FAMU's Hazing Scandal: What Now?
Alumni and experts discuss what happened at FAMU and how to make sure it never happens again.
Kinsey said that the attributes that make the band special have been overshadowed in the past month. "It's not because of hazing," he said. "It's because of the character leadership, academics, musicianship and precision marching -- that's what people come from all over the world to see."
Watching band members get prosecuted will have more of an effect on FAMU students' perception of hazing than seeing two members of Kappa Alpha Psi go to prison for hazing in 2007. "It's one thing for the Kappas," Kinsey said. "It's another thing for the '100.' "
Making It Stop
Kimbrough has challenged all of those students, band members and alumni who are professing their love for FAMU to step up and do more to protect their school from costly lawsuits and investigations by exposing hazing when they see it.
He said that he suppresses hazing at Philander Smith by having stiff penalties. "People haze because they don't feel like the risk is greater than the reward, so I think we have to continue to increase the risk," he said. "I'm talking about expulsions; the time for suspensions is done."
Kimbrough, who doubts that any current FAMU students even know the names of the two Kappas who went to prison for hazing four years ago, said that colleges have to remind students repeatedly throughout the school year of the penalties and consequences of hazing.
"I'm sending your behind home. It's just straight expulsion. I'm not having a hearing" is what Kimbrough tells his 730-student body.
FAMU graduate Bland said that professionals need to be brought into the conversation to dig into the minds of students who haze. If students at HBCUs are taught more about their history and how African Americans were beaten by whites, he argued, students might reconsider some of their pledging practices.
When asked if he experienced hazing, Bland, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, said that some may call his experience hazing, but he doesn't see it that way: "I would say I was initiated."
The open dialogue needed to address hazing can be tricky. Hazing is done in secret, and people rarely want to address their own experiences. Students often look at older members of the organizations they want to be a part of as hypocrites for telling them not to haze, when the older members participated in hazing themselves.
"Well, it's easy," said FAMU board of trustees Chair Badger, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi. "I'm telling you so you won't be as stupid as I was. Yes, I did it. And it was dumb on my part to do that."
Perhaps this time, students will finally get the message. Bland said that he wants something good to come from the tragedy at his alma mater. "My hope, my prayer, is that FAMU is the catalyst to a changed culture," he said, "and hopefully people will look at this situation and they'll think twice before they participate in these actions."
Topher Sanders is a newspaper reporter living in Jacksonville, Fla., with his wife and son. You can follow his musings on life, sports and music on Twitter.