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August 21, 2014, 11:56 pm

FAMU tragedy exposes hazing

The death of a Florida A&M University band student underscores the need for officials and students to do more to end hazing.

Robert Champion, a 26-year-old drum major, died Nov 19 after falling unconscious on a bus outside an Orlando hotel after the school’s football team lost of rival Bethune-Cookman. Witnesses told emergency dispatchers that he had been vomiting.

Officials said Champion had been beaten so severely that he bled internally and went into shock. He died within an hour. A medical examiner ruled his death was a homicide.

Less than two weeks before Champion’s death, band member Bria Hunter was hospitalized with a broken leg and blood clots in what authorities say was another act of hazing. Three band members have been charged in the beating.

The band’s longtime director, Julian White has been fired and the marching band has been suspended from performing indefinitely. Four separate investigations are underway.

Champion’s death has brought negative attention to the university’s famed Marching 100 band, which has performed at Super Bowls and other high-profile events.

While the Marching 100 is under the spotlight and investigation, the problem of hazing goes beyond FAMU.

Hazing is widespread across the country, according to Hazing, a national organization dedicated to preventing hazing in college and university student groups.

“Hazing is a plague in our society. Incidents are on the rise — particularly among younger and younger kids committing increasingly more violent acts,” said the anti-hazing organization on its website.

A look at data taken from the national study Hazing in View: Students at Risk show that hazing is widespread problem. According to the statistics:

• 1.5 million high school students are hazed each year; 47 percent of students came to college already having experienced hazing.

• 55 percent of college students involved in clubs, teams and organizations experience hazing.

Alcohol consumption, humiliation, isolation, sleep-deprivation and sexual acts are hazing practices common across all types of student groups.

Ending hazing will be difficult. It is a long deeply-entrenched tradition where the students themselves are often willing victims.

Still schools and colleges should make greater efforts to educate students about the dangers of hazing at orientation, make it clear that hazing will not tolerated, outline the penalties for hazing and have clear policies and procedures for reporting hazing.

Students and student organizations must also speak out against and not participate in hazing. Peer pressure could go a long way to prevent hazing.