, they let the other team win, they made the whole thing a joke. Is that the Stanford "culture?" (Actually I think it is, and that's the problem with Stanford, but that's a discussion for another day.)

9 people like this
Posted by Embarrassed
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 14, 2016 at 2:15 pm

What an embarrassment -- it's ironic that this band represents Stanford University. Their parodies on the field are disgraceful and offensive. Most Stanford alum I've been around can't even watch them. It's amazing the things they are allowed to get away with, especially at the expense of the opposing team. Watching them try to parody the USC band this year was a joke. Only the joke was on them. They have no class and sadly, that reflects on Stanford as well.

3 people like this
Posted by Mongo
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 14, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Look...I don't mean to denigrate. The Cal band is very good at what it does. The USC band is very good at what it does. (It ought to does it over...and over...and over again.) We really don't need any more bands like those. As an earlier poster pointed out, with its smaller undergraduate base (and bearing in mind that USC is rumored to hire musicians to fill out its ranks) Stanford probably could not field a band at all if it required the number of hours of mindless rote practice it takes to perfect those disappearing diamonds. But I stand by my contention that Stanford is not looking to foster a mindset that takes comfort in rote memorization.

Like this comment
Posted by Mongo
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 14, 2016 at 4:12 pm

BTW, I also attended Cal, for grad school. By my observation, despite its reputation as a counterculture bastion, there is a whole lot of "group think" going on on that campus, particularly in the very large Greek system, and its band is an extension of that. That is the very type of educational culture that Stanford actively discourages, and ITS band has been an extension of THAT...until now. You can call it elitist if you want; certainly in the minds of most of us who went there, that kind of different is better. But you know what they say about opinions...

6 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2016 at 9:27 am

They are an old joke that was not that funny in the first place. Insulting people and being politically incorrect should be reserved for idiots in bars or at family holiday parties, not a fun football game.

Like this comment
Posted by betsy
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 15, 2016 at 12:17 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Not a Stanford Alum
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2016 at 1:18 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

7 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 16, 2016 at 1:17 am

From what I've read in this thread, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect over what the punishment is for versus the band's preferred style of entertainment.

My personal opinion is that the band is not as funny or original as it was 20 years ago. And while I appreciate their allegiance to many charts from the 70's, they have picked a few current tunes here and there. But what has really changed is after Dr. Barnes left the band, the musicianship has steadily dropped. By that I'm talking about some simple tasks such as tuning their instruments or playing at varying volumes as an arrangement requires. And even though the undergrad population has nearly double from 40 years ago, the band is not nearly as big as it was in the late 70's (around 180 on the less than half of that).

Like it or not however, the band represents the university. As such, they are going to be held to a higher standard than a fraternity. The band is seen on television at athletic events and/or other "official" events such as the Rose Parade. So,while their "zany" performances may amuse many people, they cannot forget that they represent their school...just like their football team. As representatives of their school, Stanford athletes are also held to higher standard compared to other student organizations. I think the Stanford admins have been more than lenient over the years. For example, the band had performance within the last couple of years, but the admin did relent to allow band to,travel to Cal and also to,the Rose Bowl.

So perhaps instead of complaining about finally being held accountable for their actions, the band may want to think about more than themselves and appreciate that their behavior (good or bad) has an impact on the reputation of the university that they represent.

Like this comment
Posted by jr
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 16, 2016 at 3:38 pm

I agree with alot of your comments. Esp about the music and post Barnes. Unfortunately the athletic dept does not want the new director to have a posting to the music dept or be a musician of the caliber of Barnes - they want a baby sitter.

As for representing Stanford, you need to look at all the letters from undergrads as to why they picked Stanford. For a majority, they state the band playing when they visited

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

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