Reports of UW Marching Band conduct detailed
Oct. 12, 2006
In an effort to foster public understanding regarding reports of misconduct by members of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band, Chancellor John D. Wiley and band director Mike Leckrone today disclosed the nature of some of the reported behavior.
Although Wiley's post-practice meeting with the band on Thursday, Oct. 5 was intended to be an internal discussion, media reports of the meeting have sparked confusion regarding the nature and severity of the reported misconduct.
"This sort of conduct by a valued ambassador of the university is, at the very least, an embarrassment," says Wiley. "I'm hopeful that I conveyed an unambiguous message to band members and staff — that this type of behavior will not be tolerated."
Reports of one band member having his head shaved in a hazing incident and lewd dancing by semi-nude band members during the band's road trip to the University of Michigan on the weekend of Sept. 23 were a tipping point, Wiley says.
"From reports we have received, it has become increasingly clear that certain types of sexualized and hazing behavior are an ingrained part of the band's culture. We will not provide an ongoing venue for this inappropriate and demeaning behavior," Wiley adds. "There is no reason to pretend that this is simply high-spirited fun."
Reports of inappropriate conduct by some band members include:
— A female band member told to suck on a sex toy in an apparent hazing incident.
— Women being forced to kiss other women in order to gain access to bus bathrooms.
— Women being forced to draw pornographic pictures for older male band members, recite obscene limericks or stories, and read aloud explicit accounts of their sexual preferences composed for them by others for older male band members.
— The practice of women swapping shirts with males.
— Demeaning and abusive demands for younger band members to run errands and refill beer cups for older members.
— Upperclassmen have been reported to have "taken over" the dorm rooms of freshman women, supplied alcohol and demanded they join in the drinking.
— In 2004, band behavior in a bus led to the driver pulling over and calling for police.
— The Athletic Department has allocated funds to allow cheerleaders and the dance squad to travel in separate buses whenever possible, so they will not be subjected to harassment by the band.
Leckrone says he has continually worked with the band over the years to rein in inappropriate behavior and he apologized to the band's fans.
"Both the staff and band members are deeply sorry for the unfortunate conduct on the Michigan trip, and these other reports of unacceptable behavior. We acknowledge the need to shape up," Leckrone says.
The band's conduct has been a matter of concern for some years. In 2000, the university established a written code of conduct for the band, and Leckrone has taken action to discipline violators in the past. Officials are currently conducting a review of the program.
"The university has made a strong effort to improve the conduct of its fans in recent years," Wiley says. "To allow the band to continue to behave in this fashion without consequence would be unthinkable."
The chancellor and Leckrone have had numerous discussions regarding band conduct and Leckrone has also discussed the issue with the band. Wiley says that he addressed the band a few years ago and saw temporary improvement.
"After the most recent reports, I felt it was important to meet with the band and let them know they are on probation and that future missteps will result in consequences — including a travel ban or suspensions of performances by individuals, sections or the entire band — if they can't clean up their act," Wiley says.
The chancellor emphasized the importance of the band — and its fans — to an exciting game-day experience, and to building school spirit.
"I'm a big fan of the band," says Wiley. "I have had thank-you parties for them, and my wife and I have endowed a position in the band. But our pride in the band has been tested, and band members and band leadership must show they can maintain an appropriate, safe and respectful environment for everyone."
Leckrone says he is confident that band members will be on their best behavior and will work to change its culture.
"We'll take our medicine and move forward to become a better band, one deserving of our great fan following," he says.