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Stanford University band suspended after being accused of 'systemic cultural problem'

The Stanford band will be suspended through next spring; the punishment requires the band to stop all activities, both on and off campus.

The notoriously irreverent Stanford band will be suspended through next spring after administrators found "a systemic cultural problem" in the student group that has "not been taken seriously by the band or its leadership."

The punishment requires the band to stop all activities, both on and off campus. Students who flout the order could be disciplined individually.

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"Nothing more will be accomplished without extreme consequences," a Stanford Organization Conduct Board panel concluded, finding that the band has failed to reform even after a probation period of more than a year.

"We do not feel that the current leadership or membership is capable of creating the necessary cultural change," the panel said. "We feel there is a total lack of accountability and responsibility in the current organization."

The Stanford band has been infamous since the 1960s and has been suspended before — in 1986, for urinating on the field, and in 2006, after being accused of trashing the trailer that had been its home.

Before Friday's letter, the band already had been under scrutiny over its behavior since 2012. In the spring of 2015, Stanford barred the band from performing at away athletic events after finding it had violated university rules on alcohol, controlled substances, hazing and sexual harassment.

"Violations included a tradition in which a band member was given an alcoholic concoction intended to make that individual vomit publicly; an annual trip in which some band members used illegal substances; and a band selection process in which individuals were asked a number of inappropriate questions on sexual matters," a university statement said at the time.

But violations have continued, and administrators are steaming.

"We are concerned about the risk and liability to the university community, and to Stanford's reputation, if Band's conduct and behaviors continue," the panel wrote.

The panel had urged a more severe punishment — suspending the band through 2018 — but Stanford Vice Provost Greg Boardman said in a letter that such a sentence could permanently cripple the student group and make it unable to recover.

Boardman said he wants to end the current student-managed band structure and introduce a professional music director who will have final control over the organization. He said such a model was used for more than 30 years without stifling the band's unique character.

The band can appeal Boardman's decision on the punishment with the Stanford provost.

An editorial posted on the Stanford Review website, a student political magazine, called Boardman's decision unfair and quoted anonymous band members disputing the university's accusations and arguing it had worked to reform its ways.

"If the administration continues to eviscerate our traditions, what campus culture will even remain?" the editorial board wrote.

Twitter: @ronlin

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