Last year, Robert Champion Jr. died November 19, an apparent victim of school organization-based hazing. For those of you unfamiliar with his story, 26-year-old Champion was one of six drum majors for FAMU’s Marching 100 band. Following the Florida Classic, an annual college football match-up between FAMU andBethune-CookmanUniversity, Champion and his band mates returned to their charter bus. Shortly after, there he was beaten so severely that he ultimately succumbed to his extensive injuries. Rumor has it that Champion was beaten for dropping his baton but now sexuality may also be the blame. The coroner ruled his death a homicide.
Not surprisingly, the fallout from Champion’s death was monumental, even extending hundreds of miles to the site of his high school alma mater. Immediately following his death, the Marching 100 was suspended until further notice, several leadership positions were terminated, and marching band activities were halted in DeKalb County, Georgia.
The fallout from Champion’s death continues in 2012. As of January 31, FAMU’s President “has suspended intake for all campus org [anization] s, fraternities, and sororities.” He has also cancelled band camp for this upcoming summer.
This is not the first time a student has died or been seriously injured during a hazing incident. In 1998, a former FAMU clarinet player was hospitalized after being paddled 300 times. Most noted throughout the Black community, however, are the 2002 deaths of Kenitha Saafir and Kristen High who drowned while pledging Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in Los Angeles, California. Champion, Saafir, and High’s deaths—and the deaths of countless others—beg the following question: What does one gain from hazing or being hazed, specifically with regard to fraternities and sororities?
Those in support of hazing argue that it exists in part to weed out unwanted members of an organization or in other words, the weak links. These same people believe that hazing serves to teach hopeful members a lesson in appreciation, expedite commitment to the organization, and create a sense of commaradery.
Hazing is a vicious cycle of abuse and ascertaining one’s—or the group’s—authoritative position, and it helps create a clearly defined hierarchy within an organization. After all, physical violence hardly qualifies as a lesson in appreciation as it does a blatant attempt to assert temporary superiority. Fraternities and sororities preach brother and sisterhood, yet there is nothing remotely brotherly or sisterly about what honestly constitutes physical and psychological abuse. Of course Greek organizations are about the step shows, the popularity, and sometimes even the notoriety, but they are also about giving back through community service and securing networking opportunities. Should being beaten serve as a prerequisite for performing community service? For networking with professionals? For building your resume?
Perhaps fraternities and sororities should exercise more innovative methods in procuring new members… because somehow I don’t envision hospitalization and death as intended outcomes of the pledging process.
I wonder if members of the Democratic Party went Evander Holyfield on President Barack Obama before he was sworn into office. Somehow I doubt that.
What are some of your thoughts on hazing? Is there a lesson to be learned?