Just get on with it already, FAMU. Ban the 100.

May 13, 2012

By Peter McKay | FAMU ’97 | Email

Monday’s meeting of FAMU President James Ammons and the Board of Trustees is shaping up as a crucial turning point in the broader hazing controversy that’s enveloped the school since November.

In short, it’s time for these supposed leaders of the university to put up or shut up. If they don’t confirm a lengthy, specific ban of the Marching 100 on Monday, it will be a clear sign they still – still! – aren’t truly serious about fighting hazing on campus. Not even after everything that’s happened the last few months. End of discussion.

I’ve seen a lot of chatter last few weeks in the press and on social media regarding this issue, much of it citing other cases involving sports teams or student organizations around Florida as potential yardsticks of justice at FAMU. To me, the most important precedent of all is FAMU’s own relatively recent ban of the fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi for six years for beating a pledge severely. If you start there as a measurable standard that we hold ourselves to, then factor in the considerable additional seriousness of loss of life in the Champion case, the Marching 100 should be banned for about 7-10 years.

For now, the consensus speculation seems to be that the likely outcome on Monday is an extension of the university’s “indefinite” ban on the 100. But given the details have emerged since that policy was instituted in the fall — the arrests of 13 band members, the overlooked ineligibility of dozens of band members to march in last year’s Florida Classic, the participtation of faculty in past hazing, et cetera — an even stronger stance is in order at this point. That would mean committing to a ban of a specific and considerable length reflecting the overwhelming evidence that’s mounted of total organizational failure regarding hazing.

I’d add that, in a single stroke, I believe a ban of the band would substantively improve student safety even more than firing the president, the bandleader, or other senior people, despite the recent attention that’s focused on those other matters.

Don’t get me wrong. On the merits, I do believe that a lot of FAMU’s senior leadership, including President Ammons, deserve to get the ax for their roles in creating a lax environment, failing to follow up on hazing cases over the years, et cetera. Good riddance to the now-retired bandleader Julian White as well, as far as I’m concerned.

I’m just saying, we shouldn’t confuse the cathartic aspect of cutting off these screw-ups with the practical benefit. Getting rid of them is only one necessary aspect of a multi-part solution to reducing hazing on campus, and it happens to feel good too. But even after we’ve finished doing that – and believe me, heads will continue to roll — we still have to deal with the issue at the purely student-to-student level.

To fix that, I believe you have to start by banning the band for a long time. It’s only fair, based upon how we’ve dealt with other hazing organizations in the past. We’d also be sending a terrible message to other student organizations – the frats, sororities, and so forth – if we don’t ban the band at this point. And that alone would instantly create serious consequences, since it would be interpreted as an implicit carte blanche by some knuckleheads, thus making members of various student organizations less safe starting this fall.

You have to show them that any organization that violates the rules is making itself expendable. Period. Any organization. Even the band.


9 Responses to “Just get on with it already, FAMU. Ban the 100.”

  1. Latoya Says:

    You’re ridiculous, this isn’t about the band it is about people who do criminal acts. You’re going to punish 320 other people, the rest of the band need to file a class action law suit against the univerisity

    • Peter McKay Says:

      This is not merely a case of a few bad apples. It’s a systemic failing, and the evidence of that is voluminous at this point. One has to be willfully ignorant in order to claim othrwise.

      • laura Says:

        Peter, I fully support you , I have a son in a marching band,,, there needs to be a movie about hazing just like there was about bullying, There is no sitting on the fe ance here, it, black or white!!!! Murder is serious. Hazing is worse than being a gang member in my opinion.!!! I am only saying this because in some neighborhoods its hard to get away ,,, on a bus with your so called friends who want to kill you …. get a grip everyone,,, this is a beating and its murder ,,, its very serious, I support you and Roberts parents!! Thank you and let me know if I can help. I am the mother of a student in a marching band. thanks!!!! and blessings!!

      • laura Says:

        Nobody wants to be hazed!!! that is peer pressure at its worst!! Just because he did it , doesn’t mean he wanted to ,, nobody is that crazy ,, citing the young lady who asked them not to beat her kidneys!!!!!! Staff should be ashamed of themselves,,,,,,, no excuses…. none!!

