Autumn is right around the corner, and that means that college football is about to kick off. At my university, which will remain unnamed throughout the piece, our culture is centered a lot around the football season and includes lots of partying. However, when fun and games ends up hurting someone’s feelings, that is when the party has to stop. Political correctness has invaded our college campuses and spread like a disease, making the environment at these schools intolerant of free speech. I would like to share my story of how political correctness destroyed a tradition near and dear to my heart: Beer Band.
The Beer Band has been a long standing tradition, completely not associated with the university, or the marching band at all. A group of students gather outside a local bar the night before a home football game, decked out in black and gold apparel. They are carrying their respective instruments, some on makeshift drums, others on beat up instruments only used for Beer Band purposes. They are about to take part in a tradition that has been passed down in the marching band just as seriously as their marching technique.
The night typically consists of playing the school’s fight song, singing some anti-fight songs of some opposing schools, singing some miscellaneous comical songs, and lots of free beer. The Beer Band is more of a community event—it excites people for the game tomorrow, and it provides entertainment. The police do not stop the band, though they are usually loud and draw attention to themselves between bars. The bar owners are more than happy to give away free beer to the Beer Band. Everyone enjoys themselves.
That is, everyone except a woman who will be referenced as LM, an English professor at a near by community college. On this particular Friday night, she was spending some time at a local coffee shop and book store which is also in the same downtown area as most of the bars in this college town. After leaving the area, she was walking through a large open space known as the “Ped Mall”.
The ped mall is the middle stop for the Beer Band and it is probably the most exciting stop of them all. It is completely outdoors—not in any bar, but rather in between all of the bars. College students and others, including LM were gathered in the crowd that usually congregates around the band. People dance and sing along with the Beer Band, they take pictures with them, but even the drunk college kids know that it is purely entertainment.
In a public statement, LM explains that she heard some of the traditional Beer Band songs and was “shocked, appalled, and deeply upset” by what she heard. Though in reality, having learned these songs when I was a freshman, I can attest to the vulgarity and lewdness of the lyrics of these songs—they are completely harmless. Here is the entire statement:
"I saw this thing on Friday night in the ped mall. And it deeply troubled/troubles me. I've since felt a bizarre (internal) pressure to walk away from it in silence, to pretend I didn't witness what I did. But with a friend's urging I sent this email:
Greetings, XxXxX .
I don't think we know one another, but I finished my Ph.D. at U of Iowa in late 2013, and now I'm tenured faculty in Kirkwood's English Department. I've been a member of the Iowa City community since 2005.
Friday night I went to Prairie Lights to attend the Iowa Review reading, after which I had a drink at The Social Club, then walked through the ped. mall, enjoying a gorgeous evening alone.
I stopped to watch what appeared to be part of the marching band, what would later become known to me as the "beer band," in front of the Sheraton Hotel. I'm a former (high school) drumline member and was excited to see a public marching band performance.
But I was shocked, appalled, and deeply upset by what I witnessed. It was so surreal, in fact, that I had to ask both a female participant and another female observer to confirm what I thought I was hearing, which was, indeed, shouted lyrics, repeating: "Gang rape, gang rape, twice a day"; something along the lines of "You won't give me head; then fuck you. I'll fuck your sister," and other lyrics easily reduced to either the fucking or murdering of women, oftentimes conflated.
I'm not a person easily upset, and I'm certainly no prude. But what I witnessed that night made me physically ill. I turned to a female participant to ask what the hell it was I just heard, so sickened and in shock I felt, to which she responded, both sympathetic and resigned: "The culture's changed. I'm sorry you're so upset." This, from a young woman maybe 19. Maybe.
I'm not sure whom to go to about this, but I was told to email you. So here I am, emailing you, hoping there's some kind of intervention. I could talk about raising my four young sons in Iowa City; or about how this is particularly terrible in Iowa City, with its already pervasive rape culture. I don't think I need to do that. I'm appealing to you as a human being to another human being, hoping you can intervene somehow for obvious human reasons.
Thanks for your time.
Devoid of any common sense, LM was triggered by the performance and decided to ask someone in the Beer Band themselves what was going on and she was only told that “The culture has changed.” Well yes, quite obviously the culture has changed, but it was not the Beer Band that has evolved, it is the politically correct culture that has changed. The Beer Band has been doing this sort of thing for generations of college students, and it was not until LM witnessed this performance and felt “physically ill” by the entertainment that it became a problem. Because she felt the Beer Band’s presence was such a danger to the community, she decided to write to the university administration and asked for an “intervention”, trying to appeal to them as a “human being to another human being.”
I know that I speak for the majority of the residents of this college town when I say that the Beer Band has been wrongly condemned based on one individuals misunderstanding, and hypersensitivity to the performance she witnessed.
Once the administration got involved, the slippery slope of denying free speech began to take over. The head of the school’s marching band was contacted—despite the fact that not one of the students was using a university owned instrument, and no one was wearing anything suggesting their membership in the university marching band. He spoke to the band members during the next band practice and told them to no longer participate in Beer Band.
Following this lecture, the student leaders were contacted on Facebook by the band manager—also a student, who happened to have made problematic comments to the media about the incident relating the Beer Band to the university marching band. This was a long message, probably put together by the staff which references a controversial marching band story at another school. This is not even a comparable story because at the other university, it was more of a hazing situation and the Beer Band is not mandatory or required in any way by the university band. People participate in it because it is fun, it carries tradition, and it gets them hyped for game day.
