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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Familiar Tune in the Marching 100

Three have been arrested at FAMU in conjunction with a hazing incident that left a band member with a broken leg. The hazing was related to membership in the Red Dawg Order, a group in no way sanctioned by but tied to the Marching 100 that accepts band members from Georgia.

I actually typically show a good deal of restraint with respect to the language used in this blog. That said, this shit must stop.

I stated before that the "death penalty"--shutting the program down for a number of years--may be the necessary course of action, and despite my love for the 100 and their style of marching, I'm even more sure of it now. I can, to some degree, appreciate the sentiment that this is taking place as a wrong of passage into other organizations, not the 100 itself, but frankly, my response is no different. While it may be cutting out healthy tissue to erradicate a cancer, it is absolutely what must be done. While these section fraternities, affinity groups, auxiliaries, and other entities are not a part of the Marching 100, it seems they have not been made inimical enough to deter their appeal. You know how you keep this mess from your program? Declare any group with a known history of hazing--and sadly, that seems to be the bulk of them--persona non grata to anyone with any association with the 100. Make any reference to these groups, paraphernalia, throwing up signs, or otherwise repping a group known to be an enemy of the 100 a suspendable offense. Anyone choosing to get involved will have to choose against the very reason such groups are appealing in the first place:  The Marching 100. It needs to be crystal clear: You cannot stand for both.

So where do we go from here? Some will come down to who knew what and when. Dr. White, Director of Bands, was placed on administrative leave and scheduled to be dismissed on December 22 (because of a collective bargaining agreement in place). After lawyers got involved, White was un-dismissed (though the leave remained), a move that I thought was at best simply legal prudence to cover their backsides, and at worst a foolish maneuver geared towards protecting the band at all costs. As the story continues to be told, however, it seems that White warned against hazing in the band, even going so far as to recommend not taking the band to the Florida Classic, the very trip upon which Robert Champion died. It may be possible that there was some protecting of the throne taking place here, but it may not have been on the part of Dr. White. A recent discovery uncovered possible "employee fraud and misconduct" at the university as well, so it's possible we've only begun to scrape the surface. University president James Ammons, who had initially fired White, was publicly reprimanded by the Board of Trustees, a censure that took place in lieu of the administrative leave that was originally on the table. Depending on who knew what, that may need to be reconsidered.

On the part of Dr. White, the biggest piece I'd like to know is what all was done to prevent hazing in the band. In a video that I'm having trouble re-finding, White is heard emphatically telling the listeners that he said time and time again "do not haze". But was he equally emphatic about submitting to hazing? Even a definition on exactly what hazing is? I can appreciate that it seems White has been steadfast in punishing those caught hazing, and even reactions such as suggesting the band not go to the Classic, how proactive has he been? I don't know the answer to this, but to me it is key in if you can even consider keeping him employed by the university.

Because of the timing of the two, those who follow both activities couldn't help but draw parallels between this and the situation at Penn State. Both were despicable in their own right--one involved child molestation and the other led to the death of a young man. True enough, Julian White is no Joe Paterno--that distinction would go to his predecessor and mentor Dr. William P. Foster--but both sat atop an enterprise which, based on its prestige, some felt the need to protect at all costs. At FAMU, any number of previous incidents had been "handled internally," a strategy which, among other things, is built to protect the most prestigious entity on campus at the expense of the victims. Shortly after White's now-revoked firing, supporters protested on campus for reinstatement, not unlike Paterno. And in each case, regardless of legal proceedings, lawsuits will abound, and sadly, the only real winner will be the lawyers.
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