College band hazing a growing problem
May 15, 2009
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — When two first-year French horn players in Southern University’s marching band were beaten so badly they had to be hospitalized in intensive care, it exposed a dirty secret: Hazing isn’t reserved for fraternities.
At least one expert says the beatings are a growing problem at historically black colleges, where a spot in the marching band is coveted and the bands are revered almost as much as the sports teams for which they play their rousing fight songs.
“It’s something that deserves more attention,” said Walter Kimbrough, president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark., who has researched band hazing cases at historically black colleges nationwide and has been called as an expert witness in more than a dozen court cases involving hazing.
“And I’m just talking about violent cases — there could be a ton of those silent cases, the ones that could have been reported but weren’t,” he said.
Kimbrough estimated that 15 percent of the country’s 80 historically black colleges have had violent hazings among band members over the past few years. He’s found that brutal band hazings are not restricted to predominantly black schools but do crop up as a problem among bands that have cliques or subgroups that operate like fraternities — but without school authorization.
The victims at Southern apparently were seeking membership to “Mellow Phi Fellow,” a fraternity-like subgroup of the French horn section, according to investigators.
The three told investigators that on Nov. 27, 2008 — two days before the band performed at Southern’s annual Bayou Classic football game against Grambling State in the Louisiana Superdome — they gathered at the off-campus home of one of their bandmates, where they were blindfolded, doused with water and beaten with a board.
One of the victims elected to stop the ritual after being hit with a board more than 50 times and later identified the suspects, authorities said.
The other two kept going, and were beaten so badly they risked organ failure and were hospitalized for several days in intensive care. They are recuperating, District Attorney Hillar Moore said.