Becoming a member of a fraternity or sorority can be one of the most meaningful aspects of college life. However, it can also be one of the most deadly when it comes to hazing.

Since the death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion in 2011, many educators and lawmakers have began to examine bullying and hazing in the U.S.

Champion was beaten to death with drumsticks and bass-drum mallets in a hazing ritual performed by band members on a bus. Thirteen people were charged in his death.

Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and the National Action Network are leading an effort to form a national coalition to stop hazing. The initiative was announced Thursday at a press conference at the National Press Club.

The coalition discussed its plans to eliminate hazing through awareness campaigns and legislation.

“This is the beginning of the end of a culture of hazing, while moving to a culture of service,” Jonathan Mason, first vice president of Phi Beta Sigma, said.
Several organizations and politicians will be involved.

In support of the anti-hazing movement, Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., outlined a bill she plans to introduce that would deny federal student aid to participants involved in violent hazing rituals.

Wilson, who calls herself the “hazing buster,” has fought to end hazing on college campuses since her term as the South Atlantic regional director of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority in 1986.

“Hazing is demeaning, dangerous, and, sadly, deadly. This is not a university problem. It is not a Geek problem, and it is not a student problem. It is an American problem,” she said.

“I am having policy discussions now with presidents of historically black colleges and universities, band members and presidents of Greek-letter organizations so that we will be able to craft a strong bill for introduction next month,” Wilson said.
According to research performed by Hank Nuwer, an associate professor at Franklin College, there has been at least one hazing-related dearth on a college campus every year since 1970.

With hazing becoming such a national problem, members of Phi Beta Sigma plan to start a National Anti-Hazing Day on Sept. 6.

“This day will be devoted to raising awareness and collecting signatures in support of the national legislative to outlaw hazing,” Jimmy Hammock, international president of Phi Beta Sigma, said.

According to “Hazing in View: College Students at Risk,” by professors Elizabeth J. Allan and Mary Madden of the University of Maine, more than half of college students involved in clubs, teams and organizations experience hazing.  

“At the end of the day, Phi Beta Sigma’s main objective is to be the leader in destroying the culture of hazing, not only within the African American community, but also within the mainstream community,” Hammock said.

Janiece Peterson

SHFWire