The famed Marching 100 band at Florida A&M University (FAMU) has
a new director, alumnus Sylvester Young. But when the group's
percussive precision steps will be featured again on a playing field
is still up in the air.
It depends, Mr. Young and FAMU interim president Larry Robinson
implied Tuesday, on how long it takes to change the culture of
hazing that led to a student's death and the band's suspension in
the fall of 2011. The fallout included the resignation of the band
director and the university's president, criminal charges, and civil
"We can't just put them back on the field as if nothing has
happened," said Young after the announcement Tuesday. He said that
the death of drum major Robert Champion has opened the eyes of band
leaders around the country to the need to address hazing, a practice
he said probably was going on back in the 1960s when he marched in
FAMU's new policies include more academic requirements for
joining the band, as well as campuswide zero tolerance for hazing.
People with knowledge of hazing activity are required to report it
within 24 hours, and retaliation against someone who makes such a
report is prohibited.
At least 15 students have been dismissed this year so far over
hazing allegations, and some students have complained the policies
have gone overboard.
The school also announced this week that Deirdre McRoy would fill
a new position to ensure the music department was complying with
Changing the culture, anti-hazing advocates say, will take more
than a change in policies and leadership.
What it's really all about is a change in the "culture of
organizational membership" - which in this band and in many similar
groups, such as Greek letter organizations, has long been based on
the idea that one qualifies by overcoming the adversity of a hazing
ritual, says John Williams, executive director of the Center for the
Study of Pan-Hellenic Issues in Tuskegee, Ala.
It may be necessary for FAMU to suspend the band until there's
been a sufficient reflection period for "students, administrators,
and alumni of the band to realize they have to revisit their entire
value system - that what they have believed in for so many years
does not have validity," says Mr. Williams, who has studied hazing
in African-American organizations for more than 25 years. "Bonding
naturally occurs when there's a supportive environment, not a
Marching 100 members such as Joshua Dandridge are eager to get
started with their new leader. "I'm definitely ready. I'm a music
major so I'm always practicing and I'm always encouraging other
people to practice. The spirit of the 100 never went away just
because we were suspended," he told the Associated Press.
Young has directed bands at several universities, including Ohio
University, where he also taught in the music department. …