New York Post Sept. 24 2002
by Kate Sheehy Fordham Fumes Over Columbia's Church Joke Columbia University's marching band hit the Catholic Church below the belt during a weekend football game - by announcing that rival Fordham's tuition is "going down like an altar boy," fuming critics charge. The halftime gibe over the loudspeakers from a wisecracking band leader prompted everyone from the president of Jesuit-run Fordham University to incensed Catholic students to demand a formal apology from Columbia. "It seems to be a tradition at the Ivy League school that its marching band talk trash and push the envelop on decorum," Fordham spokeswoman Elizabeth Schmalz said last night. "However . . . it's never been so blatantly anti-Catholic." But the Columbia sophomore who wrote and read the remark during Saturday's game against Fordham said no apology is coming from him. To open the halftime festivities, the band's "poet laureate," Andy Hao, announced to the crowd that, "As well as the Mets' season going up in smoke [and] Fordham tuition going down like an altar boy . . . the band now presents an all-star gala." "We still think it's funny, and I'm sorry, but unfortunately, sometimes [the band's humor] hurts people," Hao said. "I'm not out there to hurt people's feelings, but I'm not out there to defend anyone either. "If they're offended by those things, maybe they should think about the victims of the church's sex-abuse scandals," said Hao, who calls himself a former Catholic. Band leader Tom Berman said the script got the approval of a Barnard University [sic] dean who monitors the group. Fordham student Liz Kennedy, who started a petition drive, said it should have been pulled. "It's not funny. It wasn't clever. It's stupid," she said. "This was a prejudice against a group of people and the faith of a school. It's also offensive to people who have suffered sexual abuse." The Catholic League also jumped into the fray, saying the insult shows "that all the campus talk about multiculturalism, diversity, inclusion and tolerance means very little when applied to Catholics." Columbia officials couldn't be reached for comment last night.