By MARK F. GRAY, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
The “Symphony of Soul” sabbatical is over at Bowie State University as the marching band has been reinstated, but there will be sanctions and new leadership at the top after a hazing investigation revealed problems inside the program.
University President Aminta H. Breaux announced one-year probation as the penalty for the Symphony of Soul (SOS) and a change in the band’s leadership, along with a new program to enhance the band’s academic program, following a month-long suspension of band activities as part of a hazing investigation. The band, which is more popular in some circles than the athletic program it accompanies, was unable to perform during the football team’s nationally televised CIAA Championship Game appearance and its run in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
“It became evident during the investigation that there is an immediate need for a comprehensive re-education program to enhance the annual anti-hazing training already provided to the band and other student organizations,” said President Breaux in a statement. “As an institution, we have an obligation to assure that the health and well-being of our students are not put at risk, so we must act quickly to remedy this situation.”
Dr. Breaux also announced that band director Adolph Wright “voluntarily resigned” and that Billy Bennett has been appointed as the acting director. Bennett will serve in the role until an interim director can be chosen during the spring semester. Once the interim director is named, a permanent director for the band will be appointed after a national search is completed.
During the probation, the band will only perform on campus at institutional ceremonies and other campus events that fulfill the academic requirements of the program such as basketball games. However, overnight trips – such as the CIAA Tournament – are banned. Summer Band Camp will also be suspended and there won’t be any new members allowed to participate until 2020.
The University also announced its plans for a “rebranding” of the Symphony of Soul while improving the academic enrichment and leadership preparation for the student musicians. This plan will align band operations and academic requirements with the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. Musicians will be subject to mandatory study halls and eligibility requirements like their athletic counterparts.
Music faculty and students will collaborate on the rebranding part of the band’s makeover. Band members must participate in university workshops on understanding group formation and the dynamics of group engagement as an extension of the annual anti-hazing training the band and other student organizations already receive.
According to the report, members of the band were accused of accosting students in two separate incidents that were deemed to be hazing between October 13 and November 1. Wright and 22 student musicians were interviewed by a single investigator. The data collected confirmed the accusations of hazing according to the definition by Bowie State’s Policy on Hazing and its Student’s Code of Conduct.
Hazing is defined as “any action taken, or situation created intentionally to produce physical or mental discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule” at BSU. The evidence uncovered a pattern of behavior that suggested the band’s administration was aware of discipline for conduct infractions that required new students to the band to perform certain acts of service for other band members. The “Symphony of Soul” also had been operating under an unauthorized Constitution which promoted physical discipline for conduct infractions and required incoming students who were new to the band complete certain acts of servitude which violated the BSU Student Code of Conduct.
“We have bright, talented students in the band,” Breaux’s statement concluded. “We are committed to supporting their well-rounded development as members of the greater campus community”.