Around 4 p.m. on Friday, December 9, Stanford University released a statement declaring that the LSJUMB would be temporarily suspended of all activities for the remainder of the academic year, and reformed with University oversight.
While this announcement came as a shock to the student-run organization, whose members and leaders were left grappling with this announcement in the midst of dead-week finals preparations, it is clearly the accumulation of increasing University sanctions against Stanford’s largest student group.
For the past 18 months, the LSJUMB has been operating under an alcohol suspension, a travel ban, and a requirement to make a series of culture reforms. While the Band in an official response cited hundreds of hours of training and discussion towards reforming Band to reflect today’s students’ values and culture, the University stated Friday there was a failure to complete required forms during this time and brought forth new violations of campus policy and the Band’s aforementioned suspensions. The combination of these two findings produced the conclusion that a systemic cultural problem existed and that nothing more could be accomplished in the current manner.
In the days that have followed, there has been a community outpouring of support for the student group, and student-run publications such as the Stanford Daily and Stanford Review have questioned the motives behind the Band’s suspension. The Band represents values that are vital to a healthy University culture- acceptance of all members, the value of free expression, and irreverence, in addition to less vital values such as an insistence on making cheese puns.
Perhaps their most readily noticeable absence in the coming year will be from Stanford University athletics.
The LSJUMB has historically attended and performed for every football, men’s and women’s basketball, and women’s volleyball home games of the season, in addition to select away and postseason games. I firmly believe the Band’s presence in Maples Pavilion gives the Cardinal a distinct home field advantage, and I additionally think the extra burst of energy the Band gives to big rivalry football games against Cal, USC, Notre Dame, and in bowl games will be missed by Cardinal supporters.
For instance, the Band’s halftime performance in each of the last three Stanford Rose Bowls has palpably contributed to the in-stadium environment and experience. And while the performances have come under scrutiny by the Big-10 teams involved, each of those shows was pre-approved by an official University review board. I would also suspect that most Cardinal fans agree they enjoyed watching a poorly constructed cow totter across the field, even if Iowa fans in attendance did not find it as entertaining.
Beyond what the Band did for fans, it clearly made an impact on the athletics teams as well. Before every single women’s basketball game, esteemed coach Tara VanDerveer personally approached the Band and thanked the students for taking the time to support the team that day. Notably, during the 2012 March Madness run, members of the Women’s Basketball team expressed their infatuation with the Kanye song “All of the Lights.” Band members arranged an entirely original chart in one day and surprised the team by performing the song for them as they entered the team bus. Former men’s basketball team member Josh Huestis and coach Johnny Dawkins approached Band leadership meetings and field rehearsals, expressing their appreciation for the Band in person and stressing that their door was open for collaboration. After every single women’s volleyball game, team members gleefully conducted the Band for a few measures of All Right Now. And of course, after every football game, win or lose, the whole team assembled in front of the Band for a joint singing and swaying to Hail Stanford Hail.
Whether or not the Band’s athletic performances are found particularly funny or entertaining by all readers, it is undeniably a distinctly Stanford spectacle. Even more, for the students of Stanford University, the LSJUMB is the cause of a few very special memories. The Admit Weekend rally is frequently cited as being the first time prospective students knew they had found a new home. Band Run is an unforgettable first night of college for the vast majority of Stanford students. Watching the Band’s mascot, the Stanford Tree on ESPN’s “This is SportsCenter” commercials always brings a smile to my face.
While the University’s decision will undoubtedly affect Stanford fans, for the students that are members of the Stanford Band, it is immeasurably more meaningful than that. Stanford University clearly had its reasons for its decision, but what may be lost on non-students is the removal of a long-standing on-campus community that this decision will bring. The Stanford Band is truly a home and a family for its members - an accepting environment full of fundamentally good people.
While Rule of Tree is a sports publication, it is also a Stanford publication, and I think that it’s important to remember what the Band has meant to the students of Stanford.