To escape from the haze

Courtesy of MCT

Courtesy of MCT

The time-honored tradition of hazing colleagues, teammates and pledges is something that has probably been around since cavemen hunted pterodactyls in groups. But have we really evolved that much since the times of clubbing each other with big sticks?

On Nov. 19, 2011, an incident occurred at Florida A&M University where a student died after being hazed. The victim, Robert Champion, 26, was a member of the school’s marching band. Champion died due to severe muscle damage, succumbing to the injuries he received as part of the hazing ritual by his bandmates.

The incident was part of a tradition for the marching band known as “Crossing Bus C.” New members would have to run from one side of the bus to the other while being punched, kicked and beaten by senior members.

“His muscles were beaten so badly that they were destroyed like you would see in a heart attack,” said Dr. Howard Oliver, a forensic pathologist and former deputy medical examiner in the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, to CNN.

Makes a gang initiation look like a walk in the park, doesn’t it?

Sure, hazing looks hilarious in movies and sitcoms, but the reality of it is it can be extremely dangerous. In the case of Robert Champion, it proved fatal.

After Champion’s death, the university created positions to monitor hazing in order to prevent another death like Champion’s.

Though monitoring school-wide acts of hazing may be looked upon like a way to prevent students from having fun, celebrating tradition and getting to know new members, it can potentially save a life. Because of Champion’s death, students at Florida A&M must now sign an anti-hazing pledge before they are able to register for classes, as well as agree to report any suspicions of hazing immediately to school officials.

While this pledge may not completely wipe out hazing around campus, it is definitely a start in the right direction. By signing this, students will now be aware, somewhere in the back of their minds, that hazing needs to be reported. Even if the majority of the student population refuses to honor the contract, there will now be some who will keep a vigilant eye out.

Maybe one of those few will even prevent a death.

And Champion’s death is hardly an isolated incident. More recently in November 2012, Northern Illinois University students faced criminal charges after a 19-year-old freshman student, David Bogenberger, died from consuming massive amounts of alcohol poisoning after a ritual for the Pi Kappa Alpha house on campus. Bogenberger’s autopsy showed that his blood-alcohol level was five times the legal limit to be able to drive.

Though the main Pi Kappa Alpha international office in Memphis stated that their fraternity has never had rituals that involved alcohol or hazing, there’s really no way they can be present at all their chapters to monitor such things.

By creating a system where hazing rituals are monitored, reported or prevented, lives can be saved. Like with Florida A&M University, positions can be created solely to focus on anti-hazing. Staff members and campus employees can be trained to deal with hazing through workshops and seminars.

Through these simple measures, steps can be taken toward a new school environment where extreme initiation rituals and hazing will be a thing of the past, much like the guillotine, the iron maiden and stockades.

Budgetary issues will arise as a result of the new positions created and salaries to be paid out, but when it comes to the safety of students and children, school board members and parents will more than likely offer their support and funding.

Monitoring hazing on a school-wide scale seems like a daunting and thankless task, but it must be reiterated that it is done so to save lives. Parents can sleep well knowing that there is someone watching over their children and keeping them out of harm’s way.

If the anti-hazing policies had been stricter or there had been someone to monitor these activities sooner, perhaps the harm done to these students might have been prevented; perhaps the Champions and the Bogenbergers might still have their sons.

About Peter Pham

Peter is a print journalism major at Cal State Fullerton in his final semester. He is one of the three fine Copy Editors of the Daily Titan. Before CSUF, Peter was the College Life Editor on the Mt. San Antonio College newspaper: The Mountaineer. On his spare time, he blogs about food, draws cartoons and reads comic books. His love for pizza is rivaled by his love for breakfast foods.