From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill

Despite the controversy of

New coach Mike London was not the only replacement at Virginia football games this year. For the first time since its formation in 2003, the marching band did not perform "Rugby Road" as part of its pregame show, replacing the song's time slow with the peppy but more modest "Hoo Time."

This change sparked such controversy that band member Keirstin McCambridge began an online petition before the Nov. 13 home game against Maryland to "reinstate Rugby Road as an integral part of the college football experience," according to the petition. McCambridge then created a Facebook event to encourage students to sign the petition.

Although the petition collected 293 signatures from band members, students and alumni, the Facebook event wall saw severe backlash from the community, including statements that the song promotes sexual violence, excessive drinking and vulgar language. As a result, McCambridge canceled the Facebook event, stating in a message to its participants. "Seeing as several people have taken offense to this part of UVA culture, the event will be removed."

The controversial song's lyrics begin with the chorus:\nFrom Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill, / We're gonna get drunk tonight. / The faculty's afraid of us; / They know we're in the right. / So fill up your cups, your loving cups, / As full as full can be / As long as love and liquor last, / We'll drink to the U of V.

For some individuals, these lyrics serve as light, if crude, entertainment. But there are many people, including second-year college student Saheel Mehta, who are less than impressed.

"When reading the lyrics, you would think the school is run by old rich white guys," Mehta said. "Each additional section added on to the chorus is written by males. But there is much worse stuff along the same themes in modern rap songs - stuff that is actually praised."

Different versions of the song's lyrics include verses with degrading depictions of rival colleges - such as Virginia Tech and Boston College - and demeaning portrayals of specific sororities, as well as explicit sexual images.

In response, the student organization Feminism Is For Everyone sent University President Teresa A. Sullivan a letter expressing its members' concern about the song's portrayal of the University.\n"Throughout the 35 verses, the song continues to degrade and devalue college women and inaccurately portray the men at our university as arrogant, disrespectful and sexually aggressive," the letter stated.

Other students, such as Caitlin Campbell, a clarinet player in the Cavalier Marching Band, feel that many individuals are overreacting to the song. Campbell said she does not believe a majority of students know more than the chorus, which refers only to drinking.

"There are some student organizations which pride themselves on their knowledge of the additional verses, but that knowledge is not the norm," she said. Consequently, she added, concerns of the song promoting sexually aggressive behavior are overblown.

FIFE members disagree, believing the song's lyrics are especially inappropriate in light of the sexual assaults University students have experienced this semester.

"The very fact that there is a movement to try to bring this song back to U.Va. shows that many in our community have learned nothing about diversity, respect, or gendered violence from the events of this past year," the letter stated.

Campbell, however, said the lyrics to this controversial song are not posted on the JumboTron as they are for other songs, such as the "Good Ol' Song."

"People who are offended by 'Rugby Road' are only considering the lyrics of the song," she said. "The instrumental version [which was played in the pregame until the 2010 Virginia football season] is a 35-second part of the pregame entertainment at U.Va. football games, and the performance by the Cavalier Marching Band has no U.Va.-sanctioned relation to the lyrics whatsoever."

But the offensive lyrics were not the reason for eliminating the song from the show. William Pease, who has served as the marching band's director since its formation, said he has modified the arrangement of the pregame performance for each season.

For the marching band's first performance, Pease said he "put in some U.Va. songs that the original marching band played in the early and mid-1900s. I also used other songs as well. 'Rugby Road' happened to be one I used for its melody ... The song was never played to promote violence or drinking."

Likewise, Pease said he chose "Hoo Time" simply because of its quicker-tempo tune.

Nevertheless, Campbell said she does not believe "Hoo Time" is an adequate replacement, largely because of the stronger traditions associated with "Rugby Road," along with the song's catchy melody.

"The Cavalier Marching Band's pregame show is meant to entertain and to pump up fans, but I think the unfamiliar song with unknown lyrics only confuses or disinterests them," Campbell said.\nSecond-year College student Megan Tiller agreed that band performances have lost their traditions with the loss of "Rugby Road."

"Rugby Road is a song that sets U.Va. apart from other marching band traditions," Tiller said. "The marching band is relatively new so it shouldn't change everything already."

This controversy is not the first to have affected University bands. Before the marching band's formation six years ago, the Virginia Pep Band performed "Rugby Road" among other songs before football games from 1974-2003. This "scramble band" focused on members running across the field to form shapes, as opposed to the concept of marching in uniform lines.

The Pep Band's performances were at times considered inappropriate and offensive. The University athletic department banned the Pep Band from performing at athletic events after it was forbidden from playing at bowl games in 2002 because of a particularly controversial portrayal of West Virginia residents during the Continental Tire Bowl.

In the future, though, Tiller said she hopes the University can combine characteristics of the former Pep Band with those of the current Cavalier Marching Band to produce performances that merge the "old school charm that U.Va. boasts with new traditions."

Like the Pep Band before, the tradition of performing "Rugby Road" has been replaced, but only time will tell if either one can be brought back to the field on gamedays.

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