The death of 26-year-old Robert Champion, beaten by fellow members of the Florida A&M marching band during an initiation ritual last November, is particularly senseless.
The “Marching 100″ had been using hazing for years, but it should never been allowed to happen. Champion, a drum major of FAMU’s renowned marching band, volunteered (with reluctance) to this hazing by his fellow band members in order to elevate his leadership status.
The hazing took place on the team’s chartered bus just after the band had finished a performance at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
Members of the FAMU band observed a tradition of volunteering for such rough and humiliating treatment. They are not alone; a number of teams, clubs, and fraternities have used such hazing practices for years to separate those who can “take it” from those “unworthy of membership.” It’s “street-gang mentality.” Permanent injuries and/or death are not uncommon.
In Champion’s case, he was viciously struck with fists, feet, belts, and drum sticks as he made his way down the aisle to the back of the team’s bus, which they called “Crossing Bus C.” When he reached the rear of the bus, Champion panted ,”I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” He was crying “Oh, Lord Jesus, help me!” before collapsing. Some fellow band members attempted to stop the beating, but it was too late.
Champion died of blunt force trauma and hemorrhaging on the bus that night.
Eleven band members have been charged with assault.
FAMU and the bus company are being sued by Champion’s parents. FAMU’s President James Ammons has resigned. “Crossing Bus C,” a long-standing tradition, has been a so-called “sacred cow” at FAMU.
The marching band’s nationwide prestige, which eclipses the recognition and popularity of the school’s teams, has been protected by a code of silence where hazing was concerned. No one stepped up to eliminate it, although just days before that tragic event in Orlando the dean of students had recommended a long-term suspension of the band, but it was never acted upon.
This sacred cow liturgy is the same kind of thinking that circumvented the proper investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case on the campus of Penn State University. Sacred cows are all too prevalent in schools and sports.
Will you place the civility of human beings ahead of sacred cows?