Robert Champion Lawsuit Will Not End College Hazing

Students involved in the 2011 death of marching band drummer Robert Champion have received harsher charges of manslaughter than the original felony persecution. Champion took part in a hazing ritual at Florida A&M University that resulted in him being beaten to the point of death. Although this trial should serve as a wake up call for colleges and universities, hazing will not be eliminated in its entirety from college campuses.

Champion was brutally battered in November 2011 after a football game. On a school bus parked in a Florida hotel parking lot, several students took part in assaulting the drummer. Emergency responders found Champion suffering from severe bruises, was unresponsive and vomiting. Champion eventually died from internal bleeding.

The incident has since led to a brutal legal battle between Champion’s family and Florida A&M University. When faced with a lawsuit, the university fired back, claiming that Champion was responsible for his own death because he willingly participated in the hazing ritual. The university then extended their wallets and offered the family a $300,000 settlement, which they rejected.

One of the university’s attorneys, Richard Mitchell, argued that Champion knew exactly what was waiting for him the day of his death.

"Robert Champion knew exactly what he was doing. If Mr. Champion had not gotten on that bus, he would not have been hazed," he said.

Florida courts have since prosecuted upwards of 13 students involved in the hazing incident, and the trial has been delayed. If convicted, some students may face upwards of 15-year prison sentences. Since the death of Champion, FAMU’s band director has resigned, and the marching band continues to be in a state of suspension.

The legal situation has since become the biggest hazing related case ever, and FAMU has taken progressive measures to implement a strict no-hazing policy for any of its organizations. Such a tragedy should spark anti-hazing sentiments for universities, but the sad reality is that hazing does happen, and will continue to happen. Oftentimes rituals happen in secret and remain under the radar until matters become a life or death situation. It is troubling that hazing of this severity receives attention, but practices that happen on college campuses practically daily go unnoticed. Universities across the nation can vow to implement no-hazing measures, but some form of hazing will unfortunately remain to some extent a component of the college experience.

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Shawna Gillen

Shawna is currently studying Political Science and Psychology at Marist College. She has a passion for politics and is an aspiring lawyer. In her spare time she likes to play club women's rugby, and contributes as the Co-News Editor for Marist's student newspaper.

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