“Hazing” is such a buzzword in the media that reporters flock to any hazing related story like trashy girls from a nearby university to the dancing cage at the annual PiKA Bahamas party. After Robert Champion died in a hazing related incident last year at Florida A&M, his parents went the American way and sued the school for not taking appropriate measures to eradicate the hazing culture on campus. And by the American way, I mean a complete and utter failure to accept personal responsibility and sue the other involved party for damages.
However, in a turn of events that surprised me and caused me to award my imaginary “Brass Ball Trophy of the week”, Florida A&M responded with a 23 page motion to dismiss the wrongful death suit. It stated:
“Respectfully, as a 26-year-old adult and leader in FAMU’s band, Mr. Champion should have refused to participate in the planned hazing event and reported it to law enforcement or University administrators. Under these circumstances, Florida’s taxpayers should not be held financially liable to Mr. Champion’s Estate for the ultimate result of his own imprudent, avoidable and tragic decision and death”
I was honestly shellshocked to see a University stepping up and, while not defending these practices, calling them what they are: VOLUNTARY. Any pledge, at any time, should he feel that his health is in danger, is free to walk out. When he signed his bid card, he knew there would be some degree of “education,” and if he felt it crossed the line, it was his own personal responsibility to grow a pair and walk right out of that door. Given the epidemic of Universities trying to eliminate Greek systems entirely because of hazing problems, I have major respect for the leadership at Florida A&M for allowing grown men to participate voluntarily in behaviors which may or may not be really stupid. Because, let’s face it, that’s what guys in their early twenties do.
In a study quoted later in the article, a full 85% of students knew mental hazing would occur before joining their respective organizations, and 75% knew physical hazing would occur. I’m not really sure who the other 15% are, and I assume they joined co-ed fraternities.
While there will no doubt be changes made at Florida A&M to avoid another expensive lawsuit, I hope that the university’s public statement that participation in any unpleasant bonding and education exercises is entirely voluntary will signal a turn in the tide of the anti-Greek sentiment sweeping college administration nationwide.