Sexual misconduct, bullying, retaliation, hazing revealed in Band-Uh! investigation reports

Sexual misconduct, bullying, retaliation, hazing revealed in Band-Uh! investigation reports

Photo Credits: JUSTIN HAN / AGGIE

Documents released after Band-Uh! investigation shine light on the former organization’s practices, environment

Details included as part of a climate survey report into the organization formerly known as the Cal Aggie Marching Band authored by the independent law firm, Van Dermyden Maddux, have now publicly emerged, bringing to light student concerns about certain behaviors, traditions and activities that had a negative impact on their experiences in the campus organization. 

The announcement of the university’s decision to discontinue the student-led Cal Aggie Marching Band, also known as Band-Uh!, on Sept. 3 followed a tumultuous spring for Band-Uh!, when allegations of hazing, sexual harassment and sexual assault first came to light in The California Aggie this past April. 

While 85% of respondents to the climate survey report published by Van Dermyden Maddux report that they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their overall experience in the band, survey results also echoed the same student concerns regarding worrisome traditions and behaviors in the band previously reported upon. 

Individual interviews, which students volunteered to partake in, were also conducted. These interviews plus the results of the survey were taken into account in the university’s decision to disband Band-Uh!.

Overall, the survey found that the “most complaints and least satisfaction” came from members who had participated in Band-Uh! during the 2016-17 school year. Female respondents tended to be more concerned about “hazing, bullying, and alcohol off-campus,” while male respondents tended to be concerned about “sexual misconduct and alumni interactions.” Of the female respondents, 82.75% were satisfied or very satisfied with their band experience, while 90.37% of the male respondents were satisfied or very satisfied. 

When asked what they liked about the band, respondents stressed the sense of camaraderie, family and community it provided. Their greatest challenges, meanwhile, were “overwhelmingly” related to time management and interpersonal conflict.

Some of the most potent allegations implicated the Cal Aggie Marching Band Alumni Association. Indeed, when asked about their concerns regarding Band-Uh! in the climate survey report, 41.92% of the 167 respondents cited alumni conduct as their greatest concern. The alumni band was suspended in December 2018 and the university has now severed its relationship with it due to longstanding concerns about the behavior of certain alumni at band-related events. 

 “While we recognize that the concerns regarding the alumni band are not reflective of the entire membership, we feel this step is necessary to provide the greatest opportunity for the student band to rebuild as a new and independent program,” the university’s statement said. 

According to the law firm’s report, three individuals filed sexual harassment complaints against members of the alumni band following Homecoming 2018. The university’s Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Program (HDAPP) soon learned that one alumnus was responsible for two of the three reported incidents and permanently banned the individual from participating in alumni band activities. 

“Alumni were almost always present at band parties, and it was common [for] male alumni [to] make advances on female freshman [Band-Uh!] members who were inebriated,” one respondent said. “I don’t know if [there were] instances where there was assault, but it did make me feel uncomfortable.” 

Other responses echoed this feeling of unease around older alumni, who allegedly made inappropriate sexual comments and criticized the way that Band-Uh! was functioning in comparison to the past. 

Further student concerns included ineffective leadership, incivility and interpersonal conflict, sexual misconduct, bullying and retaliation, alcohol consumption and hazing. 

The report noted that Band-Uh! was entering “its fifth consecutive year of staff turnover in the position of Director and Coordinator, its only staff positions,” which could potentially have created a “leadership vacuum” that contributed to complaints of ineffective leadership. Students in leadership roles sometimes had other coveted positions in the band, per unique traditions, and played a part in pursuing controversial activities. 

“Specifically, the strong seniority hierarchy meant that older and more prominent members of the band were seldom challenged publicly for their inappropriate behavior,”  one respondent wrote. “Because we knew these ‘bondings’ couldn’t be affiliated with the official [Band-uh!] there was also a lot of pressure to not tell university staff about what happens on off-band time—including incidents of sexual misconduct or hazing.” 

Forty participants shared concerns about the alleged sexual misconduct. Twenty-five of them had heard about the allegations via the news cycle regarding Band-Uh! and had not experienced the misconduct firsthand. 

One respondent said that they “love the band” but found the sexual misconduct “alarming.” 

 “I was laughed at when I was almost assaulted as an 18-year-old,” a respondent said. “Now that the band is suspended, they are angry at victims. Also, all parties were organized by men who would allow assaulters into events and protect them,” they added. “The leadership was bull s— and no one was safe. Partying is natural [in] college but assault should not be.”

While some respondents expressed concern about the amount of alcohol consumption and noted that the drinking culture was ubiquitous, one suggested that band members shouldn’t be punished for what they do on off-band time, especially if they are legally able to purchase alcohol. 

“Do people in the band represent the band and the university 24/7?,” the respondent asked. “Where the hell do you people draw the line??”

Thirty-one participants in the survey mentioned concerns about bullying and retaliation, while 26 expressed their anxiety about hazing. Meanwhile, of the 31 students who selected the “other” category when responding to the question about their concerns, 17 of them expressed worry about media bias against the organization, as well as “comments about leadership and tradition” being presented “without context.” 

In light of these survey results, university officials are now tasked with organizing a new marching band, officially named The UC Davis Marching Band (UCDMB). The university also revealed a six-point action plan for the UCDMB that includes revamping the band’s organizational structure, developing a new mission statement, instituting mandatory trainings for band members and rebranding band culture. 

The university’s statement maintains that student safety is of utmost importance.

“The safety of our students is the highest priority,” the statement said. “With the seriousness of the allegations, our goal throughout this process was to act swiftly, thoughtfully and appropriately in both our assessment and decision making.”

Written by: Rebecca Bihn-Wallace — campus@theaggie.org