Sour Note for the Marching 100 - Higher Education
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Sour Note for the Marching 100

by Jan Pudlow

New allegations of band hazing officials looking for a way to stop a problem they thought had been tamed

TALLAHASSEE, FLA.
Hit a wrong note on the trumpet and get whacked on the elbow with a mouthpiece.

Miss a dance step and get pummeled in the head by fellow band
members taunting with the sing-song rhyme “Little Bunny Foo Foo.”

Get invited to a party, only to be ordered to squat in “The
Thinker” position and get paddled so many times your buttocks swell.

Public records from Florida A&M University (FAMU) police reveal
a pattern of abusive hazing in the Marching 100 band that has gone on
for years.

Known around the world as a great college band, FAMU’s Marching 100
have strutted dazzling high-stepping, body-twisting moves from
Washington to Paris.

But to its members and university officials, the band is notorious
for something else: humiliating and beating freshmen members as part of
a hazing ritual that goes back four decades.

“Back to the ’50s,” said William P. Foster, the former band
director who retired last July after 52 years. “All this is a spillover
from the fraternities’ and sororities’ initiation and pledge weeks,
both physical and mental hazing. No amount of pleading or understanding
would get rid of it.”

The current Marching 100 director, Julian White, said the band is
taking “very strong steps to ensure we have zero tolerance for hazing.”

Yet year after year, another investigation into hazing occurs.
Those caught hazing are back marching in the band next football season,
and the hazing tradition continues.

Currently, there is an ongoing investigation that has resulted in
the suspension of 12 band members. The investigation has uncovered that
hazing has landed one Marching 100 band member in the hospital. On Nov.
13, White reported to university officials and police that Ivory Lucky,
a sophomore clarinet player from Ocala, was beaten on Nov. 9, during a
hazing ritual held at another student’s apartment. Most of the blows
were delivered by female clarinet players, according to Tallahassee
Police Department reports. Reached at his hospital room, Lucky declined
to comment.

The investigation was sparked by an Oct. 20 letter signed only
“Angry Marching 100 Parents” and sent to FAMU officials by four mothers
who detail charges that students were punched with fists holding
protruding keys, paddled, and struck by thrown shoes.

“We have been appalled to discover that it takes more than hard work to be part of the Marching 100,” the letter said.

Hazing is prevalent in many fraternities. However, as the mother
who wrote the parents’ letter points out, an important distinction
between Greek hazing and that imposed upon members of the Marching 100
is that fraternities and sororities are voluntary organizations. For
Marching 100 members who are music education majors and scholarship
recipients, participating in the band is mandatory.

Behind Closed Doors

Hazing has been illegal in Florida since 1990. That is the same
year the National Pan-Hellenic Council banned hazing following the
deaths of two fraternity members at other schools.

Hazing in the Marching 100 shares several of the dynamics
associated with pledging a fraternity: the willingness to be beaten in
order to belong; the knowledge that one day you will be the one to
deliver the blows; and the understanding of a code of silence to keep
abuse secret.

“We don’t permit hazing in fraternities or in the Marching 100,”
said FAMU’s president, Dr. Frederick Humphries. “They need to stop it,
or it will be a serious problem.”

FAMU police records reveal hazing in the 100 has been a problem for
nearly a decade, with at least seven investigations since 1989. The
worst cases of abuse cited in these investigations occurred behind
closed doors.

For example, in t996, clarinet players were invited to a late night
party at an upperclassman’s apartment. One by one, freshmen — called
“whores” — were summoned to a dimly lit room and then told to strike
“The Thinker” position, referring to the pose depicted by French artist
Francois Rodin’s sculpture of the same name. The freshman were paddled
so many times their buttocks swelled, and one young woman started to
faint.

Teddrick Page served 10 days in jail for battery when he punched
out another percussionist in 1994 for refusing to carry another
musician’s bass drum. In a recent interview, Page clung to his view
that hazing is essential to keeping the band great.

“If you suffer together, you play better together,” said Page, 23, who was allowed back in the band.

“I was paddled. It was painful, true indeed. But it brought me
closer to my peers and upperclassmen,” he continued. “Part of that
humiliation is part of getting strong.”

Getting it Out in the Open

Being beaten was not Spurgeon McWilliams III’s idea of bonding. As
he was leaving “The Patch,” the band’s practice field, in 1989,
McWilliams was surrounded by fellow trumpeters, who kicked him and
chanted “Little Bunny Foo Foo, hopping through the forest, scooping up
the field mice, popping him on the head.”

Because he had messed up in practice, McWilliams became the
designated “field mouse” and that got him pummeled in the head with
elbows. At his parents’ insistence, he pressed charges and eight
trumpeters were charged with battery. Their punishment: temporary
suspension from the band.

As a result, McWilliams was afraid to stay at FAMU.

“I [was] a music major wanting to get a degree, then I had to
switch schools to get away from the harassment. It’s ridiculous!” said
the 27-year-old who is now a music teacher in Tallahassee and Quincy.

“It’s not like they broke my leg, but it was a combination of
humiliation and hurt. If they want to change the situation, the power
is in the students’ hands,” he continued.

However, 1996 Marching 100 drum major Kalomo Bailey suggests breaking the code of silence is no easy task.

“Your best friend would keep a secret from you because you never
knew who would go and tell or who would allow it,” he said of the
secretive dynamic of the band community.

Bailey is the current band director at Thomas County Central High School in Thomasville, Ga.

“Continue to fight [hazing] and keep it out in the open,” he
pleads. “I guess that’s the only way it will stop. One day, somebody is
going to get seriously hurt. And I would hate for the band to get
disbanded.”

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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