Taking a Stand Against Hazing

College organizations in general have many incidents of hazing. It just happens that some of the common groups are marching bands and fraternities, two organizations I am a part of. I can comfortably say that I have never felt hazed, and always felt respected in my organizations. But that doesn’t go for everyone across the country.

I have been fortunate enough to be welcomed into two fantastic groups at Kent State: the Marching Golden Flashes, and Kappa Kappa Psi-Beta Psi. Being in the band is fun, and when I’m at rehearsal, I feel respected and accepted. The same goes for my fraternity. I feel as though my comments and actions are respected, and I can be myself and still be accepted. It’s one of the most comfortable environments I’ve experienced in my lifetime.

Like I said, not everyone feels this way, and not everyone has been treated this way. Hazing comes in a few different forms. There is psychological hazing, physical hazing, active-to-active hazing, active-to-pledge hazing, and alumni-active hazing, just to name a few. The definition of hazing, as stated by dictionary.com is to harass with unnecessary or disagreeable tasks. Hazing is a bit more than that though. It encompasses a wide range of activities, and actions. A good list and explanation of hazing is found on Babson College’s website. It gives a great list of things to consider when asking if what you’re doing is hazing. Some of the activities they say are hazing include, but are not limited to, being asked to do special tasks for active members, or older members, being required to show up to late-night sessions causing sleep deprivation, branding or beating, paddling, required carrying of certain items, and being dropped off at an unknown location and being asked to find their way back to campus. All of these are considered hazing, but this is still not the whole story.

Right now, I want you to google “marching band hazing” and just see what comes up.

There are a few articles here and there mentioning just the hazing and the bands in general…but multiple posts also mention the word death. It’s sad that some people have to wait until there’s a death for them to realize what hazing is and how it hurts people. One of the more known cases of hazing to cause death was that which happened at Florida A&M University. A 26-year-old student was beaten to death after the Florida Classic football game in a hazing ritual called “crossing bus C” in which the student would walk down the middle aisle of the bus and be beaten with instruments. Hazing was a long ingrained and practiced tradition at the school. After this “tradition” of crossing bus C, the 26-year-old collapsed and died due to hemmorhagic shock caused by blunt-force trauma. There are now 15 band students being charged with manslaughter or felony hazing. Hazing hurts, and hazing can kill.

Now, I understand this is an extreme case. Not all forms of hazing can cause death, or even physical harm. Like I said, it comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s obviously a danger to all students in college, in any organization. Being involved in the bands and having been educated in our hazing policy, I have a few tips on ways to prevent hazing.

Preventing Hazing in the Bands

  1. Know your school’s hazing policy. Most universities have one, and if they don’t, they should. If they don’t have one, talk to an administrator about creating one. It’s important to have consistency with rules, especially hazing. If your school is working on creating one, look at other school’s hazing policies to get an idea of what activities or actions are considered hazing. It’s a lot more than you think, and always important to make sure your new members feel welcome and respected. Kent State University defines hazing as any action or situation intentionally created, whether on or off university premises, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule. They strictly prohibit students from involving themselves in such activities and will not hesitate to suspend those involved.
  2. Evaluate your activities and constantly critique your traditions. Keeping a hazing activity around for the sake of tradition is not reason enough. If it is tradition, it can still be hazing. You don’t welcome members into your organization to ridicule them, embarrass them and  make them participate in ridiculous activities. When we welcome people into the band, it’s because they are now a part of our band family. We don’t want to ridicule them and make them feel disrespected. With the fraternity, we welcome people into it hoping to one day see them representing our group, wearing our letters. It would be a shame to see them wearing our letters and hurting one of our own because it’s “tradition.” We should avoid the same thing, and not allow hazing traditions to continue.
  3. Just say no. If you ever feel hazed, don’t go through with it. You should never under any circumstances feel obligated to participate in an activity if it makes you uncomfortable. Even if you are the only one speaking up, say something. Go to your band director and tell them you are uncomfortable. They should, under no circumstances, be supporting the hazing or hazing traditions. They want you to feel comfortable in the bands and continue your growth as a musician. They should be someone you can talk to about problems in the band, and a good person to go to when you are uncomfortable with what is happening.
  4. Empathy can go a long way when evaluating possible hazing activities. Think about it from someone else’s perspective. If someone was once robbed in a dark alley, they probably won’t be very comfortable getting dropped off in one and told to find their way back to campus. You may be totally fine with the idea, but not everyone is the same.
  5. Just because they agree to it doesn’t mean it’s not hazing. When going through an activity with a group, they may all be willing to do it. It may even sound fun and exciting to them! But it could also qualify as hazing.  STOP! This is still counts. As soon as you go through with it, you will be held accountable for your actions.