Also in the message, the students were given a scripted statement to say to the press, he puts a halt to all Beer Band related activities, and even suggests the cops will get involved if Beer Band activities continue. He begins and ends his message with an eerie threat to the student’s free speech; beginning with asking to keep this message in a “secret Facebook message” and ending with “don’t talk about it”.
I was not one of the original few to receive this message but through some investigation journalism, I was able to find the original Facebook message:
Dear XXxxX Undergrad Staff,
I would like you to forward this message to the rest of the people in your section, using some means of communication that is private. Aka secret facebook message or group, and NOT email, text or posting on public social media.
I would like to give some information about the XxXxX Beer Band. The University was contacted by multiple people in the community of XxXxX, and they have explained their distaste for the events being done by this organization. Through that the University is launching an investigation into this group to put an end to it.
I want to make sure the seriousness of this issue is well observed. The police have been mentioned, and the community has suspected the XxXxX of being the culprits of this event. Due to that the media is trying to turn this into a very large story.
Ever since the events of the Ohio State Marching Band
There has been a more watchful eye on marching bands, especially in the XxXxX. The events of the XxXxX Beer Band will be in the newspaper eventually, but it is important that we keep our organization (the XxXxX) out of the news. Please if anyone of you is contacted by a reporter or someone from the news use this statement to point them in the correct direction.
"As to my knowledge there is no association between the XxXxX, and the XxXxX Beer Band. If you have any further questions about this however, feel free to contact, XxXxX, Band Manager, at XxXxX, or XxXxX, Director of the XxXxX, at XxXxX."
We will take it from there, as to make sure you are all protected from any allegations.
If you are involved in the XxXxX Beer Band in anyway below are a few things for your consideration.
I have been in contact with the leaders of this event, and Beer Band is done for the rest of this year, and is being suspended until further notice. Please understand that these allegations are not a laughing matter. The University and the City of XxXxX are looking for the people involved with this group to lay down a proper punishment. Said punishment could be dismissal from the University, and would most likely ruin their career plans.
Please do not attempt to restart this event, as the police have been informed and you will be implicated with all of the charges from the XxXxX Beer Bands past.
Do not make comments about the ICBB on social media, in public conversation, or to anyone else really.
I advise all of the people who are apart of this group to refrain from singing any songs... XxXxX.... or said "Yo Ho", "Gang Bang", or "Fireman" songs. These have been pegged by the University and if overheard will implicate you with this situation.
I would also advise against wearing any Beer Band T-shirts, as this would implicate you as well.
There will be no XxXxX Beer Band events, if that group happens to go to XxXxX either. There is a very close, watchful eye right now, and you will want to be careful.
I hope that none of the people in this organization get brought to the University and that the act of stopping immediately end the investigation.
Unfortunately in the Universities eyes the XxXxX 's name has been tarnished a little bit today. It is important that we move on from here in a good and positive way. Realize that perception rules the world and that the perception of the XxXxX is not the best right now and could be under fire. We need to knuckle down as an organization, work hard and do our best to be a great positive face of this fine University.
What people think matters. If people think that the XxXxX is going out at night and getting drunk, degrading women, and trying to promote a vulgar culture, that will effect all of you in this band. We need to change the perception right now by being committed to doing the best we can as a marching band and putting on the best performances we can at Homecoming.
With all of the Alums coming back, it is a great opportunity to show them that we are still a great positive event on this Campus.
Please remember that this week when we are practicing. I know that I will be high stepping a little higher, talking less, and focusing a little harder knowing that an organization I love is under scrutiny. I hope you all feel that way, and we all get back on the right direction.
I want the conversation to be about how this marching band is the best it has ever been after this weekend, not have it be put in the same conversation as Ohio State. I hope you all feel the same and work hard to make that happen.
Thank you for all of your hard work, and for being leaders on this campus.
It is important to be Proactive not Reactive and I think the Marching Band will grow from this adversity.
Please contact with information above if there are any questions or concerns. Make sure to add the name and section you are in when contacting me, so I know who I am talking to.
Thank you again, and XxXxX!
Sorry for the long post, fucking sucks, but just be careful. Don't wear beer band shirts, don't talk about it.
I am in a unique position because no one within the organization can say anything because they would fear being kicked out. Having been a member of this organization my first few years of school, I know the culture from the inside and the outside. Having said that, the termination of the Beer Band was a massive loss for free speech everywhere.
First, in getting to the specifics, according to the First Amendment Center, “the First Amendment protects a great deal of offensive, obnoxious and repugnant speech” citing the court case Cohen v. California. The lyrics of these songs definitely fit those descriptions. They are raunchy, and I am not here to deny that. I am simply here to say, that the vulgarity of the lyrics does not matter, and the speech is protected. More so, the incident which triggered LM took place outside in a public space. It does not get more simple than that.
LM was a professor, a well educated individual, yet she could not distinguish between her own feelings about the performance and the reality of the situation. This has become all too common on college campuses. It is a place where great minds meet, so you would think that the simple ideas of liberty would pervade. It seems that it does not matter how educated you are; you can still denounce one of our fundamental rights.
There have been talks of the Beer Band starting back up organically and under the radar of the marching band administration, however as of now, there are no signs of the tradition continuing.