FAMU Hazing Murder: Can You Protect Your College Student?

January 13, 2015  |  

Parents already have enough to worry about when it comes to sending their new young adult off to college – Did I teach them everything? Did we pack extra socks? Will they fare okay on their own?

Luckily, college organizations and clubs often step in and become a second family for the new college student. From sport’s teams and the beloved bands of the South to greek organizations, there is more than enough to choose from. However, after Florida A&M University’s band member and hazing kingpen’s actions led to the the death of Robert Champion, will parents become more specific with the activities their young adults can become affiliated with?

FAMU ex-band member Dante Martin was sentenced to six years in prison this past week for the death of drum major Champion who was beat to death by band members allegedly under Martin’s instruction.

Martin told the Orlando Sentinel that in hazing, many times tradition is never questioned referring to the “hot seat” Champion was seated in on the band bus. At the time, Martin was the senior student leader on the bus and said to have organized the hazing.

Champion in the “hot seat” was asked to make it from the front to the back of the parked bus, shirtless, as various band members blocked the aisle, punching, kicking, and clubbing him with a drum mallet and orange traffic cone amongst other items.The medical examination concluded Champion died due to soft tissue bleeding from the blows.

“Sometimes we just go with what is tradition. We don’t second-guess it, we don’t doubt it,” Martin noted.

Nine other ex-band members have been sentenced and the death led to the band director’s retirement, suspension of the band and the removal of the university president.

So, could this happen again? Unfortunately, yes.

When I joined a sorority in my undergraduate years my mother was very protective – she monitored the times of night I’d call, the amount of money I said I needed help with, the decreasing calls due to being too busy.These are all things any parents should ask and be aware of when your son or daughter has decided to join a Greek organization or School band – organizations rumored to haze. While policy and procedures state that hazing is not allowed, it is often an unspoken rule. In recent years, it has become a much spoken about issue due to the rise in deaths and hospitalizations affiliated.

So, what do you so?

Tell your new adult “no,” they cannot join? Remember, they are a new adult – that tactic may not work so well. Stop sending funds and care packages because you suspect foul play? No, you do what my mother did and ask questions and monitor your student as much as possible.

 The more questions you raise the more answers you get and the quieter the activities become – but you have to be asking the right person, not your son or daughter. If a parent is concerned with rumored hazing activities the first thing to do is to turn to the head fraternity director and school administration to report the issue. This will typically cause an investigation to be made and any foul play will get put on hold for fear of being caught.

However, it isn’t always that easy. Students often have the desire to prove themselves and develop deep rooted, passions for wanting to join a sorority or fraternity or famed band. In joining a sorority, I can remember there was not much anyone could say to sway me otherwise – including my mother.

Instead, she tried her best to stay in the know – something all parents can and should do.

Here are a few warning signs the University of Florida’s Division of Student Affairs says parents should look out for:

The pattern of communication with your student changes drastically.

Your student seems to close off or become isolated with the group he or she is trying to join.

Sometimes, someone who is adjusting too quickly to college and seems to have no transition issues can be an issue. Acquiring instant friends can be a result of an organization that is controlling your student

Look for changes in sleeping or eating habits or changes in mood. People being hazed tend to be more angry and irritable.

Being hazed is very time consuming so another indicator is a drop in academic performance.

In more serious cases of hazing, look for physical ailments and poor explanations of how those injuries occurred. (Lipkins, Susan. Preventing Hazing; Jossey Bass; 2006)


If your teen will be heading off to college soon, be sure to stay in the know!

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