WASHINGTON — A coalition of ministers, mayors and historically black college presidents announced a plan Tuesday aimed at ending hazing at all schools, especially colleges, following the recent hazing death of a Florida college drum major.
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University drum major Robert Champion, 26, suffered from severe bleeding after enduring a traumatic beating from fellow Marching 100 band members on a bus.
Hazing incidents like Champion’s were common within the band, but it still is unknown whether Champion was targeted because of his stance against hazing or his homosexuality, according to The Washington Post. No charges have been filed for Champion’s death.
The National Anti-Hazing/Anti-Violence Task Force includes the National Association For Equal Opportunity In Higher Education, a not-for-profit representing the nation’s historically black colleges and universities; the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
Task Force Chairman R.B. Holmes, Jr. said the coalition formed “to strategically purge and weed out the culture of hazing from our universities and communities.”
“It is abundantly clear to all of us that hazing is extremely dangerous, demeaning, and deadly,” Holmes added. “We will raise our collective voices to encourage the black community in particular to share the message that hazing is unacceptable and irresponsible. Now is the time to eliminate hazing as a part of our culture.”
Pam and Robert Sr. Champion, the late drum major’s parents, and Julian White, Champion’s band director, were also present at the launch of the task force. The Champions created the Robert D. Champion Drum Major for Change Foundation, whose goal is to end hazing.
“If you’re not on board, if you’re not about … getting rid of the problem, then you are part of the problem,” Pam Champion said. “The thing is to rid the deep-rooted culture of what it is. No more hiding, no more secrecy.”
According to a 2008 study released by the National Collaborative For Hazing Research and Prevention, 55 percent of college students who participated in clubs, teams and organizations said they experienced hazing. Hazing, the study reported, can occur in multiple types of organizations, including fraternities and sororities, performing arts groups, athletic teams and honor societies.
However, 47 percent of students came to college having already experienced hazing, the study also said.
The task force has developed a 12-point three-year plan, which uses various strategies to raise awareness of the consequences of hazing, such as rallies, a June youth summit, an anti-hazing curriculum for schools and the establishment of Robert Champion Scholarships on HBCU campuses.
Although Elizabeth Allan, co-director of the hazing collaborative, applauded the new task force, she said in a telephone interview that it is important to remember to include data and research in efforts to confront hazing.
“These efforts are more effective if they’re research-based,” Allan said. “There are many good ideas out there and programs and strategies but until we assess them to know whether or not they have an effect, we may be spinning wheels. The data help us to measure change and to assess effectiveness of strategies.”
Speaking at the task force launch, Tallahassee, Fla., Mayor John Marks said the initiative was a unique step towards eradicating hazing.
“The subject of violence and hazing in our country and amongst our communities and amongst our schools and amongst many organizations has been an issue that has either been viewed as taboo to talk about or a subject that’s off-limits,” Marks said. “Never have I felt this much of a unified stance towards undignified acts of violence and ignorance in our society.”