Altercation, cadets’ hostile reaction to halftime show seen as evidence of ‘culture war’ between the schools
The Princeton University Band has a long-standing tradition of provocative antics, but cadets at The Citadel, where the Tigers played Sept. 20 for the first time, didn’t think the jokes were funny. Instead of laughs, the band was at the center of several tense encounters and suggestions of a “culture war” between the two schools.
The first incident occurred shortly after the band entered The Citadel’s campus Saturday morning. According to band member and drill master Daniel Jaffe ’10, after a group of cadets tried to block the band’s path, the band attempted to respond to the tense situation with humor, and Jaffe called a scramble, with the 43 band members breaking formation. The cadets then began spitting at female band members, roughing up some of the male members, and breaking one band member’s clarinet as he was pushed to the ground, said band president Alex Barnard ’09.
“We had no indication of why we were being attacked at the time,” Barnard said. “We were told only later that the area on which we were marching was a part of campus that is revered.” While the march had been approved by Citadel administrators, the band later discovered that the route it had been marching along was the Avenue of Remembrance, a campus street that honors The Citadel’s fallen alumni.
Jaffe said that after witnessing this altercation, Air Force and Marine Corps administrators ordered the cadets to stand down, and the band was provided with an escort to continue its march around the campus.
Later in the day the action moved to the football stadium. With Princeton holding a 17–7 lead (Princeton ultimately lost), the band took the field for its halftime show, but the announcer was drowned out by nonstop boos and shouts. Hecklers in the 13,000-strong crowd screamed, “Go home, Prince-ton!” and “Homos!” A number of Citadel cadets said that they were offended by the band’s gestures. (Videos of the incident have made their way onto the YouTube video-sharing Web site.)
“Although we were concerned that our nontraditional style could be off-putting to those unfamiliar with it, The Citadel assured us that they were excited to have us,” Barnard said. “We worked collaboratively and at length with The Citadel to make sure our script met their approval.”
Barnard acknowledged that the band’s brand of humor could be misconstrued, and he apologized for “sexually suggestive acts performed by two members” during the halftime show. “These were not part of our script, not part of any typical band routine, and were completely inappropriate,” he said.
According to Barnard, when the band members returned to the stands after their performance, a group of about 20 cadets surrounded them and began screaming at them. Some band members were reduced to tears, and the cadets moved away only after police and higher-ranking officers intervened.
The events prompted an apology from The Citadel’s president, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, who said The Citadel “must hold cadets to a higher standard.”
“No one I have spoken to in the band can remember any instance previously in which the band has been subject to physical assault,” Barnard said in an e-mail. “Although band members are disappointed about the incident, we have moved on quickly.”
The incidents drew national news coverage after initial coverage in The Daily Princetonian and The Post and Courier of Charleston. A week after the Prince article was published it had attracted more than 575 comments on the newspaper’s Web site, the most ever. Postings and letters to the editor came both from Princetonians and from Citadel fans.
“The cadets’ sacred, honorable institution was invaded by ‘long-haired liberals’ banging on flamingos, so the cadets lashed out,” wrote Michael van Landingham ’08 of Charleston. “I don’t blame the Princeton University Band for what happened because it would have been impossible for it to understand The Citadel.”
Many letters supported the band, but the Charleston Post and Courier expressed a different view. “Heck, instead of a tongue lashing, the entire Corps of Cadets should be given a medal for standing up for their school,” wrote columnist Ken Burger. “The Princeton band, meanwhile, should be ashamed. All those pseudo-intellectuals and not a single brain among them.”
Princeton’s vice president of campus life, Janet Dickerson, suggested that the administration was disappointed about the events that took place at The Citadel and supported the Princeton band. She said senior Citadel administrators had “vetted and approved” the script of the band’s performance before the game. “We appreciate the importance of being sensitive to other institutions’ cultures and traditions, and that sensitivity continues to be communicated to all members of our community who interact with members of other campuses,” she added.
Both schools “could have done a better job of communicating with one another,” Citadel spokesman Lt. Jeffrey Perez said in an e-mail. “With the lessons learned, we all look forward to a great time when we play next year at Princeton,” Perez said.