It seems the only time the word “hazing” is brought to our attention is when something horrible happens to a young person bent on joining some type of organization.  Just recently, the death of a Florida A&M drum major has been ruled a homicide, as reported by the state medical examiner’s office.  The young man had bruises to his chest, arms, shoulder, and back, as well as internal bleeding, which caused him to go into shock, which killed him.  The hazing occurred on the band bus, where he was found unresponsive, according to witnesses. 

Over the past several years, hazing cases have emerged.  A spot in the marching band is coveted and many bands are as revered as much as the sports team.  In 1998, a clarinet player from Ocala, Florida, said he was paddled around 300 times, sending him to the hospital and leaving him physically and emotionally scarred.   In 2001, a MU band member suffered kidney damage because of being beaten with a paddle.  In 2008, according to an AP release, two first-year French horn players in Southern University’s marching band had to be hospitalized after a beating.  In 2009, 20 members of Jackson State University’s band were suspended after being accused of hazing.  Now, Florida A&M is going to be taking steps to ensure that they can create a safe environment for the entire school community and that this will never happen again at FAMU.  One of the most important things for parents is the assurance that their children are going to be safe when they join a high school or college group.  Years ago, we were initiated when we entered high school as freshmen.  We had to wear silly things, or sing to a football hero, etc., but there was never the violence that is associated with hazing, as it seems to be now, in many cases.  We aren’t saying it happens in all groups, but there should be rules established to prevent injury or possible death to new members.

According to StopHazing.org, there are three types of hazing: Subtle Hazing; Harrassment Hazing; and Violent Hazing.  Here’s an explanation of each type.  See if any of them are familiar to you or someone you know: 

Subtle Hazing: Behaviors that emphasize a power imbalance between new and other members of the group or team.  Subtle is termed as such because this type is often taken-for-granted or accepted as harmless.  Some examples of this type of hazing are:

  • Deception.
  • Demerits.
  • Requiring new members to perform duties not assigned to others.
  • Socially isolating new members.
  • Silence periods with implied threats for violation.
  • Line-ups and drills on meaningless information.
  • Name calling.
  • Requiring new members to refer to other members with titles, while they are identified with demeaning terms.
  • Expecting certain items to always be in one’s possession.

Harassment Hazing:  Behaviors that cause emotional anguish or physical discomfort in order to feel like part of the group.  It confuses, frustrates and causes undue stress for new membership.  Here are some examples:

  • Threats or implied threats.
  • Verbal abuse
  • Asking new members to wear embarrassing or humiliating attire.
  • Stunt or skit nights with degrading, crude, or humiliating acts.
  • New members being told to perform personal service to other members.
  • Sleep deprivation.
  • Sexual stimulation.
  • Depriving new members of bodily cleanliness.
  • Be expected to harass others.

Violent Hazing:  Behaviors that have the potential to cause physical and/or emotional, or psychological harm.  Some examples:

  • Forced or coerced drug or alcohol consumption.
  • Beating, paddling, or other forms of assault.
  • Branding.
  • Forced or coerced ingestion of vile substances or concoctions.
  • Burning.
  • Water intoxication.
  • Expecting new members to abuse or mistreat animals.
  • Public nudity.
  • Bondage.
  • Requiring illegal activity.
  • Exposure to cold weather or extreme heat without appropriate protection.
  • Abductions or kidnaps. 

The problem of hazing is very complex, with no “easy answers.”  Every individual has an important role to play in helping to solve the problem of hazing.  We all must build awareness and develop intervention strategies to eliminate harmful hazing.  There’s no group worth being in to go through this type of humiliation and possible injury.  Hazing extends far beyond college fraternities and sororities, school groups, athletic teams, bands, and the military.  The activities of these groups should concur with fraternal law, ritual or policy or the regulations and policies of the educational institution.   Educational institutions owe it to their students to ensure their safety.