College cracking down …

The narrative, and it is hardly an undeserved one, is that certain groups of college athletes, particularly football and basketball players, have the run of the place.   Many schools give them special tutors to help them with classes, and they often times eat separately from the rest of students, and in addition to top flight facilities and work out equipment that the rest of the students don’t get to use, they often get private accommodations on campus .. in addition to a largely free education that the rest of us pay tens of thousands of dollars for.  On the one hand, that’s a sweet deal, on the other, those kids are often working much longer hours and are risking debilitating injury in some cases.

There is another aspect of, particularly. men’s athletics .. hat being that the jock gets the girl!  Nothing wrong with that, unless it is the jock forcing himself on the girl.  For that, you would think there would be some serious punishment, but for many years male athletes could get away with this as coaches and school officials hushed things up.  Certainly, we know that sometimes those athletes are falsely accused (Duke lacrosse), but I think we also know that in some substantially large percent of cases, those accusations are real.

Just this year, Baylor is under a huge cloud because of its football team.  Harvard shut down its men’s cross country and soccer teams for following the example of the soon to be occupant of the White House.  Columbia shut down the wrestling team for the same reason.

But let’s face it … none of those programs is particularly well known (maybe Baylor football …. but note they aren’t shut down).  But a major shut down has finally come … not in athletics … but in music.

From the school that gave you the world famous prison experiment, the Leland Stanford, Jr. University Marching Band.  That’s right … the “band is on the field” band.

For those not in the know … a long time ago, the Stanford Marching Band was a normal marching band, but one day their beloved director got fired and the students took it upon themselves to rebel.  On the plus side, they became a very happy-go-lucky, relaxed, pop music based band that was a reaction to the harsh discipline of regular marching bands (I mean, Stanford is a pretty academically demanding environment, I would say the kids were right in wanting to have some fun).  This was all good!  Most of the real marching bands from schools like the Big-10 and PAC-12 don’t consider them a real band … and they have not been invited to competitions and get-togethers with other bands.  They’re like that one bad kid on the block who never gets invited over because none of the parents want him there.

The problem was that over time they really started stretching things a bit, and in a few cases made their halftime shows less fun and more openly mocking of their opponents.

There was the time they were at the University of Oregon and did an anti-logging, pro spotted owl routine…

… the time they did the show with the cows when Stanford played Iowa in the Rose Bowl (that is the first video up there) …

…. the time they played BYU and did a show with seven girls in wedding dressers called “Seven Brides for one Brother” ….

… the time they made fun of the whole priest sex abuse scandal in a show vs. Notre Dame (this included the drum major dressing as a nun, and conducting the band with a large crucifix) …

… then there was the other Notre Dame show entitled “These Irish, Why must they fight?”  It included jokes about the potato famine as part of the announcements …

… the time two members of the band decided to relieve themselves in a corner of the field while waiting to go on (as was explained later … they were pretty drunk, so no big deal) …

… and the time they recreated the O.J. Simpson white Bronco chase while playing at USC (O.J.’s alma mater) … that was after a small group of them set up shop outside the court house during jury selection to play “She’s Not There” to the assembled masses …

The band got … banned from many places (including the entire state of Oregon) for a time.  The university had their backs, and they must have started to think they were untouchable … kind of like all of those football players and other athletes.

It seems, however, the buck has finally stopped. After a few years which have involved issues swirling around drugs and alcohol related hazing, and sexual harassment also as a part of hazing that seemingly has not gone away, Stanford may have finally dropped the final shoe.  The band is now suspended for the rest of the year, and Stanford has announced they are hiring an honest to goodness professional band director to take over the reigns of this group.

I’m not even sure who would take that job?  Taking on responsibility for 200 college kids is one thing … taking on responsibility for a group that has made it a point to act rebellious is a whole other thing.  My guess would be many members of the band would not return to work unless there was some latitude to continue being … funny?

Why all of a sudden?  In the band’s  case, this may have been a long time in coming, but in Stanford’s case, their reputation is seriously on the line.  You may recall last year the trial of a swimmer from Stanford, Brock Turner, who was found guilty of assault and sexual penetration of a woman who was unconscious.  Whether this is overblown or underblown, the problem is that more and more universities are seen as dangerous places for women, with predators around every corner.  Schools must make it clear that this behavior isn’t tolerated, and that students will be safe.  Thus, schools are far more willing than before to jump to major sanctions on students or groups when there is suspicion they are not respecting the rules of respecting sexuality (and that includes alcohol and drugs which may put people into bad situations).  Consider this:  Indiana recently passed a prohibition on all hard liquor at fraternity parties.  Dartmouth outlawed hard liquor outright.  Stanford had already passed a ban on hard liquor bottles over a certain quantity …

I can remember 25+ years ago at Illinois … all women were given whistles, the rules were simple:  you didn’t travel alone at night, you didn’t drink anything unless you saw it poured from a container you saw opened in front of you, don’t trust fraternity boys.  There were certainly crimes committed, but perhaps we didn’t hear a lot about them, or we just were pretty safe back then.  Maybe it is awareness that has changed?

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