Kids Are Going to College and Dying to Be Part of the 'In' Crowd

HazingIt hits the press at least once a year, and for a few days, the topical spotlight shines bright on hazing.

Some poor kid, desperate to be inducted into one organization or another, gets beaten senseless or is caught doing something foolish or finds themselves injured — sometimes badly — trying to get through the requirements of membership or just be accepted. This time, it was Florida A&M’s drum major Robert Champion, who died in November after his bandmates found him unresponsive.

In the aftermath, four students have been kicked out of the school and the band’s director, Julian White, has been suspended while administrators at FAMU investigate the incident. It wouldn’t be the first time the band was cited for hazing. 

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Another student was paddled so badly, he had to be hospitalized for kidney failure, and a whopping 26 band members were suspended for hazing just weeks before Champion’s death.

Marching bands at historically black colleges and universities, for those who don’t know, are serious business — especially, especially down South. They’re a subculture within a subculture within a subculture. But like football teams and fraternities and sororities and probably a dozen other organizations that we probably don’t even suspect, like chemistry clubs and color guard teams and junior toastmasters, their members sometimes have to prove themselves to get in, or at least get in the good graces of others.

When I was a student, it was always a hot topic of discussion to see other kids obviously being pledged. Sometimes they had to wear crazy things around campus, like bubble coats in the middle of August, when we’d just gotten back to school. Sometimes they had to do boneheaded things to themselves, like write “I love chicken and chicken loves me” across their forehead in lipstick. Sometimes we saw them scuttling around in the wee hours of the morning on some covert mission that required them to be in the pitch black darkness of the adjacent woods.

Now that I’m a parent, though, I can’t necessarily say I'd be worry-free if Girl Child aspired to be part of any of that. The glory of getting accepted into an organization, social service club, or other group can be easily sullied by the process it took to get in. Up to a certain point, I can deal with the psychological challenges they place on their wannabe inductees. It’s the physical stuff that gives me pause.

If, at any point, she has to be stomped, slapped, smacked, punched, spit on, karate chopped, or upper-cutted or have her hair pulled, her skin burned, or her health compromised, I’d find it hard to give her a thumbs up for making it through the hazing.

She wants to join a particular sorority when she goes to college, the same one I wanted to join but never could because they were suspended on my campus for — you guessed it — hazing. I’ll support her if she still wants to do it once she hits her sophomore year and is clear to assess the possibility. But I’ll have a serious talk with her beforehand about when to draw the line, when to pack it up, and when to determine that it’s just not worth your safety or your life for a membership card.

Would you support your child if they wanted to join an organization with a reputation for hazing?



Image via Monica's Dad/Flickr

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