HAZING: What Is It And Why Is It Still An Issue In 2019?

According to a recent post on social media, a student allegedly suffered injuries after participating in a college band’s pre-drill (band camp) activities. The activities consisted of marching, running, and calisthenics. However, the student also alleged that he/she was hazed and witnessed the hazing of others. This rebooted a discussion about hazing on college campuses that I am, frankly, surprised we are still having…

What Is Considered Hazing?

memoriesI was sure the entire band world had clearly defined what was considered hazing after the tragic death of Robert Champion in 2011. During that time, no band program in the country was immune to the affects of that case. University officials, across the country “tightened the reigns” on their own college bands to ensure that nothing like that could ever happen again. The tragic details of those events shook the entire college band world and forever changed how bands rehearse and prepare for performances. So we thought…

The following are some examples of hazing divided into three categories: subtle, harassment, and violent. It is impossible to list all possible hazing behaviors because many are context-specific. While this is not an all-inclusive list, it provides some common examples of hazing traditions.

Subtle Hazing
Subtle hazing is behavior that emphasizes a power imbalance between new members/rookies and other members of the group or team. Termed “subtle hazing” because these types of hazing are often taken for granted or accepted as “harmless” or meaningless. Subtle hazing typically involves activities or attitudes that breach reasonable standards of mutual respect and place new members/rookies on the receiving end of ridicule, embarrassment, and/or humiliation tactics. New members/rookies often feel the need to endure subtle hazing to feel like part of the group or team. (Some types of subtle hazing may also be considered harassment hazing).

Some Examples: Silence periods with implied threats for violation, Deprivation of privileges granted to other members, Requiring new members/rookies to perform duties not assigned to other members, Socially isolating new members/rookies, Line-ups and drills/tests on meaningless information, Name calling, Requiring new members/rookies to refer to other members with titles (e.g. “Mr.,” “Miss”) while they are identified with demeaning terms, Expecting certain items to always be in one’s possession.

Harassment Hazing
Harassment hazing is behavior that causes emotional anguish or physical discomfort tohaze feel like part of the group. Harassment hazing confuses, frustrates, and causes undue stress for new members/rookies. (Some types of harassment hazing can also be considered violent hazing).

Some Examples: Verbal abuse, Threats or implied threats, Asking new members to wear embarrassing or humiliating attire, Stunt or skit nights with degrading, crude, or humiliating acts, Expecting new members/rookies to perform personal service to other members such as carrying books, errands, cooking, cleaning, etc., Sleep deprivation, Sexual simulations, Expecting new members/rookies to be deprived of maintaining a normal schedule of bodily cleanliness, Be expected to harass others.

Violent Hazing
Violent hazing is behavior that has the potential to cause physical and/or emotional, or psychological harm.

Some Examples: Forced or coerced alcohol or other drug consumption, Beating, paddling, or other forms of assault, Branding, Forced or coerced ingestion of vile substances or concoctions, Burning, Water intoxication, Expecting abuse or mistreatment of animals, Public nudity, Expecting illegal activity, Bondage, Abductions/kidnaps, Exposure to cold weather or extreme heat without appropriate protection

Source: Stophazing.org

This is the definition used in US courts when prosecuting hazing cases. Whether the hazing allegations presented by this student are true or not, the activities we all consider to be hazing should be clear as crystal. But somehow, they’ve once again become “cloudy”….

Allegations Presented By Student

  1. Forcing an individual to address upperclassmen (or any student who is not a freshman) as Sir and Ma’am. Yes, this fits the definition of hazing. Any activity or task that can be seen as a form of “initiation” is hazing.
  2. Section leader threatening to “smoke” the entire section for a lack of music memorization. Yes, a threat of physical harm fits the definition of hazing.
  3. End rehearsals at 10:30pm and requiring students to wake at 3am. Yes, sleep deprivation fits the definition of hazing.
  4. Forcing students to do physical activity in the form of planks or leg lifts while playing an instrument. Yes, this fits the definition of hazing.
  5. Requiring freshman to refrain from walking on grass. Yes, this fits the definition of hazing.
  6. Prohibiting freshman from talking to non freshman band members. Yes, this fits the definition of hazing.
  7. Girls can’t sit next to boys. If this only applies to freshmen girls and boys then Yes, this fits the definition of hazing.
  8. Saying “observation” and waiting to be observed before speaking or doing anything. If this only applies to freshmen then Yes, this fits the definition of hazing.
  9. Being scolded for smiling or giggling and being told to smack yourself if you smile.  Yes, this fits the definition of hazing.
  10. Being yelled at or cussed at for not performing “correctly”. This could fit the definition of hazing. It depends on the circumstances and who is doing and saying what.
  11. Doing excessive amounts of calisthenics ie. 1000 crunches.  In the realm of band… Yes, this fits the definition of hazing. There is no reason a band member should be required to do 1000 crunches.

 Those who forget the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them.

The allegations in this article aren’t proven to be true in a court of law (thank God). However, we’ve known about this stuff happening for far too long… My question is why, in 2019, are we allowing it to still happen? Surely we all know that ANY band program continuing to play within the dangerous realm of hazing culture is playing with fire.

After the 2011 incident there was unanimous dismay and outrage towards hazing culture. However, it did not take long for us to, once again, forget the important lessons learned from the past. I challenge our top programs who have broken hazing’s grip to please share what’s working for you. The rest of us obviously need help…. We are not ok.

Hazing in college bands is a lot like racism in America… It’s our dirty little secret that we don’t address. We allow it to continue in the shadows and only address it when it raises its ugly head. It’s been with the culture from the beginning and if we’re not careful, it will be with us until the very end.

Published by Ernest Stackhouse

-Music Educator -Marching Band Show Design -Musical Arranger -Adjudicator -Fine Arts Administrator -Band Director -Writer

8 thoughts on “HAZING: What Is It And Why Is It Still An Issue In 2019?

  1. As usual, Stackhouse has penned an excellent article. I agree with the previous post that we must first understand how hazing found it’s way into HBCU band culture then finds ways to counteract it’s influence. The desire to “belong” is apparently overwhelming.

    1. Absolutely!… I think that dog has had it’s day. We must move away from those barbaric practices if we want to hold on to these institutions that are so important to the essence of the college gameday experience.

  2. A right of passage is an important aspect of participation, I certainly agree! The problem is a lack of definition, secrecy and abuse. There are so many ways for someone to solidify membership that will make a program better! Ex….learn your music or not put on the uniform or be able to meet reasonable physical standards before you march halftime. The hazing has to stop, but we have to be real and understanding of the demands of the hbcu band, minus the abuse! Honestly, the young lady could have been hazed by definition, but the majority of her feelings came across as a person that was not ready for the physical demands of an Hbcu band. It happens all the time with military folks and boot camp.

    1. Exactly! That’s what more bands need. A different route to success that does not put the reputation (and survival) of the entire organization on the line. Musicians are creative by nature. If anyone can do this it’s us! 👍

  3. The question is were did hazing originate and for what purpose? And how/why did it find it’s way into our bands. Hazing should be the last aspect of culture found in any HBCU organization if not for just the parallels of slavery and Jim Crow alone.

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