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It’s My Opinion: A Deadly Initiation

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The recent death of a Florida A&M band member has resulted in an examination of hazing in FAMU and in other universities throughout the country. Drum major Robert Champion is said to have suffered a severe beating in a hazing incident on a band trip. The injuries caused internal bleeding. He went into shock and died. Hazing is a form of initiation ritual. It creates permission to abuse and it promotes the idea that being abused is acceptable in certain circumstances. The concept carries grave danger.

Why would an intelligent college student go along with such horrific violence? What would cause his peers to engage in a frenzy of sadistic excess? How fragile is the veneer of civility? How strong is the phenomenon of mob psychology?

Human beings long for acceptance. People want to belong. Perhaps this young man felt he just needed to bite the bullet if he wanted to be a part of the marching band.

The most shocking part of this terrible incident is the fact that there was no one who stepped in to say “Enough!” Sometimes bad things happen when good people do nothing, and sometimes bad things happen when good people get swept into the fray.

New members of a group should never be made to run through a gauntlet. They should be greeted with open arms and not blows to their body.

Hazing and other types of bullying reach across a wide range of society. They occur on secular campuses and also, unfortunately, in Jewish schools and settings. The Jewish world is not exempt. Parents and administrators need to be vigilant in handling this phenomenon and children should be given clear-cut warnings. There needs to be zero tolerance.

About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.


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