FAMU Death is a Sign School Officials Must Do More to Curb Hazing

On November 19, Robert Champion, a member of the Florida A&M University's acclaimed marching band, died after a football game, apparently as a result of hazing. Although the cause of death has not yet been announced, officials at FAMU have pinpointed the death as a result of hazing, expelling four students and removing 30 from the band. Although the type of hazing remains unclear — drinking does not seem to be a factor — it has become clear that hazing is a problem at many schools, one that college officials are only beginning to crack down on now.

In many American universities, hazing is largely a problem with social societies. Fraternities and sororities are notorious for forcing their incoming freshmen, or “pledges,” to go through a series of humiliating and often life-threatening rituals in order to become part of the society. Usually those involve binge-drinking alcohol, as was the case in the deaths of Carson Starkey, a freshman at California Polytechnic Institute in 2009, Arman Patarmian of SUNY Geneseo that same year, and many others. Often these types of deaths are reported as alcohol poisoning or suicide, so it is difficult to count exactly how many have died as a result of hazing.

Hazing doesn't always have to kill someone to be threatening. In May of this year, Yale University banned the fraternity (whose members have included both President Bushes) Delta Kappa Epsilon for conducting a pledging ritual which involved public chanting of misogynist chants such as, “No means yes” in public. Many fraternities and sororities are known for their homophobia and intolerance, and many accusations of racism have come up against them.

In the case of Champion, reports claim he was beaten badly on the bus after the game. The marching band has a history of abuse; a similar event happened only a month earlier, when a FAMU clarinetist's legs were punched so hard her leg broke. It's true that hazing is difficult to identify, let alone stop. But hopefully, at least Champion's death alerts universities to investigate the situations students are being placed in on campus, and pressures officials — or even students — to take some action to stop them.

Photo Credit: Roundup Russy