published Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Hazing remains a threat

Publicly at least, there is widespread public condemnation of hazing. Privately, it seems, the vicious, dangerous and illegal practice continues to flourish across the nation. The death of a Florida A&M University marching band student last fall within an hour of a hazing attack is the latest in a series of such incidents to claim public attention.

The FAMU incident is in the news now because the president of the school announced Monday that FAMU's famed marching band will remain on suspension through the 2012-2013 school year while the university attempts to erase the culture that allowed the fatal hazing. FAMU, though, is not alone in attempting to with the issue. Colleges and universities in Maryland, Kansas, Virginia, Arkansas, Indiana, Florida and Ohio, among others, reported similar incidents in the last year.

A majority of reported hazings are connected to collegiate Greek letter fraternities and sororities, but the hateful practice is not limited to them. Other groups -- bands, athletic teams, elite campus groups -- often are implicated as well. No campus is immune. Three fraternities and one sorority have been removed from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus in the last five years for violations of hazing rules.

Indeed, higher education is not alone in having to deal with hazing. Incidents have been reported, as well, in the military and at high schools. That comes despite intensified eradication efforts. Officials at all levels report the task is on-going, but very difficult. The practice is so ingrained that it has become institutionalized in many settings.

Hazing, in fact, seems to be almost self-perpetuating. Whether males or females, those who endure physical and psychological abuse or shameful, outrageous or demeaning activity in order to win acceptance in an organization continue the practice in the name of tradition. Those who survive the pain and trauma usually don't complain. The death of the FAMU band member from a severe beating, for example, is not an isolated incidence. The band has been connected to hazing for years.

That's not unusual. Those who survive hazing don't want to demean their so-called accomplishment. They want to maintain peer approval and acceptance. The way to do that is to keep one's mouth shut and to continue hazing class after class of students.

Many states and schools now ban hazing, but the sometimes deadly practice endures. School officials, like those at FAMU, are saying and doing the right things. So are parents, law enforcement officials and the national leaders of groups often involved in hazing. There is no assurance, of course, that those efforts will eliminate the practice of ritualized cruelty, but they are positive steps toward that necessary goal.

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