Monday, May 13, 2013

Old school Rattler right choice for band that got too big for its britches

Back when he was interviewed for the FAMU band directorship, Sylvester Young was asked he if had been a victim of hazing when he was a member of the Marching 100 during the 1960s.

“Sadly to say, I was as a student,” he answered.

Young then described one way he and other freshmen were hazed during the Orange Blossom Classic in Miami.

“A typical upperclassman would put his name [on a hotel room list] first and then he'll put three freshmen names on the list,” Young said. “Then when we get to the hotel, they put us out. That’s hazing. We slept in the hallways or whatever because they had their girlfriends. But, then that was acceptable. That was the way it was. We wouldn't question that.”

The hazing during Marching 100 out-of-town trips became increasingly worse during the decades that followed Young’s graduation in 1969. It grew beyond horny upperclassmen who got pleasure from bullying freshmen to give up their beds. The 100 turned into a gathering ground for certain wannabe thugs who got sadistic pleasure out of beating half-naked students on buses.  

“Crossing Bus C” and the other forms of violent hazing brought into the band by groups like the Red Dawgs were part of a culture of entitlement within some student circles of the 100. Too many band members got big heads from playing before thousands of Rattler fans and on national TV. They thought that as long as they performed well, they had a right to do whatever they pleased off-the-field.

FAMU saw this arrogance again with the stupidity of the “Free the 100” campaign. The slogan, which appeared on sweatshirts last football season, suggested that FAMU treated the band unfairly when it suspended it. But the real victim is FAMU. FAMU has been victimized by hazers and willing hazing pledges who choose to support beating rituals that they know are illegal and dangerous.

That’s one reason why it’s good to see that FAMU has a new band director who understands that the Marching 100 got too big for its britches. Young said during his interview that the ideal size for the Marching 100 is 256-320 members, rather than the previous 400+ members.

Young’s proposal to cut down the size of the band is a good one. It will make it harder for riff raff to get into the program and will make it easier for chaperones to keep a close watch on the students who travel with the 100.

Lots of alumni will be upset that the 100 will no longer be able to brag about being one of the largest HBCU bands. But too bad. Let the alumni who want a 400+ student band pay for a bigger legal affairs budget to cover hazing-related defense costs or shut up.  

Young has proven that he knows how to use Dr. William P. Foster’s teachings to bring the best out of students. His bands at Lincoln, Hampton, and Ohio were known for their precision. Back in 1993, the Ohio University Marching 110 was the only band selected to represent the state in U.S. President Bill Clinton’s inaugural parade.

The new director is right to take an “old school” disciplinary approach against the spoiled, above-the-law attitudes that have crept into FAMU’s band program.

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