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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.