Spectator – The Columbia University Marching Band agreed to take down its posters advertising Orgo Night after Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger said that the posters hurt and belittled students in an email to the student body. The posters depicted a silhouette of a pole dancer with the caption, “Gaza Strip. Everyone wants a piece.” Shollenberger said that administrators were “extremely disappointed at the poor judgment and poor taste shown by the CU Marching Band in its Orgo Night flier.” He affirmed the University’s commitment to “freedom of expression—even expression that can be offensive,” but added that “as educators we also have a responsibility to criticize and condemn speech that would surely be felt to be alienating by members of our community.”
“It was entirely reasonable for the dean of student affairs to bring attention to the fact that a student organization had contributed to marginalizing students and creating an environment for Orgo Night in which some students feel comfortable and certain students don’t,” Gavin McGown, CC ’13, said. McGown, who is president of GendeRevolution and a member of the Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board, said that the posters were “hugely triggering” to survivors and co-survivors of sexual assault. “I think that the fliers deserved to be called out for being sexist, for contributing to rape culture,” McGown said. “They deserved to be called out for weirdly sexualizing suffering, violence, and death.”
After students criticized the original poster, the band released a second poster on Wednesday in which they blacked out the word “Gaza” and pixilated the picture. McGown said that the second version of the poster was still offensive, and that the changes were insensitive. “This got me in the gut,” McGown said. “We had told them that we found their posters problematic and triggering and hurtful, and their response was to say we were just trying to censor them.”
Out of all the college controversies we have covered since the launch of Barstool U this is by far the most baffling and confusing. Like I saw the pictures of the big protest crowd, the signs talking about rape culture and sexism, bashing misogyny and hate speech, and just automatically assumed the Columbia Marching Band was involved in a sexual assault or made some really crass rape joke. Nope just posted a picture for their comedy night of a stripper pole. The silhouette of a clip-art stripper on a pole. For “Orgo Night” a tradition that happens every year to help students relax and unwind a little bit where literally everything under the sun gets satirized, now on the verge of being shut down because feminists obviously hate that kind of fun. I mean what are we even talking about here? A fake stripper on a pole? How does that in any way contribute to rape culture? Shouldn’t like, people from the Gaza Strip or Israel be the ones offended, if anyone? Just seems like if you’re a student activist group for women’s rights you’d pick your spots a little better than causing a ruckus and shutting down a tradition because of a shadow of a stripper so you don’t lose all credibility.
PS- Columbia commenter FTW:
DISAPPOINTED. • 10 hours ago −
Things I am:
1. Columbia student.
3. From the Middle East.
4. Survivor of sexual assault.
I’m not disappointed by the marching band’s fairly harmless and actually pretty funny (or should I say punny) flier. On the contrary,
1. I’m disappointed in those of my peers that think it’s okay to censor, to curtail the freedom of expression, who probably weren’t paying attention when we covered chapter 2 of John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” in CC, which explained why it is essential to our growth as a society that dissenting and possibly offensive views be expressed and engaged with. I’m disappointed, as someone who has lived in more oppressive societies than this one, that my peers take their freedom of expression so thoroughly for granted that you are so quick to give it away.
2. I’m disappointed in those of my peers for whom labelling things as “sexist” and as “triggers” and as proponents of “rape culture” has become a mindless reaction, a thoughtless instinct. The same applies for labelling things “privileged” or “racist” or “normative.” These labels have, in our Columbia community, been rendered completely meaningless by the ease with which they are hurled around. It’s at a point where when I sincerely do find things sexist and when I really am triggered by certain words/phrases/jokes, it means absolutely nothing for me to say that out loud. I’ve been triggered BIG DEAL SO HAS EVERYONE ELSE! I’m offended by something COOL YOU BEAT ME TO IT! Completely meaningless.
3. I’m disappointed that there are individuals in our community who are SO mentally unwell as to be triggered for sexual assault by a silhouette of a pole-dancer. I’m also disappointed that those individuals are being treated as the norm. Should we censor the word “sad” out of our books and speech so as to not trigger depression? At what point are we constructing a microcosm that’s so careful and so clean and so hyper-sensitive that we are all completely dysfunctional when we graduate into the real world, where there’s no Ke$ho to go crying to every time someone is mean to us?
4. I’m EXTRAORDINARILY disappointed that, as a community, we have such a shitty sense of humor.
Peace, y’all. Good luck on finals.