people in uniforms in the stadium stands
The 2021 UH “Rainbow Warrior” Marching Band and Color Guard

A student-led online petition calling for an exemption to allow the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa marching band and color guard to perform at UH football games is gaining support on social media. Nearly 1,000 people have already signed the petition, which was launched by UH Mānoa undergraduate students and color guard co-captains Katelyn Tokunaga and Candice Sarangay.

people standing on a football field in formation
Band students stand in the traditional “UH” formation

The band, an academic course made up of more than 250 students, has been allowed to rehearse in-person. Their request to perform at the outdoor football games, however, has been denied. Band members point out that all members are required to be fully-vaccinated (no exemptions or exceptions) and they are following all safety protocols based on nationwide guidance for marching bands.

“Our petition serves as a visual representation to show our governor how much support our marching band has. We did not create the petition to promote a ‘larger gathering’ or ‘college students partying,’ but to allow the students who are taking an accredited class to engage in their assessments,” Tokunaga said. “If the university’s administration is kind enough to allow us to have our rehearsals during the week (with many safety precautions we adhere to) why are we not allowed to go to the exact same stadium we practice in on a Saturday to conduct our exams?”

The marching band has played a pivotal role in athletic events and campus life since its inception in 1923. The members perform at every home football, basketball and volleyball game, while also making trips to the continental U.S. and internationally to support the athletic teams. It is the only university marching band in the state and one of the largest student organizations on campus.

“Without the Rainbow Warrior Marching Band, I would not be the person I am today,” Sarangay said. “The sense of community and camaraderie the band exudes represents the lifeblood of the university. I am deeply proud to be part of them and be able to not only constantly spread collegiate spirit, but be given an opportunity to serve my community in a way I am most passionate about.”

“Our students’ safety is of course our top priority, and we have great confidence in our safety protocols, which follow the best practices of collegiate programs across the nation and have resulted in zero cases in our band,” said Adam Kehl, UH marching band director, associate director of bands and assistant professor of music. “We’re proud of how well the students have followed our safety protocols over the last five weeks of class meetings and rehearsals. The students have been working very hard and are keeping their spirits up.”

A request by the UH Athletics Department to allow family members of players, who will be fully-vaccinated, socially-distanced and masked, has also been denied.

There are five remaining home football games at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex:

  • September 18, 6:30 p.m. vs. San Jose State
  • October 2, 5 p.m. vs. Fresno State (homecoming)
  • October 23, 6 p.m. vs. New Mexico State
  • November 6, TBA vs. San Diego State
  • November 20, 6 p.m. vs. Colorado State

This effort is an example of UH Mānoa’s goals of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF) and Enhancing Student Success (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

—By Marc Arakaki