FAMU Is Not Penn State: Hazing Should Not Kill A Storied Program
This past weekend, the St. Petersburg Times published a lengthy article in which experts suggested Florida A&M University shut down its storied Marching 100 band in the wake of the November 19 death of Robert Champion. The drum major allegedly died after receiving blows during a hazing ritual. The story quoted Walter Kimbrough, hazing expert and president of Philander Smith College in Arkansas, this way: "Your chances of having a marching band hazing incident are zero if you don't have a functioning marching band." That's absolute BS.
This all is tragic, and law enforcement should investigate and criminally charge anyone involved in the young man's death. But let's be real here. Hazing goes on whenever you are part of a secret society or an organization. In fact, the drowning death of a University of Miami student involved in a fraternity hazing years ago is what prompted state legislators to make it a crime.
FAMU's scandal is unlike those at Penn State and Syracuse, in which legendary coaches Joe Paterno and Jim Boeheim, along with administrators, turned a blind eye to the sexual predators in their midst. FAMU's longtime band director, Julian White, cracked down on hazing. He did what Paterno and Boeheim wouldn't do. White dismissed more than 100 band members who participated in hazing and many times canceled scholarships. Band members are even required to sign a form acknowledging that hazing is illegal and not tolerated at the school. Four others were expelled. Unfortunately, FAMU fired White, making him a scapegoat.
People want to crucify FAMU now and forget all the school's great accomplishments, such as playing at three presidential inaugurations and five Super Bowls, as well as representing the United States in Paris for France's 200-year Bastille Day celebration. There is no doubt Champion should not have been hazed. But White fought hard to stop that.
If the Marching 100 disappears, future generations of talented African-American musicians won't get the chance to play. That would be a shame.
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