December 18, 2018

Hazing at Florida A&M

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE       CONTACT:  Kevin Haney
DATE: 1 December, 2011         PHONE:        (410) 533-7874

The Following statement may be attributed to Professor Kevin Haney, CFO, The Student-Leader Seminar:

Another tragedy has occurred on yet another major college campus.  Florida A&M, one of America’s oldest Historically Black Colleges has experienced the death of 26-year-old drum major Robert Champion.  Champion appears to have succumbed to injuries sustained in a hazing incident by his fellow band-mates of the FAMU Marching 100.  Reports from the NY Times state that administrators knew that hazing went on and while it was not tolerated they were unable to prevent it.  According to Lizette Alvarez and Robbie Brown of the NYT, “Hazing is not uncommon among marching bands around the country and has been a longtime practice at historically black colleges like Florida A&M.” The university, whose enrollment is roughly 13,000, has had its share of serious hazing incidents. Two students were beaten or paddled so forcefully they suffered acute injury, one in 1998 and the other in 2001.

According to the band’s recently fired director, Dr. Julian White, he admonished students as recently as October for a similar hazing event which resulted in a fractured leg of a band member inflicted by others from the band.  Dr. White claims that he notified the administration, including the dean and the vice-president of FAMU to no avail.

Hazing is a felony and yet it continues to occur on US campuses where parents send their children to be educated at great personal expense.  While there is rarely a simple explanation as to why these tragedies occur, that they still occur at all is a national disgrace and brings shame on the American academy.  What is so frustrating for so many is that these events are very predictable and preventable.  The answer is ethical leadership.  Young men and women in universities are living alone and mostly un-chaperoned for the first time in their lives.  They are stretching the boundaries of their freedoms and all too often injure themselves and/or others.

Universities, high schools, and prep schools are all at risk of similar tragedies and school administrators and leaders who turn a blind eye to warning signs may be risking the lives of their students and the reputations of their institutions.  These events are not limited to sports teams.  According to the NY Times report,

The Marching 100 is the marquee organization at the university, the equivalent of a powerhouse football team and is crucial in raising money for it and attracting new students. It has performed at events like the Grammy Awards and the Super Bowl and was scheduled to play at Carnegie Hall. The band has 375 members this year.

Students, faculty and administrators need to be focused on ethical leadership in all aspects of their institutions.  Leaders must focus not just on the bottom line but on the product that they graduate.  Leaders need to be ready for that moment when they must confront directly people and events that challenge that which they know to be moral and decent.  To do otherwise is a failure of leadership and the breeding ground for scandal.  Is your institution developing ethical leaders of character?

The Student-Leader Seminar (SLS) is a team of nationally recognized thought leaders in the field of leadership, ethics, and character development specializing in high school and college students, teachers, and administrators.  Seminars and speaking engagements can be arranged through www.studentleaderseminar.com or by direct contact with the following SLS partners

Contact Information for Student-Leader Seminar Partners

In Maryland:

Joe Thomas    (410) 212-5181 or jjthomas@studentleaderseminar.com.
Kevin Haney   (410) 533-7874 or kjhaney@studentleaderseminar.com.

In Ohio:

Stephen C. Robbins (740) 975-665 scrobbins@studentleaderseminar.com

1 Lizette Alvarez and Robbie Brown, €œStudent’s Death Turns Spotlight on Hazing,€ New York Times Online edition, December 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/01/us/florida-am-university-students-death-turns-spotlight-on-hazing.html,  (Accessed 1 December 2011)
2 Ibid.

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