Orgo Night is held on the day before the Organic Chemistry ("Orgo") exam, which is always on the first day of finals. At precisely the stroke of midnight, the Columbia University Marching Band occupies Room 209 (the main reading room) of Butler Library to distract diligent students from studying - in fact, one of its legendary purposes is to lower the curve of the Orgo exam. Despite the commotion, at least some students attempt to study through the event.
Though the performance doesn't begin until midnight, early arrival is recommended as students begin to file in and claim prime spaces in the room as early as 20 to 25 minutes ahead of time.
The Band begins by telling scripted campus-interest jokes and playing music. After half an hour, the procession moves out to Van Am Quad to entertain the residents of Hartley, Wallach, and John Jay residence halls. The Band then plays at various other locations around the campus, including the courtyard of Wien, President Bollinger's House (where, until recently when security began stopping them, they would ring the doorbell before playing), and the residential quadrangle of Barnard College, where students of the all-women's school rain papers - including notes and course packets - and sometimes pornographic magazines upon them from their dormitory rooms above in mock exasperation.
The Band ends their Orgo Night performances in front of Furnald Hall, formerly an all-senior dormitory, where the seniors gathering on the steps of the building are presented with bottles of champagne, and the underclassmen in the marching band serenade them with a singing of the college Alma Mater, Sans Souci. After finishing the song, the singers go through a series of entertaining, though vulgar, mock-versions of the song, composed of quips that poke fun at the various stereotypes about the Columbia student body.
Typical joke targets
- Barnard College
- Student government
- Famous or infamous students
- NY and national politicians
- Naughty-sounding but innocuous chemistry concepts
- Awkward SEAS students
- The university's neglect of undergrads
- Sex, especially S&M
The history of Orgo Night is somewhat shrouded in mystery. It's believed that the first show was held as a spontaneous prank, perhaps in the 1960s.
Security Concerns 2000-2001
The Spring 2000 Orgo Night attracted over 1,000 attendants, possibly driven by a rumor that alcohol was being served by the band. The rumor also reached the administration which decided to beef up security. As such, the extra administrators got to witness students standing on every possible surface in and outside of the main reading room. As a result, the event was capped with a 200 person limit in the room, followed by a second performance on the Low Steps or Van Am Quad for a few years. Of course, things couldn't be left at that - at the first Orgo Night following the overcrowded Spring 2000 affair, an unknown person pulled the fire alarm. Stay classy, Columbia.
In 2012 the Marching Band got publicly scolded by Kevin Shollenberger for their Orgo Night promo flyers that made politically incorrect puns involving the Gaza Strip and an image of a stripper. The small scandal led to student protests of Orgo Night, and assorted counter-protests. Although the Marching Band apologized, most people agreed that it wasn't that big of a deal..
- Bwog posts about Orgo Night:
- Orgo Night videos from the CUMB's Youtube
- Orgo night scripts from 2011 on are on the CUMBlog
- CUMB bands together, Columbia Spectator, 2 May 2010 Article on Script-writing
- The 2000-2001 Security Issues
- Orgo Night Y2K, C250 Perspectives - Alumni Submission
- After Controversy, Future Orgo Nights Are in Doubt Columbia Spectator, 12 February 2001
- Orgo Night and Revolution, Columbia Spectator, 20 February 2001
- Orgo Night Scaled Down Due to Safety Concerns, Columbia Spectator, 30 April 2001
- Orgo Night's Butler Limit Will Continue, Columbia Spectator, 5 December 2001