Controversy circulated around Marist College following the decision for the school’s band to perform at the Inaugural Parade this year.
Despite opposition from alumni and students of the private school, senior administration decided to proceed with the performance at the inauguration of President Trump. According to Chief Public Affairs Officer Greg Cannon, the decision to get the band to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20 was made prior to the results of the 2016 presidential election, and that the decision would not be changed regardless of the winner.
“The decision to accept the invitation was made based on the view that no matter who’s being inaugurated, the inauguration ceremony is intended as a non-partisan celebration of the peaceful transfer of power,” Cannon said. “To reject the invitation because of who was being inaugurated would have been making a political statement, and our president has said repeatedly that a college that truly represents and fosters diverse political opinions cannot itself be a political actor making politically motivated decisions.”
Many opposed the administration’s decision however, including alumni and former Marist band member Jennifer Hoffman. Graduating from the class of 2003, Hoffman created an online petition one month ago requesting that the band and administration decline the invitation to perform at the Inaugural Parade. The petition quickly gained attention, collecting over 3,000 signatures in three days with an intended goal of 5,000. Hoffman, like those who signed the petition, believed it was important that Marist not participate in the parade.
“Trump won his campaign by blowing a hateful dog whistle,” she said. “The idea of my alma mater participating in a ceremony associated with Trump made me sick to my stomach.”
However, Hoffman also stated she was not surprised that the college accepted the offer.
Marist has been in comparably controversial situations before. In March 2016, North Carolina passed the House Bill 2 (HB2 act) requiring individuals to use bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificates. In response, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order banning all non-essential state funded or sponsored travel to North Carolina, resulting in the cancellation of a basketball game between SUNY Albany and Duke University scheduled for Nov. 12. This game was rescheduled with the Marist men’s basketball team filling in for Albany.
“Marist stood by their participation in the basketball game against Duke when Albany backed out over the HB2 act so I did not expect them to back out of the inauguration,” Hoffman said. “I felt it was more important to have our voices heard, even if it did not change Marist’s decision.”
Hoffman also accused administration of caring more about national exposure than “standing on the right side of history.” According to Cannon, national exposure certainly played a factor in the decision.
The Marist band has made appearances at NCAA basketball tournaments as well as several performances at Walt Disney World. While believing the attempt to be a long shot, Band Director Arthur Himmelberger and members of the senior administration agreed to pursue performing at the Inaugural Parade in spring 2016, Cannon said. The attempt paid off as the band, spirit team members and ROTC color guard all marched in the parade.