Ohio University Blurs the Lines of Political Correctness with the Marching 110


UPDATE: The Post story mentioned and quoted below has been updated with this correction: This article misrepresented Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi’s involvement and reasoning in the decision to cancel the performance of “Blurred Lines.”

I have edited this post below, in italics, to clarify. The correction does not change the general gist of the story, which is that the school prevented the band from playing a song, or my conclusion, which is that it shouldn’t have. – JD

According to The Post, the Ohio University Marching 110 was told not to play Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” during halftime of last week’s game against Austin Peay. Why? Because during a meeting with College of Fine Arts Dean Margaret Kennedy-Dygas, School of Music Director Christopher Hayes and Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi, 110 director Richard Suk was told not to play the song. Exactly who gave the order is unclear at this point. Why did the meeting take place? Because the group was responding to “vocal concerns such as those from Allie Erwin, a senior studying political science.”

From The Post:

Erwin wrote a letter that was published in Friday’s edition of The Post expressing her concerns for the 110’s upcoming performance. “The main reason that I sent in the letter was because the song is terrible,” Erwin said. “I really think having the Marching 110 play it is that it says ‘consent is a blurred line,’ and I don’t think it is a message the 110 should send to the university.”

Now, I’m sympathetic to Erwin’s criticism that the song is “terrible.” Its message, such that it has any message, is completely immature. And even if Thicke’s lyrics are meant in jest or are supposed to be humorous, he fails a lesson I learned from Mel Helitzer’s comedy writing class, which I took when I was a senior at Ohio University. When you aim your humor, Helitzer said, aim up. Don’t target–oh, to take just one example–women who have not have given their consent. Humor should target those who deserve it. Donald Trump comes to mind.

The lyrics to “Blurred Lines” are a poor advertisement for humanity, but the song is catchy, and it’s popular, which is probably why the band wanted to play it.

And they should have been allowed to play it.

Erwin has every right to share her concerns about what songs the Marching 110 plays.

Lombardi should absolutely listen to those concerns. He also has a duty to discuss those concerns with the band and relevant administrators.

That’s as far as it should have gone.

The members of the Ohio University Marching 110 should be allowed to play the songs they choose. From Carnegie Hall to the Thanksgiving Day Parade to Monday Night Football, they’ve earned that right by consistently representing the university positively at games and at events nationwide. Yes, the songs the 110 plays sometimes contain colorful subject matter, but this is part of what makes the 110 what it is. The fact that it’s not a boring, old marching band is why the band is beloved.

If this same standard had been applied to the band’s past performances, it would have been prevented from playing any of these hits, some of which went viral and brought positive attention to Ohio University:

– Gangnam Style: The song calls out sexy ladies in the lyrics and the singer basically uses them as props in the video.

– Party Rock Anthem: The singer runs through “hos like Drano,” which is both chauvinistic and confusing, to be honest.

– Love in an Elevator: This song is either about the creative disruption of the market economy or wanting to make love to a woman in an elevator. Knowing Aerosmith, probably the second one.

– New Age Girl: She don’t eat meat…oh, let’s not even go there.

– Pumped up Kicks: It’s not sexist, but the song is about a kid planning a school shooting, which one could argue is worse than sexism.

The reason why most people did not find these songs objectionable when they were played years ago was because most people know the lyrics to these songs–and most of the songs we hear on the radio–are silly and meaningless. “Blurred Lines” isn’t Bob Dylan. It’s the “Growing Pains” dad’s kid.

No one would have walked out of Peden Stadium after seeing “Blurred Lines” performed by the 110 thinking the band or the school had endorsed anything other than a good time. It takes a leap of logic and a belief that one’s classmates have the cognitive capacity of tree stumps to think the band would have endorsed or reinforced ideas about the blurred lines of consent. That’s because most Bobcat fans know the band doesn’t exist to enforce a moral code or advance particular worldviews. It exists to entertain people for 15 minutes on Saturdays.

This new standard sets a bad precedent.

In the near term it robs the 110 of a some of its identity. It limits the songs it can draw from for future performances.

In the long term it tells every other student group on campus that just the slightest bit of pressure can alter its activities and force it to abide by somebody else’s agenda. The comics the UPC brings to campus often make jokes in poor taste. The musical acts who come to campus like Wiz Khalifa–will they be held to the same standard? The humor in The Post has been ribald some years. What about school plays and student movies that are not 100 percent politically correct? Should a group of administrators tell each of them to halt their activities if content contains a message one or more students don’t want “sent to the university?”

Who’s to say what that is?

If the vice president of student affairs, college of fine arts dean and school of music director had told the band the song was in poor taste without taking action, or if students and student groups had met with the band and pleaded their case student-to-student, and the band had taken the song out of the show on its own, it would have sent a powerful message, as the vice president of student affairs, said, “about the climate on our campus in regards to sexism and sexual violence.” It would have signified unity.

By dictating to the band what it can and can’t play, the message that now resonates is that when it comes to political correctness, the university will un-blur any lines before the students are given the opportunity to do so for themselves. This robs students of an opportunity to listen to their fellow students, make important decisions on their own and grow as individuals, which are a few of the things college is supposed to be about.

(Joe Donatelli is a 1998 graduate of Ohio University. Follow him @joedonatelli.)


– Music education alum Rocco Contini (Class of 2013) has a letter in The Post that echoes some of my points. It’s worth a read.

Open letter from 110 alumna Danielle Capriato

– Erwin is part of a group called Fuck Rape Culture

– Letter to The Post from alumna Ann Cugliari

– The Post editor explains some mishandling of the initial story

– The Indiana Daily Student weighs in

– 110 band manager who was rape victim says 110 should have been allowed to play Blurred Lines

Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles
  • Stephanie Pederson

    Great Post Joe!