Sometimes, hazing seems like tradition and we get so caught up with doing exactly what we did the year before so the hazing continues. How can we, as an organization, get better if we never change? How do we improve if we don’t strive for the highest in all that we do? Well…we take a step back and look at ourselves. We look at our activities, and we let people know if we are uncomfortable. Going into a group, you should have fun! There is no reason to feel bad about yourself because you are being hazed. Tradition and not getting caught are not excuses. Know your university’s policy. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up and talk to someone. If you’re in a fraternity, find out if there is a way for you to report hazing within your organization. Most of all, if you feel like you are being hazed and abused, talk to someone and don’t let it continue. Let the circle of hazing stop with you.

Sharing the Bands on Social Media

As a Public Relations major and journalism enthusiast, reading my tweets and scrolling through facebook is a daily occurrence for me. Being a college band geek, a lot of what caught my eye this past fall was Ohio State’s Marching Band performing something where they played some really cool music and made a really cool shape. That seemed to be their thing this past year. When these videos were posted, it was only a few days before it seemed all of my friends on Facebook had seen and were sharing this video.

COURTESY: OSUBuckeyeTV Youtube Channel

Here, Michael Jackson shows up, and the crowd goes wild. The band does one smooth moonwalk together, and the music sounds great! So, what is it that makes us share these videos? I’m in the marching band, so I’m interested in these, but what about everyone else?

Why do we share these?

Well – first off – the videos have well known music played by a well known group. Ohio State’s Band isn’t called The Best Damn Band in the Land (TBDBITL) for no reason. Aside from them being songs we all know and love, the video went viral for other reasons as well.

Lewis PR posted on their blog ways videos go viral. They used the video, “Girl Effect,” and “Kony” to make examples of viral videos. These videos are more emotional and have a great call to action. They both affected a lot of people, and Kony even attempted to make a revolution where people covered their town with Kony’s name and face. We all know it eventually died off, but it was a pretty strong campaign, and history’s most viral video.

Marching Band doesn’t tug on the heart strings quite as much as something like “Kony” or “Girl Effect,” but some of these shows do have feel-good music that makes people want to share them, and want their friends to experience them as well.

In Lewis PR‘s blog post, they gave three reasons videos go viral.

  1. Deep Connections
  2. Creative Disruption
  3. Community Influencers

So how does Ohio State get a marching band show to go viral, and where does it fall under this reasoning?

1. Deep Connections

‘Merica loves football, and football loves ‘Merica. It’s a love/love relationship.

IFWT-RG3-Merica     Photo Credit: In Flex We Trust

With football comes marching bands, especially in Ohio. Ohio has a very strong passion for football and is generally supportive of its bands. Ohio State especially has a huge following for their bands. The school loves the songs, and the atmosphere the band creates at the games. So why not share it? A lot of the people sharing the video at first were fans of Ohio State, or people who attended the university. Their pride in their school and pride in their band caused them to click that share button. It’s a way for them to help share their love for the school and experiences of being  a student with all of their friends on Facebook. That deep connection helped to start the sharing of this marching band video.

2. Creative Disruption

If you haven’t watched the video, and are just browsing through the blog, you should go check it out. Mr. Jonathan Waters, Ohio State Marching Band Director, does a wonderful job writing shows for these students. The various formations that they are able to make are just awesome, and if you’ve marched before, I’m sure your jaw dropped a little bit imagining your band trying to make these shapes. Mine did. What’s so great about TBDBITL is that they make it look so easy. The creativity is what makes them stand out, and share-able!

3. Community Influencers

Here, the community influencers are the people sharing the content. Those sharing the content see it as valuable enough to show to other people. Other influencers can come from media talking about the band. This story from Channel 5 News-WEWS in Cleveland shows another show the band did a couple weeks after the Michael Jackson Tribute. It was a video game show that featured an OSU ship sinking a UofM ship – definitely a crowd pleaser at this game. These community influencers bringing attention to the videos are a driving force behind the viral videos.

Back to PR…

Not every video you post will go viral, and very little of your content will be able to reach one million views or shares. But the ones that do have the ability to make an impact. For marching bands, I’m sure they didn’t mean to have their videos go viral. I know from experience that performing a show once, for all the time and effort you put into it, isn’t nearly enough. Being able to share their hard work and experience with people for years after makes the hard work a bit more worth it. Going viral and getting more people to associate positive thoughts with TBDBITL’s brand is just a plus. Ohio has a lot of respect for their bands, but sharing a simple YouTube video and sharing their hard work and efforts with people around the world has made them even more well-known and now, we can watch their shows any time of the year. Hopefully next year brings them just as many cool shows and share-able viral videos!

