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Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band pilot

A message to VSO leaders describing modifications to the band’s organizational structure.

This message is being emailed to all VSO leaders.

Dear Voluntary Student Organization leaders,

I am writing today with updates on the Working Group on Voluntary Student Organizations, and important correlated changes to the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB). Significant modifications are being made to the band’s organizational structure, a process initiated when the working group began its work last summer.

Specifically, the band will become an ASSU Chartered Organization, under the direction of the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER). The band director will be empowered to make proactive decisions about student safety and well-being. 

LSJUMB’s student members requested these changes to build a strong foundation for the organization’s future, while maintaining what we all love about the band: its fun, spirited, student-centered performances. I am sharing this news with you to raise awareness of these changes, and because other student organizations might be interested in adopting some aspects of the band’s new structure. 

Meeting the evolving needs of student organizations

As mentioned above, the band initiated the pilot for its new structure as the VSO Working Group began its work. As a reminder, here is the working group’s charge, announced in late summer 2019:

The form and functions of student organizations have evolved over the years. Many organizations have grown in sophistication to include students, alumni and other participants of different ages engaging in activities under the guidance of volunteer and paid coaches and teachers. This evolution has introduced complexities not envisioned in our original policies, and we believe it is time to reassess and realign university policies and organizational expectations.

I am grateful to the VSO working group, which included students, staff, faculty members and alumni. While the group finalizes its recommendations, I would like to share the outcome of a band pilot program initiated as part of this larger VSO project.

A pilot program

LSJUMB student leaders, Associate Vice Provost Emelyn dela Peña, Band Director Russ Gavin, and Executive Associate Athletics Director Tommy Gray proposed a pilot program, which would involve placing the band in a new category for student organizations, a category to be known as Department Sponsored Organization.

The VSO working group saw this as an option for organizations closely connected with university departments, as is the case with the band and DAPER. In parallel with this proposed structure, LSJUMB was to apply for ASSU Chartered Organization status.

The ASSU Constitution describes chartered organizations as “intended to be (and actually are) primarily composed of student members, require no student to join, are recognized by the University and are either open to all students or open to only those students meeting certain criteria which are established and evaluated in an objective manner by the organization, but where the ultimate constitutional, budgetary, and policy-making authority are vested in a University office or committee or any body other than its student membership.

This is in contrast to VSOs, which vest budget, policy, and constitutional authority entirely in its student members.  

Student members of the band, the Stanford Band Alumni Board (SBAB), DAPER, and Student Affairs endorsed the pilot program, which also resulted in the creation of the Stanford Band Advisory Committee (SBAC). The pilot program began in January 2020, with administrative oversight through DAPER.

Responding to concerns about student safety

While work on the pilot program was underway, upstanding band members and leaders came forward with new information regarding deeply problematic and systemic behaviors, including concerns relating to inclusivity, student safety, sexual misconduct, and non-student participation.  

After several meetings involving student leaders, SBAC, Student Affairs and DAPER, students decided that the band would benefit from administrative oversight with respect to student safety and well-being. Students then proposed a new governance model that empowers the band director to engage in proactive decision making in all areas impacting student safety and well-being, in consultation with SBAC students and administrators.   

Additionally, students requested the organization be immediately restructured into an ASSU Chartered Organization under the direction of DAPER, essentially ending the pilot program early and adopting many of its recommendations. This final proposal has been endorsed by multiple band stakeholders, including DAPER, Student Affairs, and the SBAB, and received approval from Provost Drell on July 6, 2020.

Adopting a new governance structure

Student leaders, SBAC, Student Affairs and DAPER will work with ASSU to secure the band's status as an ASSU Chartered Organization, and to draft new governing documents for the band. As the VSO working group finalizes its recommendations, the Office of Student Engagement will charge an implementation team to develop additional student organization categories and formalize a process by which student organizations can learn more about the available new structures. 

I want to thank the student leaders and members of the band for their thoughtful engagement with some very difficult issues and for their work in preserving the most valued traditions and spirit of the band while addressing those areas that have proven to be most toxic and harmful. I would like to express my admiration for these students’ willingness to forge a new path toward a safer and more inclusive band. I look forward to working with all involved in the near future to implement this new structure.


Susie Brubaker-Cole
Vice Provost for Student Affairs