Hazing Stories

We believe it’s vital for Rattlers of all ages to understand that it’s not disloyal or wrong or harmful to the university to tell about their personal hazing experiences. Just the opposite, it’s silence that enables the continuance of hazing, which is the truly harmful thing to the institution. Speaking out is courageous and helpful toward the long-term good.

We’ve set up our own online form to collect certain specific data on FAMU hazing. But we realize that people are finding other ways to speak out as well. We applaud that. Below is a sampling of hazing stories people have told elsewhere about FAMU and other HBCUs.

Champion Documents

In May 2012, state prosecutors released hundreds of pages of documents related to their investigation of Robert Champion’s death. In all, they paint a highly detailed picture of the brutality — and the stupidity — of hazing.

If you want to see for yourself, the local cable network Central Florida News 13 included a handy set of links to the full set of documents as part of this story. You’ll want to scroll down a bit and look for them in the sidebar.

ESPN Story on FAMU

In March 2012, ESPN did an in-depth “Outside the Lines” episode on the history of hazing within the Marching 100, including testimonials from several recent band members. Full audio of the episode is available for free on ESPN’s website.

Sebastian Speaks Out

Shortly after the tragic death of Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion, FAMU alum Sebastian Bonet recorded this YouTube video. It includes details of his personal experience being hazed in the band, as well as more general observations on hazing at FAMU and possible solutions. You don’t have to be a music major to recognize this as a virtuoso performance!

Band Member Hazed, Hospitalized Just Days Before Robert Champion’s Death at the Florida Classic

Orlando’s WFTV spoke to Marching 100 member Bria Hunter, who said she was violently hazed along with 10 or 11 other band members just days before the 2011 Florida Classic. Drum major Robert Champion, who was one of Bria’s mentors, died after that game.

Can’t get the video embed to work on this one, unfortunately. But you should be able to read and watch the full story on WFTV’s site.

NYT Interviews Ex-Band Members for Coverage of Robert Champion’s Funeral

The funeral of FAMU’s fallen drum major warranted coverage from even the grand New York Times, whose story included interviews with several former members of the Marching 100. An excerpt:

Punching, paddling, slapping and forcing band members to eat certain things, do certain favors and endure verbal abuse for mistakes is part of the code, carried out by subgroups within each section: “The Clones” in the clarinet cluster, for example, and “The Soulful Saxes” in the saxophone section. Drinking is seldom involved, former members say, and much of the hazing is voluntary.

“A lot of people who come to the band come expecting these things,” said Phillip Stewart, 29, a former university drum major who said hazing was part of a subculture within the band. “They think that in order to be amongst the best and to be accepted they have to do certain things. This isn’t true.”

Anti Intellect’s Story

On Nov. 23, 2011, a FAMU grad who blogs under the name “Anti Intellect” wrote a powerful account of his experience being hazed on campus. He doesn’t name the organization involved, but he does provide a lot of detail of the events, as in this heartbreaking passage:

The “process” was supposed to last a little over a week, but I only made it halfway. We were knee deep in verbal and physical abuse, and two of the old members enacting this cruelty on us were keying in our our perceived weaknesses. My weakness, it was decided, was my femininity. And, so, I was repeatedly taunted and bashed in regards to my perceived sexual orientation, and lack of “masculinity.” I put up with this throughout the night, but at some point I had had enough. Me and the rest of the line were doing some physically painful activity, and, I, alone was being taunted. If their goal was to “break my back,” they did. I stood up, with tears in my eyes, and said that I can’t take anymore of this. I was tired of being verbally and physically abused all in the name of joining an organization. If I thought I would be joined by my fellow line members, I was wrong. None of them came to my side, and none came to my defense. They were concerned with making it into the organization, and they weren’t going to let their previous abuse be in vain by quitting with me now, so they remained silent. The drunken men doing the hazing didn’t seem to care about my protest, and simply told me to leave. After all, they didn’t want me in their organization anyway.

After I had left the site of the hazing, I found myself alone on a dark street. I didn’t have a car, as first year students weren’t allowed to have them, so I had no way of getting home. Fortunately, I was able to call one of my friends and they were able to pick me up off the side of the road. Over the next few days I had to deal with the cold shoulders of some of my fellow line members. I did, however, receive some support after the fact from others on the line. They admitted that I had received harsher treatment, and that they had wished that they could have stood along me, but they were scared. The thing about hazing is that it warps people’s mentalities. It’s very difficult to think straight in a climate of hazing because right/wrong becomes very blurry to the point of invisible. Is it choice? Is it force? Is it abuse? Is it exploitation? Is it will? These questions seem to linger, but never get answered. It’s as if everyone else expects someone else to answer them, but ultimately no one does.

What Anti Intellect captures eloquently in his post, even without naming himself or the organization, is the inner turmoil of someone being hazed. The universality of that experience is his whole point. It’s definitely worth reading the whole post when you have a chance.

HBO’s Real Sports Covers HBCU Band Hazing

In November 2010, the HBO magazine show Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel aired a detailed story about hazing in HBCU marching bands. The piece did not focus on FAMU, but it did include interviews with courageous alums of other HBCUs, including Southern and Alabama A&M.


One Response to “Hazing Stories”

  1. JamaicaJoe Says:

    Excellent video! Good lesson about taking personal responsibility. I am amazed how much people put up with simply because some one expresses “authority”.

    Be it institutional hazing, bullying or waging an unjust war, you cannot stand aside and let evil prevail, people need to say enough is enough.

    It is sad that no one on bus “C” took the initiative to intervene and save this poor kid and his family. Sad too that this has gone on for decades with aid of the administration.

    Frankly Hazing is just Bullying with a fancy name and Bullying is just Criminal Assault with a fancy name.

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