What has long been suspected has now been confirmed: Florida A&M University student Robert Champion was killed. The autopsy showed that he died as the result of blunt force trauma (that is, he was beaten to death, allegedly by fellow students and band mates). While I suspected this all along, this confirmation fills me with renewed sadness and shame. As a professor at Florida A&M University, it is appropriate that I feel both of these emotions.
Robert Champion will never see another new year. He will never graduate. He will never again hear the applaud of fans admiring his talents. All this has been taken from him and for no reason other than an evil and sadistic practice that blights and stains not only Florida A&M University but schools around the country.
Responsible and ethical people have fought long and hard against this blight, yet it still survives and people are humiliated, hurt and even killed because of this. Major incidents are covered by the voracious twenty four hour news companies and lead people to speak of doing something to end hazing. I have, as might be imagined, heard many speeches about ending hazing. Yet, of course, it has never ended.
In some cases, hazing continues with the tacit approval or tolerance of those tasked to prevent it. After all, evil does well when those who are supposed to be on guard neglect their duties. In other cases, hazing survives as a conspiracy protected by its practitioners and victims (who are often one and the same) and its defenders prevent even the most diligent efforts from succeeding. In many cases, both of these factors combine: while some make a very real effort to combat it, others allow it to continue by their failure to act.
In my more cynical moments, I suspect that hazing is an evil that cannot be rooted out. It will always remain or, at the very least, always return. In this it is no different from other evils. In my more optimistic moments, I know that although it cannot be eradicated permanently and universally, it can be countered. As such, each person spared from death, injury or degradation is a victory. But these victories are not easy. They require that those in positions of authority take their responsibilities seriously. It requires that students be willing to refuse to participate, to refuse to maintain the murderous silence, and to be willing to let others know of the wrongs being done. Hurting others is not a sign of respect or a mark of honor. Being hurt by others is also not a sign of respect or mark of honor. Those who say otherwise speak in lies. They know nothing of true respect and honor, only about degradation and dishonor.