Opinion: Why Is Hazing Still A Huge Problem?

by Marcherie L. Davis

Haze (verb)
“1a: to harass by exacting unnecessary or disagreeable work. 1b: to harass by banter, ridicule, or criticism. 2:  to haze by way of initiation.” Definition from Merrium-Webster.com
Hazing can take place in high schools to incoming freshmen, new athletes, and entrance into a popular group.  However, hazing is more often associated with initiations prior to membership into elite college groups such as fraternities and sororities.  Now in light of the suspected hazing death of Robert Champion, one of FAMU's "Marching 100" drum majors, hazing is now known to occur in marching bands.  The problem here is that hazing will not stop with the death of Champion, just as it has not stopped with the deaths of any other victim of hazing.  So what will it take to end hazing?  Why are people willing to keep this silent even in instances of death?

Hank Nuwer, author on various books about hazing, refers to hazing as an "equal opportunity disgrace" in his interview with Michael Martin for NPR (http://www.npr.org/2011/11/29/142895352/history-of-hazing-as-equal-opportunity-disgrace).  This refers to the fact that hazing does not specifically occur within certain racial groups, it happens to everyone.  In this interview, it was also mentioned that hazing occurs due to tradition and it is shrouded in silence, also part of the tradition.

The problem here is why is it seen as a badge of honor to successfully pass through the hazings associated with initiations for entrance into any group? What good is it to an organization to subject their potential member to psychological or physical hurt or worse, death?  If some members are asked, they may give reasons such as to breakdown a person to build them up in the (insert organization's name here) tradition.  For other members, it may be simply for the honor of being able to successfully make it through the process to ultimately receive the Greek letters of the organization, receive the membership certificate, or move up in the leadership ranks.  The problem is that not everyone makes it through these initiations.  Some make a personal decision to back away, but the other unlucky ones are unfortunately taken away in body bags.  Is it worth it? For those who make it, the answer may be yes, but for those who have perished due to these practices, their answers may very well be different.

In addition to loyal members willingly and willfully keeping silent as their members or potentials suffer or die, the schools where these things occur are also having a problem keeping a handle on the problem.  At FAMU, it was reported by Christine Amario for Yahoo! News that problems with hazing in the band was reported to authorities by the now terminated band leader, Julian White, two decades ago.  The article goes on to state the ways in which White tried to eradicate the culture of hazing within the band, up to and including notifying university leadership and authorities.  Their response, if any, is unknown. When dealing with a blanket problem such as hazing, it takes a team effort.  It takes more than leaving it to the advisor.  It really should be a partnership between the advisor and the university officials.

Every school and most states have some form of anti-hazing laws with harsh penalties if violated.  The saving grace for most organizations on college campuses that keep this practice alive is the undying loyalty of it's members and those who wish to become members' ability to keep silent about the hazing that is commonly known to still occur, in spite of the harsh laws and penalties in place to discourage the practice.  To discourage hazing, there are such sites as stophazing.org that work towards eradication of the practice.  The question that remains is can the practice of hazing truly be eradicated? 

Chime in on the comments section, and let us know if you think there will ever be an end to hazing.

(videos courtesy of YouTube)

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