A tradition best put to rest
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Dec 30, 2011 | 3063 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hazing is a chameleon activity: one minute it can be harmless, the next minute it can be hazardous, or worse. The centuries-old practice still draws strong rebukes and surprising defenses from those who think it’s more about tradition than foul play.

Our view: hazing is no joke.

It is disappointing that news of an alleged incident has marred this holiday season at Jacksonville State University. This week, tight-lipped university officials acknowledged that a fraternity had been suspended and an investigation had started into an alleged off-campus hazing in November. Sam Monk, acting general counsel for JSU, told The Star that one victim was treated at Regional Medical Center, and another was taken to UAB Hospital.

That’s not much information, but it’s enough to warrant a strong and thorough response from university officials. We hope the suspension of the unnamed fraternity is a sign that JSU understands the gravity of the situation.

In an odd bit of timing, recent hazing incidents at Florida A&M University and within the U.S. Army have returned this unseemly topic to national prominence.

At FAMU, drum major Robert Champion died last month after being beaten and paddled during a violent hazing ritual within the school’s marching band. As a result, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami says she will introduce a federal anti-hazing bill in Congress following the holiday break.

In Washington, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, issued strong comments this week against military hazing due to the recent death of Army Pvt. Daniel Chen of New York. Eight soldiers in Afghanistan face charges in the death of Chen, 19, who authorities believe committed suicide after he was hazed.

Dempsey used Facebook and Twitter to say hazing undermines the military’s values and “erodes the trust that bonds us,” the Associated Press has reported.

From the information available, nothing within JSU’s situation reaches the tragic deaths of Champion and Chen. But published data from a 2008 University of Maine report, “Hazing in view: College Students at Risk,” illustrate the seriousness of hazing incidents on U.S. campuses.

Among the most serious findings: More than half — 55 percent — of U.S. students involved in clubs, teams or organizations have experienced hazing; 47 percent come to college having already experiencing hazing; and excessive drinking is involved in hazing more than any other method.

Neither tradition nor acceptance is a reason to humiliate or harm someone. Let’s call hazing what it is: a tradition that should be stopped.
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