The Chronicle for Higher Education                      March 2, 2001  

By JENNIFER YACHNIN

Toning Down the Big-Band Sound
   It looks like the grading curve in organic chemistry at
  Columbia University may swing up for the first time since the
  1960's. But it's not because students are studying harder or
  exams have gotten easier.

  If college officials get their way, students cramming in the
  library late at night for this semester's final won't be
  interrupted by a performance of the Columbia University
  Marching Band, as study hounds have been every semester for
  nearly four decades.

  Dubbed Orgo Night, the half-hour, midnight performance is a
  roast of college officials and students, in which the punch
  lines are popular songs.

  It typically takes place in the library's reading room, which
  can hold 200 people; the crowd, at times, has swelled to 800.

  As band members proclaim in the opening to each Orgo Night,
  the show is an attempt "to lower the curve in organic
  chemistry while consummating the world's largest simultaneous
  Orgo."

  But college officials, alarmed by its growing popularity,
  cracked down on the show in December by closing the doors to
  the room when the crowd reportedly reached 300. Officials did
  not return calls, but band members say administrators have
  suggested that the group perform in some other building.
  Members fear that the suggestion may become a demand.

  "We're definitely going to try to work something out," says
  Nelson Brand, the band's publicity director, who is a junior.
  Band members hope to meet soon with college and library
  officials, to plead their case for preserving tradition. The
  band won't give up without a fight. Says Mr. Brand: "There's
  going to be an Orgo Night, no matter what."