TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida A&M University continues its efforts to try to eliminate a persistent problem with hazing that tragically led to the death of band member Robert Champion last year.
On Thursday, the university held what was described as the largest anti-hazing town hall meeting ever held in the country. The meeting was intended to help students get a better understanding of what hazing is and encourage them to stand up against it.
FAMU has received a lot of national attention about hazing following Champion's death, but the truth is, many universities across the country are struggling with the problem.
Author Hank Nuwer, who's written four books about hazing, said there has been a hazing-related death every year since 1970 in the United States and alcohol is often involved.
Nuwer, whose books include "The Hazing Reader," said hazing is directly linked to alcohol abuse and too many universities have ignored the problem or tried to cover it up in the past.
Now he said schools are changing their attitude about hazing, but too many students still are not.
"Had a death at Fresno State just a couple of weeks ago. They're looking into a drowning death at the University of Idaho with a fraternity member swimming. There have been 15 deaths by drowning in fraternities and we saw a death freshman week at Acadia University in Canada. Northern Colorado somebody just sentenced for a pledge who dove out a window and got killed. We don't have a student buy-in."
Nuwer said he hoped to reach students unaffected by all of the attention on the problem because hazing nationwide has gotten worse in recent years.
"Out of the last seven years, there have been 20 deaths from hazing. Sixteen of them have alcohol-related, four from either beating or football-like pummeling injuries where someone's been crushed or injured. I want the students to know that even if they see hazing in Major League Baseball or in pro football, it doesn't make it right."
Nuwer said he's encouraged by new concern about the problem from national fraternities and sororities, as well as universities.
He said getting students to buy in is the key.
FAMU Student Body Vice President Michael Jefferson understands that distinction. He said most FAMU students have a history of trying to treat each other with dignity and respect but a handful of them have rejected that idea.
"There's always the few that spoil that message. What we're trying to do is make sure that the majority of the students can influence those few to make sure that another tragedy like what has happened, never happens again."
First Coast News