The Dangers of Hazing

Author: Scott D. Fitzgerald, Richmond Personal Injury Lawyer

On November 19, 2011, Robert Champion, drum major for the award-winning Marching 100 at Florida A&M University, performed at halftime of the FAMU football game against Bethune-Cookman in Orlando. Hours later, he was beaten to death in a bizarre but unfortunately common hazing ritual of the March 100 known as "Crossing Bus C."  Champion had to walk down the center aisle of the bus while fellow band members savagely beat him with fists, drumsticks, straps, and even an orange cone. The hazing ritual is complete when the band member reaches the back of the bus, known as "Crossing Bus C." Moments after Champion reached the back of the bus, he complained of feeling sick and collapsed. Before the paramedics arrived, he died from "hemorrhagic shock caused by blunt-force trauma."[1] Eleven band members who participated in the beating now face felony charges.

Despite recent high profile hazing incidents such as this one, hazing continues on college campuses nationwide. Dartmouth University, Boston University, Ole Miss, and Texas Christian University are just some of the institutions grappling with recent allegations of hazing. Closer to home, hazing incidents have been reported at the University of Virginia as recently as August of this year. A University of Maine study suggests that more than half of all college students experience some form of hazing before they graduate.[2]

Virginia has a statute on the books that makes hazing a Class 1 misdemeanor.[3] Forty-four states have similar laws, though only eight states currently classify extreme forms of hazing as felonies. Frederica Wilson (D-Florida) plans to propose federal anti-hazing legislation in the next session of Congress that would make hazing a federal offense with unique punishment options such as loss of financial aid for those involved.

Some Virginia institutions are addressing the practice head-on. In October 2012, a coalition of administrators, faculty, and students at William & Mary launched a campaign with the aim of eliminating hazing from the campus entitled, "My Tribe, My Responsibility: A Home Without Hazing."[4]

Violent and risky hazing practices have no place on college campuses. Hopefully, increased awareness of the issue brought about by heightened media coverage of high-profile hazing will help reduce the number of these incidents plaguing our institutions of higher learning.

About the Author: Scott is the fourth generation of the Allen family to join the Allen Law Firm and is the great grandson of the Firm's founder, George E. Allen, Sr. He is a personal injury attorney, handling cases in Richmond, VA across the state of Virginia including wrongful death, car accidents, motor cycle accidents and pedestrian accidents. Scott is dedicated to protecting the best interests of his clients and defending their rights against insurance companies.


[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/24/us/documents-describe-fatal-hazing-ritual-at-florida-am.html

[2] http://www.umaine.edu/hazingstudy/hazinginview5.htm.

[3] http://www.stophazing.org/virginia/

[4] http://www.wm.edu/news/stories/2012/coalition-starts-hazing-prevention-messaging-campaign.php.

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