Monday, November 18, 2013

Marching 100 students must protect band’s future by following rules during Florida Classic

This football season, many FAMU fans could be heard repeating an old saying: “I’m going to the game to see the Marching 100 play.”

There wasn’t much to cheer about this year at Bragg Memorial Stadium, where FAMU lost all five of its home contests. But despite all the disappointment on the gridiron, Rattlers were still able to shout at the visiting opponents and say: “Our band is better than your band!”

That was on display again last Saturday. While FAMU lost 29-21 to the Hornets, Rattlers were able to enjoy a fun halftime show. But unfortunately, FAMU had to settle for winning the battle of the bands by default. The DSU “Approaching Storm” did a 180 turn from its path toward Tallahassee as university officials suspended it in response to hazing allegations.

“It’s a shame that a few people can’t follow the rules and the whole band has to suffer as a result at this time,” Provost Alton Thompson said of the first-ever band suspension in the school’s history.

The struggle against unauthorized pledging rituals goes on. This week, the Marching 100 will share the Florida Classic halftime field with Bethune-Cookman  University (BCU), another historically black university that is also confronting the aftermath of a student death linked to hazing.

Michelle Thomas, mother of deceased B-CU band member Marcus Thomas, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school. She claims that her son, who was seeking membership into the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity, died from injuries he sustained after a car driven by another sleep-deprived pledge hit a utility pole.  

B-CU has denied responsibility for the car crash that took Thomas’ life.

Two years ago, FAMU drum major Robert Champion died after being hazing aboard a parked bus in the hours following the Florida Classic. FAMU, much like B-CU, has rejected the Champion family’s claims that it is to blame for the death. According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Champion “willingly participated” in the illegal hazing process.

The new Marching 100 now faces its most important test. FAMU has succeeded in keeping its band students safe ever since it welcomed the 100 back from a one-year suspension in June. But even the slightest slip up on Saturday could jeopardize the band’s future in the long term.  

A hazing incident in Orlando could lead the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to penalize FAMU by extending its current probationary period. FAMU would then be left with no choice but to execute another round of drastic actions such as shutting down the band for several years and adopting a policy that permanently bars out-of-town Marching 100 performances.

There is no room for failure at the Florida Classic. Every student in the 100 must reject the legacy left by the selfish pro-hazing band members of prior generations and protect the program’s future. If they don’t, then their actions could cause irreparable harm to the Marching 100.

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