Archive for the 'Solutions' Category

Well, lookie here…

March 26, 2013

Great news! FAMU has implemented on its website an online form for students to anonymously report hazing incidents.

As a recent video on the university’s official YouTube channel points out, the feature is already paying dividends for the university’s new hazing czar. Just three days into his new job, he took disciplinary action against nine members of Delta Sigma Theta, which was mentioned in a submission.

As elucidating as this video from the university is, though, it does leave one major question unanswered: Where, oh where, did the university get this wonderful little anti-hazing idea?

Oh. Right.

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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.

A Few Anti-Hazing Ideas of My Own

February 13, 2012

By Peter McKay | FAMU ’97 | Email

Since this blog launched a few months back, Rattlers have responded with a bunch of great anti-hazing ideas, sent via submissions to our hazing database, comments on posts, and even the occasional direct email.

This really excites me, since I believe we need some new approaches to solve the hazing problem. I don’t believe that just because some of the things we’ve tried in the past have failed, that means the task can never be accomplished. As I see it, we’ve just discovered a bunch of ways that don’t work, so we need to move past those to get to new ones that do.

In that spirit, here are a few ideas of my own:

Clarify what “zero tolerance” means. From the hazing stories that have surfaced lately, it seems the university responds to hazing incidents primarily through suspensions. Expulsions seem exceedingly rare, and I haven’t come across a case yet where someone was prosecuted criminally at the behest of the university. If an individual victim presses a case, maybe. But you don’t see the university pushing for it much.

That needs to change. Any incident that involves violence or another obvious crime, such as destruction or theft of property, needs to be reported to the police and pursued as far as possible as a criminal matter, not just solved administratively.

For organizations, it should be “one strike and you’re out.” I’ve said before that I believe the Marching 100 should be suspended for at least four years, maybe longer, in order to really clean house following the Robert Champion tragedy. That seems fair and consistent with the university’s existing policies, including its handling of previous hazing incidents within organizations like Kappa Alpha Psi. If that frat got a lengthy ban for seriously injuring a pledge, then the band certainly has to be shut down for awhile for killing someone.

For future incidents, I think the penalty should be even stronger. If an organization is shown to haze violently, it should be banned permanently from FAMU’s campus. Period.

I realize that sounds harsh, but you know what, the orgs at the core of the hazing problem already have two strikes on them. The band and the Greek-letter orgs have already had numerous incidents over the years, so they should already be far along in dealing with hazing internally. If they can’t finish the job now, then time’s up.

The bigger idea at work here is that the university exists for learning first and foremost. All this other stuff is extracurricular — literally “outside the curriculum.” As in, nice to have but ultimately expendable if necessary. These orgs need to get that message, right up to the national level of leadership for those orgs that have such structures.

The kids seem to like this Internet thing. Use it. If nothing else, this site has provided proof of concept that hazing victims and witnesses will speak up if given an online tool that allows anonymous responses. As notoriously difficult as it is to get people to break the code of silence, we’ve already gotten a few dozen detailed incident reports, working as an unofficial organization with zero budget and a webmaster who’s a thousand-plus miles from Tallahassee.

Imagine what the university itself could learn if it took a similar approach.

The crucial thing that online reporting does is that it lowers people’s inhibitions, which can be a good thing. Some victims who might be hesitant to pick up a phone and dial an authority figure, or walk into one’s office in person, might instead be willing to fill out a form from the relative safety of sitting at home in front of a keyboard. Use that to your advantage.

In conjunction with better online data collection, the university should also…

Take a more community-oriented approach to ferreting out hazing abuses. The current system is basically designed to ferret out one hazing case at a time in its particulars. As in: “John got hazed in X organization by Joe, Larry, and Moe, and such-and-such is what we should do about it.”

There’s nothing wrong with that sort of followup, of course. If John wants to come forward and file such a complaint, then he should definitely have options to do so. But that shouldn’t be the minimum bar to clear for the university to take any action at all against hazing.

What anonymized online data collection would allow the university to do is collect a larger number of signals about where hazing abuses lie and then act more preventively, even if each signal has less detail about each individual case.

If, for instance, you get 10 anonymous reports on the same frat, it might be a good idea to call all the members of that frat into a meeting and ask what the heck is going on. Mind you, this wouldn’t be the same as some of the generic anti-hazing briefings that the university now has to inform orgs of FAMU policy, as if nothing is wrong to begin with. I’m talking about putting people on notice about specifics, confronting them with what you’ve got, and going from there.

A conversation of this sort will put much greater fear in the hearts of hazers, and it may encourage some of the pledges to come forward later as well. That’s another lesson we’ve learned about this blog: When one person talks openly about his or her brush with hazing, it often encourages others to do so, some of them in even greater detail.