Monday, May 07, 2012

Ensley holds U. of Miami to different hazing standard than FAMU

The latest FAMU bashing rant from Tallahassee Democrat columnist Gerald Ensley says that James Ammons is still the university’s president because of race.

“This is about race — infuriating as that may be to read,” Ensley wrote. “This is about black people protecting black people.”

Ensley accuses FAMUans of protecting Ammons because he is black. He says that Ammons must go because “the ultimate responsibility for the death of Robert Champion falls on the FAMU president. Ammons has to resign or be fired.”

His column also suggests that prominent non-historically black universities would take drastic action against their administrations if they faced the same circumstances.

“If a student was killed by fellow students at Florida State University — or the University of Florida or UCLA or Harvard — supporters of those universities would demand accountability. The majority of supporters of any university would not let loyalty blind them to serious flaws within their university. They would demand change.”

Ensley omitted the University of Miami from his column. Donna Shalala, the current UM president, took office on June 1, 2001. On Nov. 4 of that year, 18-year old UM student Chad Meredith died from drowning during a hazing ritual led by the campus’ Kappa Sigma Fraternity. The Florida Legislature responded by passing the Chad Meredith Act against hazing in 2005.

Ensley’s column does not accuse Shalala of being responsible for the death of Meredith. He also does not make the claim that Shalala has remained in office because of some sort of racial protection issue, either. UM has personnel from many different ethnic groups (including white and Hispanic) and those individuals have an interest in maintaining their employment by holding Shalala's administration together. None of those groups received Ensley's criticism for "protecting" each other at UM.

The mention of Harvard in Ensley's column also ignores basic facts. In 2011, ex-Harvard student Brittany Smith pled guilty to being an accessory after-the-fact to an assault and battery that left Harvard student Justin Cosby dead inside a campus dormitory. Smith admitted that she helped her then-boyfriend (a non-Harvard student) hide the gun he used to shoot Cosby.

If Ensely was right, Harvard students and alumni would have ousted their president as a result of that student homicide that took place on university property. But they didn't.

The long, angry opinion piece by Ensley also makes lame attempts to compare the Champion homicide with the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State and the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Rattler Nation has addressed these types of ridiculous claims before on previous posts.

The Penn State incident involved an adult who allegedly took advantage of minor children. The individuals who have been charged with felony hazing crime in the Champion case death were his peers (college students).

FAMU’s big problem does not center on the need to do more to shield underage children from alleged adult predators. The key challenge on FAMU’s campus is finding a way to break the cycle of underground hazing traditions that adult college students pass down to other adult college students year-to-year. This is an issue that FAMU has publicly acknowledged and sought to address for years. But adult students continue to go through hazing in secret behind the administration’s back.

The witness account of Marching 100 member Keon Hollis suggests that Champion willingly contributed to the problem of secretive hazing. Hollis, a drum major who went through the “Crossing Bus C” initiation on Nov. 19th, said that he and Champion voluntarily submitted themselves to the hazing ritual.

Hollis’ account suggests that he and Champion did not tell the administration about their intent to go through the “Bus C” ritual because they did not want protection from it. The “Bus C” hazing took place on Nov. 19 because all the students involved WORKED AGAINST the administration’s efforts to protect them.

That also leads to another important difference between the Champion case and Martin case. Racial profiling is a one-sided problem. Hazing is typically a two-way street.

George Zimmerman started following Martin on Feb. 26 because he thought he looked suspicious. A black teenager’s decision to wear a hoodie or walk alone in a mostly white neighborhood should not be reasons for suspicion.

The completely unfounded suspicions against Martin led to the confrontation that took his life. Zimmerman’s unfounded suspicions about Martin were a one-sided problem.

Martin never did anything to contribute to the problem of racial profiling. But according to Hollis, Champion made a decision to contribute to FAMU's hazing problem.

If Gerald Ensley loses his Tallahassee Democrat job anytime soon, he shouldn't have any problem finding work as a newsletter writer for the Tea Party.

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