  2. dre' Says:

    i’ll start by getting a few things out of the way:
    suspend the band – correct action
    is the length of time appropriate? – debatable

    i’m not going to address some of the more obvious hot-button issues you touched on, b/c they’ve been (and will continue to be) talked about to death.

    on the famu administration needing to be fired, i’m not sure i can get behind that, but for slightly different reasons. the current administration didn’t create these issues. these are long-standing problems that have persisted through several administrations. the current administration has done a lot of cleanup of our university, but hadn’t gotten to this area just yet. (would they ever is another debate)

    having said that, i think that this issue with the band is only a microcosm of the university as a whole. the relaxed atmosphere of, “well, it’s not my job,” and poor record keeping has been a scar across the university’s face since at least the 80’s based on my conversations with other alumni. so, if the university takes this approach as a whole, do we really expect the individual organizations under the university umbrella to behave any differently?

    how many times have we had to make copies of documents b/c financial aid “never got it”? heck, i had to get on the registrar two months ago for “not receiving [my] transcript request” even though i sent it certified mail and someone signed for it. how many times have we been able to skirt the rules at a campus function b/c “i know somebody – they’ll hook me up”?

    it’s the same thing here. there was no pressure placed on the band staff to verify enrollment, so they didn’t. it had probably been going on for years. there was no pressure placed on the band (or any organization) to end hazing because, “we hold workshops,” and that somehow makes the university feel like it’s absolved from any responsibility.

    the band is getting it handed to them pretty hard, but in the mess of all this, people really need to step back and realize that the band is only an extension of the problems that the university faces. solely taking action against the band will resolve nothing. other groups will continue to haze, and other groups will continue to be lax in their record keeping/documentation.

    i truly hope that through all of this, real solutions will be developed – not band specific ones.

    • Peter McKay Says:

      Thanks, Dre. Indeed, I think you’ve struck on one of the key reasons this whole situation has struck such a nerve, aside from the obvious symbolic value of the band. The breakdowns in oversight and so forth just seem so… familiar. But maybe if the community can work to greatly reduce hazing within the band and other orgs that can be a catalyst to begin running other activities in a more sustainable way as well. Maybe that’s the silver lining.

      • laura Says:

        Take away all funding,,,, from any university that allows hazing , No exceptions! sorry this breaks my heart

  3. dre' Says:

    laura – there are no universities that “allow” hazing. most, if not all, have clear policies against it. if you want to take away funding from all universities that have hazing incidents occur, fine. just don’t expect there to be any universities left in this country. do a quick web search for your favorite university, and i guarantee you’ll find at least one hazing incident has occurred.

    while you’re at it, let’s de-fund the military, your public schools, fire departments, and any other organization that has had any hazing incidents. then hazing will be forever eliminated, right?

    please don’t be so closed-minded to think that de-funding a program will have an effect on a societal issue.

    • Peter McKay Says:

      I think you raise a good point, Dre. To clarify, I don’t think there are any silver-bullet solutions that will automatically eradicate all hazing. That includes lengthy bans, which I think are appropriate in some cases but are only one part of a multi-part solution to a complex problem.

      But that leaves open the question: Ideally, how “clean” can you possibly get one org or university from hazing?

      Not to be too dramatic, but I view it sort of like our government fighting terrorism after 9/11. Can we prevent every lone nut that wants to commit some random act of violence because he’s disturbed or wants to copycat something he saw on TV or whatever? No. But is it a realistic goal to prevent attacks **of a catastropic scale** that obviously take a lot of planning and time and people to carry off, as 9/11 did? Well, yeah. We should be able to do that much.

      On a smaller scale, no, you can’t stop every knucklehead who wants to haze. But can you prevent orgs like the ‘100’ from developing deep-seated, long-running, highly ritualisitic, hazing subcultures involving dozens of people, running year in, year out? Yeah, you should be able to do that.

      Basically, if we reach a point where it’s actually surprising when someone gets hazed at FAMU, that will be a victory, because we’ll have set a new norm. By contrast, the “of course” type of reaction that a lot of people have had discussing the issue post-Champion shows exactly how deep the current problem is.

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