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As a proud alumnus (CC ’83) and parent of a current student, I have always lauded Columbia's tradition of free speech and open exchange of ideas. This is a principle that even President Bollinger emphasized at the 2016 convocation. And yet, there seems to be no good explanation other than implicit censorship for the administration seeking to ban the traditional Orgo Night performance by the Columbia University Marching Band from its usual location in Butler 209.

With almost no advance notice, Vice Provost and University Librarian Ann Thornton suddenly decided that the band’s Orgo Night is too much of a disruption for students that are studying and should not be allowed to occur in the library. The disruption facade is so transparent that it is laughable. Any student who wants a quiet study space at midnight on Thursday would not choose Butler 209, since the Orgo Night festivities are well-publicized. Only those students who welcome a stress-reducing break and a few laughs would choose to attend.

Nobody is being forced to attend, and nobody’s studies are being disrupted unless they want them to be. It seems to me that Ms. Thornton objects to the content of the program and wants to censor the band. Maybe some students complained, or maybe the administration doesn’t want to hear the jokes about campus issues (wrestling team?). But suppressing speech would be unbecoming of this University, and those of us who stand idly by and allow it to happen should be similarly ashamed. If I were still a student, I’d be at the head of the line leading the band into the library on Thursday night.

What is the University going to do, haul the band off in handcuffs? That wouldn’t be disruptive at all. If it indeed is censorship, we should not allow this to happen.

The author is a 1983 Columbia College alum, current Columbia parent, and author of “A Legacy of One.”

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Freedom of Speech orgo night administration
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