Tuskegee Marching Band Threatens Boycott, Claims They Feel ‘Exploited’

There’s a rebellion going on within HBCUs and their communities that will no longer be ignored.

Marching band members of the famed Tuskegee University have promised to stop performing at school-sponsored events unless issues involving leadership, funding, recruitment and more are resolved by the school’s administration.

Known across the country as The Marching Crimson Pipers, spokespersons for the band released a statement detailing their concerns surrounding the band’s program and treatment of its participants.

“With the cooperation of SGA (Student Government Association), a student questionnaire was provided at the beginning of the season to address current band members’ opinions on the program,” the band said in the statement. “Since joining the band, several members have expressed their concerns with the lack of growth not only in their musicianship but the program itself.”

“In order to operate as an efficient collegiate musical ensemble, qualified and accountable leadership is a necessity. From the settings of rehearsal to vital performances, the band requires dependable staff who will not only guide us with strong leadership but who will also support us in the areas that we cannot support ourselves.”

The band, which cites stagnation within the program and issues with personal growth and development, also called for better funding that includes sufficient salaries for band staff, travel cost coverage and enhanced scholarship funding for members.

There were also “multiple occurrences” of members’ “dietary needs not being met” on trips outlined by the band, who noted that they end up having to cover their own cost of meals.

“We have experienced a clear lack of motive for a successful/progressive program from the university and band staff which we have associated with complacency,” the statement said. “Oftentimes, we are asked to do things by the university, and we are not properly acknowledged or rewarded for our hard efforts. We feel as if we are just being exploited by the university and not recognized as an organization that functions within the university.”

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In addition to the above, band members alleged a lack of communication and transparency from the band and school leadership as it pertains to rehearsals, updates on uniforms and instruments, and claimed underfunding.

“We have found that we are one of the most underfunded programs on campus,” the statement shared. “We feel that is unacceptable considering this is a program that operates year-round no matter the weather. We will no longer allow ourselves to be exploited simply on the basis that we ‘signed up for it.’ And we will no longer allow for the apathetic nature that has been granted to us, as we strive to not only hold our leadership accountable but our fellow band members both current and future.”

Tuskegee President Charlotte P. Morris released a statement in rebuttal, after being made aware of the allegations by the school’s band members, saying, “The Marching Crimson Pipers are an important part of the Tuskegee family. We look forward to meeting with band leaders to discuss and respond to their concerns. We thank the Tuskegee community for their support as we work to resolve these issues together.”

A resolution between the school and the band has not been officially disclosed, nor has there been any list of demands that is publicly available for viewing.

The news comes on the heels of another student protest at a storied HBCU, as Howard University finds itself embroiled in a conflict with its students over housing conditions.