Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hazing: I Don't Get It....

If you don't know who Robert Champion is, you should.  He was the 26 year-old drum major in FAMU's well-known "Marching 100" band. A super talented, handsome young man who was in the prime of his life.  He became ill and died following the Florida Classic football game in Orlando last Saturday.  

The city's sheriff has gone on record, saying he suspects hazing was a factor in Robert's death.  FAMU has fired their band director and announced that they'll form an independent task force to investigate this incident.  Florida Governor Rick Scott has even weighed in.  He has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to review Robert's death and the circumstances surrounding it.

This is serious.  Really serious.  Under Florida law, any death that occurs as the result of hazing is a third-degree felony.  
Robert Champion
I don't get hazing, I really don't.  I feel like it's...organized bullying.  By all accounts, hazers appear to be people who have acquired a small slice of power. With power comes control, and quite often that control shifts to a state of violence.

've never understood it and I don't think I ever will.  Many supporters of hazing (yes, there are many) use words like "tradition" and "history" to justify it.  Several of my close friends and family members who have experienced hazing, didn't/don't feel victimized. Many feel that it made them stronger, both physically and mentally. By enduring the violence, intimidation and humiliation, they somehow felt that it said something about their character. Something good.  It seemed to validate their dedication and loyalty.... I don't get that. 

Although hazing has been formally prohibited at most universities, it's still a real problem. There are smart, ambitious, young people who are willing participants in these sometimes life threatening initiations.  Why?  To fit in?  To show their love and respect for the brotherhood/sisterhood?  I don't get it....

When hazing becomes physical, it has the potential to hurt people and we can't take that lightly. It's unfortunate, but I don't think Robert's story will deter other students from participating in these rituals.  It will continue to be a part of society's fabric because people accept it, condone it and oftentimes ignore it.  It's sad, but true.
I'm convinced.  Hazing is wrong.  It's not OK.  People and real relationships are not made stronger by pain and humiliation. True bonds are developed through experiencing things together and working with each other towards shared goals.  If you can't encourage someone to value your group, organization, fraternity or sorority without the use of violence, then maybe it's time to re-examine the significance of its existence.  
Robert and an aspiring young drum major


  1. I comment on this post from the perspective of someone who gets hazing. I have been a "victim" of hazing multiple times. First when I joined my fraternity & second when I joined the army. At no point would I go about it differently.

    Some would say I drank the kool aid. In college I learned quite a bit about the difference in hazing and pledging. Hazing is usually found in situations where it is the best of the best involved. These situations always come with an expectation of hazing and has for many years. Here comes the big problem with hazing. Some who perform the act, have no idea of what it can do to someone emotionally. In the Army there are strict expectations that the Drill Sgts have undergone intensive training. They are prepared to deal with both the physical and mental problems that come along with this intensive training. Often people say training someone for war is different than someone joining a club. Well that is true but if you want to know whats the closest you can get to being in war domestically try being an African American man. Joining an African American fraternal organization is in fact training those who are to be our leaders. Fraternities in the African American community are Duboisian in design. They are designed not to a group where those with a selfless heart seek only to better their community.

    Now on to the FAMU situation I think we are quick to judge when someone says Haze. I find this item to be extremely odd. This is a 26 year old drum major not a freshman trying to get on the line. As the details are arising it is sounding more and more odd. They are also talking about the hazing happening on a bus. I wonder if there has been a toxicology report issued yet.

    I hope more facts continue to arise and this case gets as much high profile headlines when it is found not to be hazing. I pray for Robert Champion's family for their loss.

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience. I have to admit, I don't know a tremendous amount about hazing so your comments were really enlightening. Point taken.


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