Scott: Students try to fit in through hazing, binge drinking
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 23:09
Last week, the Houstonian reported on a study by the American Sociological Association that found binge drinking college students to be happier with their college social experience than non-binge drinking students.
The study also suggested binge drinking was associated with high social class–that more socially powerful groups like Greek-affiliates, athletes and wealthier students were more likely to binge drink than low social class groups, which most often participated in binge drinking while seeking a better college experience.
Results of this study are not surprising, as Sam Houston State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Initiative Coordinator Eddie Gisemba noted in Thursday’s article. College is usually a time when young people could be searching for a number of things, from group acceptance to self identity, so it’s easy to see why it is desirable to fit in at college.
That’s what most students want on some level–to at least come away from college with enough stories to tell people what all you did to make it worth the time. And alcohol is a “social lubricant,” as Gisemba worded it.
Upon reading the ASA findings, I immediately thought of the hazing incidents involving binge drinking in my first couple years of college. Many of us have experienced getting together with a group of friends when someone drinks way more than they should, maybe to prove a point or maybe just for the sake of it.
I noticed the parallels between social motivations of alcohol hazing at predominantly white institutions, and the violence associated with hazing at historically black colleges and universities. Violence may not be considered a social lubricant but it’s that same longing for social acceptance that helps a lot of students make potentially fatal health decisions.
News also broke last week that Florida A&M University is responding to the lawsuit filed by murdered band member Robert Champion’s family by saying Champion was responsible for his own death. The 26-year-old drum major was beaten to death last November in a hazing incident in FAMU’s historical “Marching 100” band.
Twelve of Champion’s former band mates are charged in connection to his death, all of which have pled not guilty. Saturday marked the first time in decades FAMU played a football game without a halftime show from the band that’s easily more famous than the football team.
The university and its legal team came to the conclusion that it was, in no way, responsible for the voluntary beating that Champion took. The focus here, at least from the university’s perspective, has shifted from the pervasive hazing culture that infected the band and ultimately led to a member’s death.
FAMU has to cover its tail, as cruel a response as that may seem. Still, it’s important to address hazing, alcohol and violence all in one context. These issues seem separate if you take incidents at face value, but it all speaks to a larger idea of what makes college kids step out of themselves in such fashion.
If there is a discussion on binge drinking, there has to be a great attention to detail as to how it came to that point. What were the social implications and might this be something we want to seriously address with students entering college?
When it comes to violence at HBCUs, the highlighted example from FAMU shows the motivation to meet the criteria of social standards is the same.
Studies have shown that binge drinking and alcohol use at black colleges, in general, are not as major of health threats as with white colleges.
The kicker: there was not a great deal of shock with what happened to Champion from the black community, because while these violent rituals are often handled without killing people, they are hardly uncommon or looked down upon. Call it a badge of honor to be a member of the (insert organization here).
Universities have to be aware of what students are willing to do to make the college experience what they want it to be and what passes for high social status at their respective institutions.
Is it the band, the Greeks, the jocks, the rich guys? We always have to pay attention to what factors in to wanting to be these people and what it might take to get there and maintain.