The recent death of Robert Champion, a band member at the historically black university, Florida A&M, has created national attention on the topic of hazing. Allegedly, Champion was hazed prior to his death. The absurd practice of hazing, which from my experience is endemic in Greek letter organizations, clubs and bands, must end. Whether a verbal assault, psychological harassment, or assault with a paddle, cane or fist, hazing must go by way of the dinosaur.
Decades ago, I spoke with a Florida State University professor, the late Dr. Charles Billings, who hailed from my home town of Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Billings talked about his experience pledging a predominantly black fraternity at the University of Michigan in the 1950’s. He spoke about how his pledge class had to carry bricks everywhere they went. As he held a brick in his hand, a member of the fraternity pushed the brick towards his face with such force, that a tooth penetrated his lip and the brick. Though he had a physical scar, the scars from his experiences as a pledge were much deeper.
As a young man, I had the privilege of meeting Bishop Edgar A. Love, one of my grandfather’s best friends, and a founder of a predominately black fraternity. If I can be sure of one thing, it’s that no one ever hazed Bishop Love – for that matter, I’m sure no founder of any Greek letter organization was ever hazed. If peer pressure to endure hazing is applied for social acceptance, such peer pressure should be re-directed from hazing to the encouragement of academic achievement. Some traditions must come to an end.