Moved by the recent death of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson says she plans to introduce a federal anti-hazing bill when Congress returns from its holiday break next month.
In Champion’s case, police say he was punched and paddled in a hazing ritual during the school’s Marching 100 band trip to the annual Florida Classic in Orlando. An autopsy report showed that the 26-year-old’s “muscles were beaten so badly that they were destroyed like you would see in a heart attack.” So far, the Marching 100 has been suspended from all activities and its director placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s investigation but Wilson says overall, hazing is demeaning, dangerous, deadly, and needs to be stopped.
The question is whether a law would do any good? Most colleges and universities have policies prohibiting hazing as a means of granting students entrance into fraternities, sororities, and other campus organizations yet the practice still goes on. Some groups get suspended for a semester, maybe even a year, but when the next opportunity rolls around, hazing resumes and vows of silence and solidarity amongst members of these groups keep such practices from being openly exposed although the activity is well-known. So what good would a law do? It could ensure those who are caught hazing endure much stricter punishments, but for any practical change to come about, leaders of these organizations have to take a stance against hazing and truly desire to create alternative means of ushering in new members to a group that don’t threaten their well-being. As long as group members see hazing as a method of proving worth and loyalty, they will just find sneakier ways to go about it.
Do you think an anti-hazing law would stop this activity on college campuses?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.