A 41-year-old tradition where the Columbia University Marching Band plays music and performs a skit in the school library has been banned by the school administration.
The tradition is called “Orgo Night”, “Orgo” being short for organic chemistry. Every year beginning in 1975, the band has marched into the school’s main library to play music and perform a skit on the night of an organic chemistry final exam to distract students from studying.
The organic chemistry exam is known for being a tough exam, and the purpose of this tradition is to “lower the curve”, according to campus lore.
The administration is prohibiting the marching band to continue this tradition – but why?
According to the campus news source BWOG, the school’s Chief Librarian and Vice Provost Ann Thornton said that she made the decision due to the band’s disruption to students studying, suggesting that the students should move the event to another location on campus.
However, there may be another reason why the event is being proscribed.
The band’s comedy skit is often criticized for being micro-agressive toward minorities and mocking several topics such as cultural appropriation, the wage gap, and the lack of free speech on campus.
An example of this is a poster that reads “Orgo Night”, written in red tape above an image of a mattress. This is a combined mocking of Emma Sulkowicz, who carried a mattress on campus for a year as a statement, and the anti-sexual assault club No Red Tape.
Two Columbia students, Dunni Oduyemi and Tracey Wang, wrote an op-ed stating that students who attend Orgo Night are “part of the problem.”
“Orgo Night is an unsafe space, and it is an unsafe space that extends beyond Butler 209… Orgo Night tells us that this campus will never be a place for us to feel safe or to feel supported.”
Student groups have also held a silent protest during Orgo Night and handed out flyers that read, “Above all… Columbia University must truly be a safe space for all its members, as it promises to be.”
While Thornton says the reason for banning this tradition is to keep students from study disruptions, it is unclear what the true reason is. Is it to create a “safe space” for students?