A Three-Part Fairness Test

December 17, 2011

By Peter McKay | FAMU ’97 | Email

I’ve fielded a couple of calls today about FAMU, one from a fellow alum, one from a reporter. Both were interested in a question that’s been on a lot of people’s minds: Is the state treating FAMU unfairly in the Champion case compared to other schools that have had hazing incidents?

Ultimately, I believe the answer is no, which is definitely a minority view in the FAMU community right now. Substantively, I think the measures that have been taken so far by the state — ordering high-level investigations and calling for the president to temporarily step aside — are hard but fair given the specific circumstances surrounding the death of Robert Champion. (Please note that in making that judgment, I put aside as distinct questions whether Gov. Rick Scott is a likable guy or a wise policymaker regarding other matters.)

I also know precisely what I would have to see to change my mind. Since a lot of my fellow Rattlers seem bent on comparing FAMU to other schools, I’ll use a similar approach and say I would be interested to see hazing cases at other schools where all of these three key details from the Champion case were also present:

The hazing victim was attending a public institution. This ensures a similar oversight structure as FAMU’s, running through state-level government officials and so forth. A Florida case would make an ideal comparison, of course. But for the sake of argument, let’s say any of the 50 states will do.

The victim died. This amps up the level of seriousness to the same level as the Champion case. No mere injuries. Death. The worst case possible for any student.

The victim was participating in a university-sponsored organization at the time. This is what traces the lines of accountability to the campus administration. Frats and sororities don’t really count if you want to make a true comparison to the Champion situation. Those orgs are obviously a part of any university community in the broad sense, but they’re not explicitly university-run. The marching band is.

Honestly, I haven’t heard a single other case like this yet, one that goes three-for-three on all the above conditions. If I’m missing such a case, though, I’m interested to hear of it and examine what the handling of that situation was and how it compares to the handling of the Champion tragedy. Please tell me of that case in the comments.

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One Response to “A Three-Part Fairness Test”

  1. Mari Says:

    Just my opinion, but the third one can be a little sketchy when dealing with the band considering the gray lines between what is the Marching 100 (university-sponsored) and what is the -insert random name of secret society of random instrument here-.

    It is to my knowledge that often times those hazing incidents occur within “events” spurred by the latter.


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