What The Heck Is Happening With The Golden Band From Tigerland?

Something unusual, and decidedly negative, is going on at LSU. It seems to be a leadership crisis which is pervasive.

There was the Les Miles incident last fall, and before that the Teresa Buchanan imbroglio, both of which painted LSU in a poor light. There is the continuing political agitation by LSU president F. King Alexander for more legislative appropriations, a campaign which has done much to alienate the very legislators to whom it’s directed.

Yesterday, there was the embarrassing spectacle of LSU’s Dean of Students, Mari Fuentes-Martin, who prior to last year had never lived in Louisiana, threatening to impose a host of bureaucratic restrictions on students tailgating at football games; the furor that touched off on Twitter and elsewhere painted the university as a dopey nanny-state attempting to ban its students’ enjoyment – and specifically targeting fraternities and sororities for poor treatment.

And today, the director of the Gold Band From Tigerland, Roy King, has been suspended, under circumstances which look much like a raid on the band’s finances.

King is on leave pending an investigation by LSU’s Human Resources, [his attorney Jill] Craft said. King was informed Wednesday morning in a meeting with the director of Human Resources and members of LSU’s internal auditing.

She said King has been investigated by LSU for the past three and a half months, and the accusations have been inconsistent and unclear.

“Starting in the fall of the last school year there was an effort on part of administrators in the School of Music to get their hands on the budget for the Golden Band from Tiger Land,” Craft said. “Rightfully so, my client refused to allow that to happen and immediately after refusing to allow that to happen they opened a ridiculous investigation into him which has included pulling every email he’s ever sent over the last 18 years of his employment.”

Craft said LSU officials have taken issue with LSU Golden Girl dance team members receiving stipends or scholarships, “even though they have over the last several decades.”

Craft accused School of Music officials of saying they were working to find ways to extend Tiger Band scholarships to other music students who are not on the LSU band.

She said in meetings, administrators disparaged the quality of LSU’s band, calling them the “laughing stock of the country.”

But she said it was not specifically evident that King was being penalized for his performance. She said in meetings there was a single mention of an instance of alleged “insubordination.”

Roy King was named Band Director of the Year by the Phi Beta Mu International Bandmasters Fraternity in 2013. If LSU’s band descended from that height to a laughingstock in two years, we’ve not noticed it.

If he’s guilty of some sort of misuse of band funds, then his suspension is one thing. But given the scramble for cash on campus by the university’s leadership one has to be somewhat suspicious.

It’s also interesting that the LSU School of Music and Dramatic Arts has a relatively new dean, appointed in the spring of 2014 by the current administration. Whether that has anything to do with any of this, we don’t know. The insinuation Craft has made sounds like the music school is acting as an enforcer in trying to lay hands on the band’s money on behalf of the administration. If that’s the case, it’s pretty terrible.

In any event, it would be nice, if we’re supposed to absorb massive tax increases to supposedly keep Alexander from having to tube the LSU football program and so forth, to have stories like this one cease. Justly or unjustly, suspensions or firings of the school band director make for lousy press and a queasy feeling that tax dollars spent on LSU aren’t as good an investment as they once were.

UPDATE: LSU’s position is that King’s suspension isn’t about a financial tug-of-war.

“This is not as a result of any alleged dispute between Tiger Band and the School of Music,” Ballard said. “As of this time, this matter is ongoing and the University plans to not comment further.”

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