  • Shawn Bailes

    Fantastic article, my friend!

  • Robin Pickett Bowlus

    Joe – you always made the most sense on campus in the late 90’s and you still have it man! Thanks – 110 alumnae

  • Raquelthenurse

    Excellent article!!! The 110 would have had a fabulous time doing the dance & playing Blurred Lines and I sure would have enjoyed their performance. They are college students & still work their butt off in the marching band! This is OUT of control with them not being allowed to perform this on the field…especially after their worked HARD for 4 days on it. Some people have just gone WAY too far by stopping this!!

  • Very kind. Thank you.

  • IronSun254

    How can you be more right than me when I’m 100% right?

  • See: chart.

  • AznPanda

    So that means I’m always wrong. If I agree with you, I’m also wrong. If I’m wrong, you are also wrong, always wrong. Proof: Chart.

  • All valid points, but when I flip the chart upside down, I’m right again.

  • Erick Skrabe

    This Graphic is in Celsius or Fahrenheit ?

  • It depends on the question.

  • Goaty McCheese

    This is great.

  • No. This is good. Your name is great.

  • UnfrozenCavemanMD

    Consider being called wrong a compliment. Most of the people who disagree with me on this issue are so incoherent in their argument that, to use the famous phrase of physicist Wolfgang Pauli, they are “not even wrong.” At least you have managed to put together something meaningful enough to be called wrong.

  • These arguments are still WAY more sound than some of the stuff I deal with on a daily basis. And that is to say nothing of how fun of a read it was! Kudos.

  • hobo

    This is so stupid. I can’t believe you think that you’re right. Your mother was a hamster, your points are stupid, and you don’t understand science. SCIENCE.

    Also, this news anchor agrees with me, and he’s always right.

  • Ha ha…

  • I assume you’re either the parent of a small child or an economist.

  • This issue is important. It’s worth fighting for. I’m glad SOMEONE sees that.

  • It is, right?

  • TheWholeTruth

    You forgot one thing! English. Definitions of words not meaning what you mean when you say them so therefore you were wrong because you don’t even know the meaning of the words you are saying. Also, you said I was right when you contradicted yourself showing I was right and you were wrong. Oh, I didn’t comprehend what you were saying? Well if you could use the English language better then maybe I’d understand and you’d understand that what you were saying agrees with me. Listen. I can explain it to you but I can’t understand it for you.

  • I don’t agree with you. But, then, how could I not?

  • Because I’m 299% right!

  • One thing? This is more than one thing. So your response is now wrong.

  • Your are incorrectly correct.

  • Where?!?

  • I don’t know any numbers higher than 299, so I must assume this is the most right one can be.

  • Anton de Jong

    A parent of an economically small child, perhaps?

  • Anton de Jong


  • Microparent?

  • Bulls per sheet!

  • Pseudonym

    Hello. I came across this article long after every else did, which allows me to make a point with less fear of rebuttal by your usual audience.

    There is one technical error that you made in your argument. To the casual observer it may seem like a small error, but despite the fact that I don’t understand to what extent your argument depends on it, the mere fact that I spotted it allows me to cast smug doubt on the argument as a whole, as well as your education level and possibly your mental capacity.

    I close by comparing my misunderstanding of your argument to a mined quote from a hated historical figure, though I’m not sure which one yet as I desperately wish to avoid invoking Godwin’s Law.

  • Stephen Webb

    but…did you actually agree with him?

  • Invoking Godwin’s Law is the type of thing Hitler would do. Just mentioning it here rather makes you a Nazi. I, personally, would never stoop to such a thing.

  • I agree and disagree.

  • Pseudonym

    If we take this response, in conjunction with an out-of-context quote snippet from your original piece, and push it far beyond its logical conclusion, doom would clearly befall. This leads me to an unwarranted conclusion about your true beliefs, possible ulterior motives, and perhaps a financial interest courtesy of a powerful cabal which I believe exists.

    For a less biased opinion, disinterested readers should read my blog, which sets out my own personal beliefs about this (although none of it addresses your original argument in any way).

    And shame on you for not knowing this. After all, I, and the group of weirdos I hang out with, have been discussing it endlessly for years on our own web forum.

  • Guest

    Sorry, the new numbers are in.

  • Stop twisting the data to your own ends. This is actually a vertical chart.

  • xkcd is great, and I didn’t know it was mentioned there. You HAVE added something to this response, if you consider making my day something.

  • SFX

    I am shocked and delighted you responded, I was going to link to the actual post, on the xkcd forum, but feared it would seem like spam. Also, after reading your delightful thoughts I posted a long and hilarious response there, inspired by your humor, and now I can’t post in that thread for a month.

    A small price to pay for being funny. Also, this work of yours is going to end up being dropped into many many discussions in the future. I hope you are ready for all the attention. When people start coming up to you on the street, in droves, in giant tsunamis of adoration, I suggest a horsehead mask for when you don’t want to be noticed in public.

    But I sense I may be wrong about this.

  • Boom: Call-back. Veteran commenting move. Respect!

  • SFX

    Ha! You lost me with your hipster internet slang. Are you going to get mad if I steal that line “Now let this chart hammer-punch some sense into you.”?

    That’s comedy gold.

  • Of course not. Hammer-punch away.

  • SFX

    Ha! I was just joking about theft. I will of course hyperlink any of your lines I use to this page. Respect.

  • Anton de Jong

    That sounds to much like a microbrewery ;-)

  • richardstevenhack

    I just pull out my Glock and end the argument with people like these. Works every time.

  • SFX

    Oh yeah! But the learnin ain’t what you want em to larn. Why am I talkin in a southern accent all of a sudden?

  • SFX

    If only that were actually true


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: