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Va. State band suspended over hazing allegations

Virginia State University has suspended its marching band over hazing allegations, the Associated Press reports. The story out of Ettrick comes from WWBT-TV (NBC affiliate).

A statement from Virginia State read in part:

The VSU Police is investigating hazing allegations involving members of the Trojan Explosion Marching Band, some of which have been substantiated. As a result, the Trojan Explosion Marching Band leadership has recommended the suspension of all band performances pending completion of the investigation by the VSU Police and the band leadership. The University administration is in agreement with the band leadership’s decision.

University spokeswoman Pamela Tolson tells reporters that the Trojan Explosion Marching Band’s performances are suspended pending an investigation by campus police and band leaders. Some of the allegations have been substantiated, she said, without providing any further details.

The policy makes it clear that every form of hazing, including a conspiracy to haze, is a violation of school rules.

“You hear the band in the morning, you hear the band in the nighttime, you just always hear the band,” the station quoted one sophomore as saying. “I don’t know how homecoming [on October 19] is going to be without the band.”

I don’t know either, but keeping fellow students safe is clearly more important than a fun-filled Homecoming weekend that includes a band.

The problems of hazing

A recent study by Elizabeth Allan et al (2019) of over 5,000 American college students from seven universities “with a demonstrated commitment to hazing prevention,” found 26 percent of students reported at least one experience that met the definition of hazing. Prior studies of colleges found rates of 55 percent.

Rates were higher for students on varsity athletic teams (42.7%), fraternities and sororities (38.3%), and club sports (28.5%). The most common were hazing behaviors involving excess drinking, social isolation, personal servitude, and humiliation.

“Given the secrecy surrounding hazing, it’s students that have the most power to stop hazing or reduce its harms. They need to act when a group’s practices put new or prospective members at risk for physical or emotional harm and when hazing traditions place the group and its leadership at risk for criminal or university penalties,” writes Shawn Burn in a summary article in Psychology Today.

That describes quite well what happened at Virginia State: great secrecy around the allegations, given that no news agency has reported what the actual charges were, and student leaders within the affected organization, the marching band, stepping up to end the hazing behavior on the part of the group’s members.

Hazing takes on a different character from traditional rites of passage, which are common among clubs and other school-based organizations. Hazing—abusive, dangerous, degrading, or exploitative behavior—puts students in harm’s way and differs significantly from rituals and initiations that “promote commitment and group cohesion,” Ms Burns writes.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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