Let the banned play

By Jon Denton, Guest Viewpoint

Unfortunately, one of Thomas Jefferson’s most important principles seems to be forgotten these days. Can you guess what it is? Here’s a hint: What do all of the following organizations have in common? The Glee Club, First Year Players, Hoo Crew, and the University Programs Council. Any guesses? All of these groups are student-run. One student-run organization used to make everyone laugh at Scott Stadium during football games, used to get everyone on their feet in University Hall for basketball games, and used to be the pinnacle of student self-governance at the University. However, in 2003, the Virginia Pep Band was banned from playing for bowl games, and shortly after, was banned from any Virginia varsity sports.

This is the first generation of students where not even the oldest University student has seen even the youngest Pep band member play at varsity sports events. In 2003, during a bowl football game against West Virginia, the pep band presented what was considered a rude interpretation of life as a West Virginian. This incident prompted the governor of West Virginia, who felt the Pep band wrongly used West Virginian stereotypes he was trying hard to fight, to request an apology from the band. Craig Littlepage, the director of the athletics department, then dismissed the pep band from any further participation in bowl games, even though the athletics department had censored and approved the show beforehand. However, Littlepage did not ban the pep band from Virginia athletics until he received a donation from Carl Smith, which was used to create what is now the Cavalier Marching Band.

The pep band still exists today, mainly playing at charity events and club sports games. Yes, the marching band can probably beat the pep band when it comes to memorizing music and skill level, but no organization compares to the pep band when it comes to spirit.
I am a first year, and I just joined the pep band after considering both it and the marching band. The pep band has nothing against the marching band, nor its members, nor its right to exist. It is a very good band and fits Scott Stadium very well. So let the marching band play at football games. It also plays at John Paul Jones Arena for basketball games. With that, the pep band has no quarrel. But why does the athletics department continue to insist on preventing the pep band from playing at other varsity sports where the marching band does not play?

As most of you know, the men’s lacrosse team is the best in the country and is loved by the University community. On March 8, I attended one of the biggest men’s lacrosse games of the season: our game against Cornell, ranked number four. Every section of the stands was packed. The ticket holders were even invading the student section because seats were so limited. The lawn across the field looked like a giant communal picnic, and people were lined up on the fences around the field, eagerly watching the game. Also in attendance was a band. It was not the pep band. The athletics department had allowed the opposition band to play at Klöckner Stadium, and had continued to ban the pep band.

This illogical action by the athletics department should raise questions about the department’s continued allegiance to this University. In February 2004, Student Council passed a resolution requiring the “coexistence of two bands.” The athletics department, of course, did not comply. Is the student body going to sit idly as more of Jefferson’s founding principals are ignored and more and more of the University is seized from student control? What would happen if the Academical Village People was assimilated into the music department? What would happen if Spectrum Theaters became part of the drama department? Obviously, the University would not be the same place, and college would begin to look a lot like high school.

We as students of the University must save Mr. Jefferson’s University before it is too late. Go see a First Year Players play! Go hear the Virginia Gentlemen perform!

The pep band recently sent an e-mail to Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer, asking for the opportunity to play at Olympic varsity sports that the marching band currently does not play at. Here are a few excerpts of his response: “This is not a matter as you suggest of ‘forgiveness.’ Rather, it is a matter of the decision made in 2003 to have a University Marching Band.” “It is not productive for us to continue to discuss revisiting the decision that was made several years ago. I hope we can focus on the role that exists today for the Pep Band. I want them to succeed in their service to the club sports and other events on and off Grounds. I hope that the Pep Band will continue to meet the needs of those students who chose that kind of commitment and service to the University and surrounding community.” “Please understand that we are not serving our existing students well by treating this as a debate to be resolved. The decision has been made.”

Please don’t let silence be the response to Mr. Sandridge’s outrageous comments. We are not children, nor do we like being spoken to as such. This “debate” is not over. These are principles that cannot be compromised. Don’t allow the athletics department or the University to take them away from us!

Jon Denton is a first-year student in The College and a member of the Virginia Pep Band.

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