They make worse human beings. The hazing death of Florida A&M
marching band member Robert Champion proves it. At a historically
black college especially, slavery-style abuse shouldn't be a badge
So here's a quick and grisly quiz, culled from America's recent
college sports scandals. What merits harsher repercussions, killing
a college student or sexually abusing a child?
If the decisions of officials at Penn State and Florida A&M
Universities (and resulting public reaction) are any gauge, it
appears that Americans deem child abuse the more serious crime. And
we all need to think more seriously about that.
At Penn State, following allegations of sexual abuse against
former defensive football coach Jerry Sandusky, head coach Joe
Paterno and university president Graham Spanier both got fired. But
at Florida A&M, where drum major Robert Champion died last month in
a hazing incident (which a medical examiner ruled a homicide), his
band director was simply put on administrative leave. And the
school's board of trustees voted to retain the school's president,
James Ammons, even after Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged him to step
down pending an investigation.
In fairness to Florida A&M, officials there had acknowledged the
band's hazing problem and were taking active measures to combat it.
Earlier this year, for example, over two-dozen trombonists and
clarinetists had been suspended for hazing. By contrast, it appears
that Penn State tried to cover up Mr. Sandusky's alleged crimes
instead of tackling the allegations head-on.
Some may argue, too, that the hazing was a "consensual" act
committed by adults (college students) on an adult victim, where
Sandusky's alleged acts include victimization of a minor.
But consider, too, that the four students who were initially
expelled for hazing Champion were subsequently allowed to return to
classes. The medical examiner found "multiple blunt trauma blows" to
Champion's chest, arm, shoulder, and back. After his beating, the
examiner wrote, Champion complained of thirst and fatigue. Then he
lost his vision. And then he died, probably of rapid blood loss.
He's not the only one, unfortunately. Journalist Hank Nuwer has
counted nearly 100 hazing-related deaths at American colleges and
universities since 1970. And if you look at Mr. Nuwer's list, one
big fact jumps out at you: Almost all the victims are men. It's a
And it goes all the way back to the birth of American higher
education. At institutions like Harvard and Yale, sophomores visited
a host of terrors on freshmen. Some of the freshmen were "smoked
out" of their rooms by sophomores who blew smoke through keyholes;
others were stripped, bound, and gagged and left in cemeteries.
Freshmen were also required to doff their caps to upperclassmen and
to run errands for them.
After the Civil War, as more and more universities began to admit
women, the routine hazing of freshmen began to decline. …