In the cult classic, "Animal House," the 1978 iconic coming of age film, young men and women seek acceptance among their peers by doing just about anything to join a select group of inner circle members.
More than three decades later, the issue of hazing on college campuses is hardly new, however with the recent death of a Florida A & M University band member, the ritual has once again taken center stage.
The University has formed an independent task force to examine the sudden death of Robert Champion, a member of the famous A & M Marching Band. According to NewsOne, the panel is trying to “determine if there are patterns of inappropriate behavior within the culture of the band,” said A & M President James Ammons, amid rumors of hazing as a possible factor in Champion’s death.
College students seeking membership into elite fraternities and sororities, or in Champion's case, competitive marching bands, sometimes face rigorous physical work-outs and grueling mental accuity tests that can sometimes challenge their moral and ethical standing. Peer pressure to gain acceptance into such close-knit groups has been so widespread that some students are willing to risk everything, including their own lives, to join a select crowd on campus.
A&M recently announced it is dismissing four students for their role in the death of the 26 year old, while audiotape of an emergency call was released Thursday revealing the drum major had vomit in his mouth in the moments before he died.
Ammons referred to the dismissals in a memo to members of the FAMU Board of Trustees, but did not specify what the four students actually did. Authorities say hazing played a role in Champion's death, but have not released any more specifics. Now, Ammons' job remains in question as the investigation continues, according to CBS News.
Ammons says in his memo the University has a zero-tolerance policy on hazing, and goes on to state: “I want to report that four students have been dismissed from the University in connection to the Robert Champion incident.”
Champion was found unresponsive November 19th on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel after the school’s football team lost to a rival.
Dangerous hazing rituals such as binge drinking on college campuses remains a major issue where many pledges have died as a result of alcohol poisoining. This past summer, the heartbroken mother of a Cornell University sophomore sued the ivy league school for $25 million dollars after fraternity brothers kidnapped her son, blindfolded him, bound his hands and feet, and forced him to drink so much alcohol that he passed out and died.
George Desdunes, the son of a Haitian immigrant, was pronounced dead on February 25th from alcohol poisoning at Cayuga Medical Center in upstate New York. According to the family lawsuit, Desdunes' blood alcohol level was .409, more than five times the legal limit.
Desdunes' mother, Marie Lourdes Andre, is suing Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in the wrongful death of her only son. ABCNews says the aspiring doctor was captured by freshmen pledges of the fraternity who allegedly devised a horrific set of tasks and punishments for Desdunes and one other frat member.
"I call it inmates running the institution," said Andre's lawyer, William Friedlander, referring to the SAE hazing. "This is a terrible tragic case. He was a really great kid."
Desdunes, 19, a member of the SAE fraternity, was grabbed by the freshmen pledges who tied him up with zip ties and duct tape. The pledges are alleged to have asked him trivia questions about the fraternity. If he answered incorrectly, he reportedly had to do exercises such as sit-ups, or consume various foods and drinks including sugar, flavored syrups and vodka.
Alcohol isn't the only liquid students can experience a lethal over-dose.
In 2005, Matthew Carrington died during Chi Tau's "Hell Week" in California. Junior fraternity brothers were in charge and were told to be tough on the pledges. Carrington was at the Chi Tau, north of Sacramento to support his friend, Mike Quintana. Both were sober, according to police reports.