Hazing remains a concern in college marching bands, new study shows
Nearly a third of college marching band members surveyed in a national study observed hazing in their programs but few of the students reported the activities, often because of fears of retribution or loss of social standing, according to researchers.
Public verbal humiliation and public degradation were the most common forms of hazing reported by the band members, said Jason Silveira, an assistant professor of music education in the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University and lead author of the study, published recently in the Journal of Research in Music Education. Co-author of the study is Michael Hudson of the University of Kentucky.
The findings indicate there may still be confusion about what constitutes hazing and band members may need more education to understand what hazing is and why it shouldn't be tolerated, Silveira said.
"Despite all of our efforts, the message about hazing is still not getting out there," he said. "Band participants might say it's no big deal, it's what we do. It may not be a big deal to that person, but to someone else it may be."
Silveira and Hudson began investigating marching band hazing after several high-profile hazing incidents at colleges across the country, including the death of Robert Champion, a member of the Florida A&M University marching band who died during a hazing incident in 2011. Silveira had recently finished graduate school at another Florida institution at the time of Champion's death.
They found that few researchers had examined hazing in the performing arts; the little research that did exist tended to be part of larger hazing studies involving athletics or Greek organizations as well, Silveira said. So Silveira and Hudson set out to learn more about students' attitudes toward, understanding of and exposure to hazing in their marching bands.
"We wanted to pull back the veil of secrecy and see if there was anything we could do to help prevent hazing incidents in the future," Silveira said.
With permission from band directors, the researchers queried more than 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students who participate in NCAA Division I marching band programs in 30 states across the U.S. Student participation in the online survey was voluntary.
Overall, band members reported that they had never been forced to participate in most of the 18 types of hazing incidents listed in the survey. Only four types of hazing had been experienced by at least 10 percent of the respondents.
Nearly 20 percent of band members indicated they had been required to sing or chant by themselves or with selected others while in public and nearly 20 percent reported being yelled at, cursed at or sworn at. Nearly 15 percent of the band members reported that they had been asked not to associate with certain specific people but not others. And nearly 12 percent of the students reported depriving themselves of sleep.
The numbers were even lower when students were asked if they had participated in hazing others. About 3 percent of the survey respondents reported forcing others to participate in a drinking game, for example. Nearly 8 percent reported forcing others to sing or chant in public and 5 percent reported yelling, cursing or swearing at other members.
The vast majority of the students indicated they were aware of their university's hazing policies and expressed negative views toward hazing activities, Silveira said.
"That's a promising finding, that hazing is not being supported," he said.
However, nearly a third of the band members also reported observing some type of hazing. That indicates a possible disconnect in band members' understanding of what hazing is, Silveira said.
Silveira suggested band directors or other band leaders may need to step up education and reporting efforts to root out hazing in their programs. That might include establishing a system for anonymous reporting of hazing; comprehensive reviews of hazing policies with members; or using role-playing to help members better understand what hazing is.
"There was a sense that band members didn't see some behaviors as hazing," Silveira said. "Giving students concrete examples that help delineate what hazing is might help."