Hazing Death Shines Light on Dangerous Ritual

December 11, 2011 | Buffy Naillon

Robert Champion
Last month, Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion was found dead on the floor of a team bus after his fellow band members allegedly punched him repeatedly in a hazing ritual. In the weeks following the incident, students have joined with leaders at Florida A&M and other schools around the country to shed light on dangerous hazing rituals, many of which have been allowed to go on for decades.

Where’s the Line?
Hazing can be extremely difficult for teams to deal with, because it comes in so many forms. According to Alyson Peluso in The Sport Journal, it can range from subtle hazing, in which new team members are excluded from certain group activities, to harassment hazing, in which teammates are forced to wear ridiculous clothes or shave their heads, all the way to violent hazing, which can (and often does) result in bodily harm. Although many rituals start out innocently, they can easily escalate and move into violence.

Following Champion’s tragic death, many schools are reexamining what they’re doing to stop hazing. The following are a few suggestions from the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA).

Clearer Definitions
Athletic directors, coaches and students should know exactly what hazing is and what behavior crosses the line. If you don’t know where your school stands on hazing, talk to someone who can organize a forum.

Harsher Penalties
Perhaps the only thing that will change the culture of hazing at most schools is harsher penalties for coaches who allow it to occur, like suspensions or firings. OHSAA also recommends having coaches, athletes and parents sign a document stating that they are aware of the potential consequences of hazing.

Better Team-Building Activities
Some teams see hazing as a rite of passage that brings everyone closer together. OSHAA suggests replacing hazing with safer, more effective team-building activities, like volunteering to race for charity, completing a challenge course or building a brick wall piece by piece as team goals are met.

Is hazing a part of your team’s tradition? How would you stop it? Let us know through Facebook.

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