And just in case you haven’t gotten enough of the marching band videos (I know I haven’t…) here’s one of my favorite shows they did – their Hollywood Show.

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Kappa Kappa Psi Hymn

This song is my fraternity’s hymn. It means a lot to the active brothers, and means a lot to candidates who learn it and get to experience it for the first time. It’s something that hasn’t influenced me a ton in band, but it is very special to me so I wanted to share it. Plus, it’s always fun to sing with everyone 🙂

Kappa Kappa Psi – Not Just About the Service

First Impression

In my last post, I talked about my marching band family. The entire band is like a weird little family that just always has something to talk about, and usually gets along. For my experience in the bands, my close-knit family was a little smaller and a bit different than the band family as a whole.

This family just fell into my lap, and I never knew how big of a deal they would end up being to me. I came to band camp my freshman year and saw people wearing all these weird greek letters. Thinking to all the movies I’ve seen about college, I assumed it was just another fraternity and sorority that all these people happened to belong to outside of band. Turns out, they happened to belong to the organizations because of band, and I was about to find out why.

The brothers and sisters, or my peers in the Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma lettered shirts, were a loud bunch, but fun to be around. They were always setting up chairs, making sure we knew where we were going on campus, and made sure we all had a friend to eat lunch with. Even being an eighteen year old, now living on my own, in college, I was still afraid of eating lunch alone. It seems silly, but knowing they were always inviting people to their table gives you that familial feeling, and one that really brings the band together.

All band camp long, we were doing activities like campus-wide scavenger hunts, game nights, campus tours and just hanging out. After rehearsing all day, I was always looking forward to whatever they had planned for that evening. Going home to sit in my room alone was almost as bad as eating lunch alone every day; and both the brothers and sisters made sure that I never had to do that.

Fraternal History

All I really knew about them at first was that they existed and made me feel welcomed. Turns out, there are hundreds of chapters of both organizations all over the country. Kappa Kappa Psi had a much richer history than I had anticipated. Their purpose is the same at each school – to serve the bands and the school of music at their respective universities. Each chapter is unique and special, and to me, the Beta Psi chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi will always have a special meaning to my time at Kent State.

Our school was not the first one to come up with the idea of a band fraternity to serve the school of music. That actually happened at Oklahoma A&M, now known as Oklahoma State University, in their bands department. It was made up of ten founding fathers, and their sponsor, Dr. Bohumil Makovsky, in 1919. Dr. Makovsky was nicknamed “Boh”, was a 33rd degree mason, smoked a saxophone shaped pipe, and wore an uncrushed velvet bow-tie. These ten students, along with Boh, set out and successfully created the Alpha chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi.

Beta Psi’s History

This is where the national fraternity’s story starts. My chapter, the Beta Psi chapter, has a much later start in college band programs. February 25, 1951 was our installment date. Since that day, we have grown to 25+ strong and become a daily helping hand in the School of Music. We have gone from accepting only males, to opening up to accepting females as well, and by 1993 we had our first female president, Rose Murray. In 1967, 1977 and 1987, we hosted the North Central District North Block convention. We won the Governor’s Cup in 1999. The Governor’s Cup is essentially the award for the best chapter in the North Central District, so Beta Psi considered it a huge honor to receive, as all other chapters in the district would. In 2013, we won the Kenneth M. Corbett Most Improved Chapter Award at the National Convention. We have recently taken many steps to improve ourselves, and give our candidates a brighter chapter to step into every year.

Continuing my Journey

After learning all the history of the fraternity while going through the process of becoming an active member, I realized there was a lot more about the fraternity that couldn’t be taught on a piece of paper. We learned to work together as a team while serving the bands. We learned to live our life led by music as our most influential type of art. It is always with us, and will continue to be a part of our lives.  Becoming close by serving the bands and supporting something we all love gives us a stronger bond, in my opinion.We also learned that our brothers may not be related to us by blood, but they will always be our family for as long as we live. I love my brothers, and the support system they give me is unlike anything I’ve ever had, and will ever have. That is the reason I cherish it now, and will continue to cherish it throughout my time here at Kent. I’ll remember the day I didn’t have to eat lunch alone, and know that for the rest of my time here, I’ll always be welcome at someone’s table.