Suspension provides opportunity to enact positive change
It was announced that the California Aggie Marching Band, also known as Band-Uh!, had been placed on interim suspension on May 29 pending the completion of an independent investigation by the Sacramento law firm Van Dermyden Maddux into allegations of hazing, binge drinking and sexual assault. The decision was made after a pair of articles were published — one by The California Aggie in April and the other by The Sacramento Bee earlier this month — that reported on the band’s alleged inappropriate and dangerous culture.
While the band’s suspension should come as welcome news to the UC Davis campus community as it addresses the damaging actions of one of the university’s most highly-touted programs, it’s also frustrating that it took a wave of negative media attention for the university’s administration to respond with adequate action. The band and its alumni association’s history of questionable conduct has been well-documented. While several different forms of punishment have been administered over the years, none have seemed to put an end to the band’s most pressing issues.
The recent reports and subsequent suspension also raise concern regarding how closely the university actually oversees the band’s operations. It took testimonies bravely given by several current and former band members to independent news outlets, rather than internal UC Davis channels, to elicit a response from the university.
Now that the university has temporarily put a halt on all band-related activities, it’s time for administrators and high-ranking members of the Band-Uh! to support those affected by the alleged misconduct and make concrete changes to the band’s culture once and for all. Band members tormented by forced binge drinking, constant humiliation or sexual misconduct and violence deserve to have their stories heard, acknowledged and taken seriously by the university.
Above all, the band’s offensive “traditions” that have caused so many UC Davis students, past and present, to suffer emotional and physical trauma, must end immediately — not be “phased out” only to reappear down the line. The band cannot be exempt from the rules and regulations that work to ensure the safety and well-being of the UC Davis student body. It must be held accountable for its actions.
As is the case for most other college campuses, a marching band is an integral piece of each university’s history, school spirit and overall culture. Losing the Band-Uh! — even temporarily — is certainly an enormous blow to the UC Davis community and to the reputation that the university has built for itself as one of the top-ranked public schools in the nation. But make no mistake: Allowing the band’s culture to continue and spread unmonitored would leave a larger stain on UC Davis’ reputation than temporarily banning its existence.
For its members, Band-Uh! should be about playing music, spreading school spirit and building meaningful friendships with fellow members, not degrading others or perpetuating hyper-sexualized “traditions.” It’s regrettable that many members of the band — who love it for what it’s meant to be loved for — are being robbed of the positive moments they were planning on experiencing. It’s the Editorial Board’s sincere hope that the current suspension and investigation will lead to sweeping and lasting changes to the band so that those affected by its past behavior may find healing, and that future generations of Aggies will be able to enjoy all of the band’s good qualities without fear of suffering unnecessary harm.
Written by: The Editorial Board