Bands suspension justified

The suspension of Queen’s Bands on Nov. 17 was a necessary decision made by the University administration and the AMS. Bands is prevented from performing for the remainder of the fall term after controversial material, circulated amongst Bands members, was brought to the attention of the University and the AMS.

The Bands songbook features vulgar and sexist songs and issues of the “The Banner” were rife with offensive material. Past front page titles from the past three years of this Bands-published pamphlet include “Mouth raping your little sister since 1905” and “Perpetuating racial stereotypes since 1905.”

Calling something a joke doesn’t make it harmless or acceptable. Rape is a topic that’s never appropriate to joke about; just as making light of racial stereotypes is never okay. Arguing “The Banner” was all in good fun fails to take into account the seriousness of the situation. The suspension of Bands isn’t an example of the politically correct run amok — the recourse taken by the University was justified.

The fact is that Bands is partially funded by a mandatory student fee and the members represent Queen’s across Canada.

Bands has been a proud tradition at Queen’s for more than a century, but this doesn’t make the organization immune to criticism.

We don’t want to be represented by the Bands’ songs and traditions if they are offensive.

This isn’t to say that every Bands member is equally accountable for circulated materials. As a group, Bands is composed of dedicated and talented individuals who shouldn’t be painted as insensitive, sexist or racist. Being in Bands is an immense commitment and requires a large amount of work. While we respect Bands members for their enthusiasm and performances, the apparent subculture is simply not okay.

It’s likely that many individuals in Bands were uncomfortable with the songs they were expected to sing. Their songbook contains a disclaimer that only “lame people don’t sing,” so some people were probably pressured into participating. With a suspension for the remainder of the term and human rights and equity training, hopefully it will be clear to Bands members that the group’s subculture is unacceptable.

The administration’s openness when handling the ban was the right choice. Though the decision garnered national media attention and cast Queen’s in an unfavourable light, it’s preferable to keeping the story under wraps.

The Journal’s decision to publish the songbook and quote from “The Banner” allowed for a more thorough understanding of the decision to ban Bands. The materials provided examples of the “explicit, disrespectful and degrading language” that the administration cited in their decision. The way in which the University delivered its judgment could have been better. It’s too often that administrative decisions carry a parental tone.

Rather than making the human rights training mandatory, administration and the AMS should have made it clear that in order to represent Queen’s University, Bands needs to change. They should have given members the chance to right their wrong independently, without being told what to do.

The Bands executive’s decision to decline comment to the media has left a gap in the story — one that can’t be laid to rest until both sides are told. Until then, speculation will continue. The short statement issued through the Queen’s news centre and AMS website does little to explain the situation from a Bands perspective.

A balanced perspective can’t be provided until they have a chance to explain themselves. Bands needs to openly admit their mistakes and state how they will endeavor to make changes.

Queen’s and the Bands’ reputation has been momentarily tarnished, but both will recover from the bad publicity. The organization will bounce back if they reform their ways.

The imposed measures won’t destroy the group, they will improve it. This suspension provides Bands the chance to emerge stronger and more inclusive. The Bands’ recently publicized indiscretions provide clubs and teams the chance to reconsider the norms and traditions they maintain.

Doubtless there are other groups who wouldn’t want all the jokes they tell, the stories they share or the traditions they follow to end up in national newspapers. Now is the time to reflect on why that is and adhere to the standards that students expect.

It’s important that Bands was given the chance to reconcile their behaviour, and it’s also necessary for them to be banned in the interim.

As long as Bands is affiliated with this sort of behaviour, they shouldn’t be allowed to represent Queen’s. It’s the same standard set for every group — it’s a standard for a reason.

— Journal Editorial Board

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