The Florida A & M college marching band is on hold. The college president suspended the highly popular band for the coming school year.
A very public crisis ignited when a band member died from injuries suffered in a hazing incident last year. And this wasn't just a typical college prank. The young man was beaten to death on a bus following a football game. The incident revealed a very ugly hazing culture that is yet to be fully uncovered.
Recently, longtime director Julian White had asked to keep his job, citing efforts over the last 22 years to "root out" the hazing. Too little, too late--much too late. A 22-year effort is a testament to the fact that there needed to be a change. Not only was hazing rampant, but there were at least 100 members in the band during the fall of 2011 who were not enrolled in the institution.
I doubt the college president came to this decision lightly. The marching band is part of the culture at A & M. The "Marching 100" have played for presidential inaugural parades. Their popularity is part of the problem. When we get enamored and entrenched in fame and fandom, much like the Penn State football program, we are an easy target for our own blind spots.
Hats off to the University Chancellor Frank Brogan for putting the brakes on reinstatement, despite the now-unknown fate of many students on scholarship to perform in the popular band. The easy thing would be to let the band continue, under new leadership, while the investigation continues. But, in this case, as is often the case, the hardest decision is usually the best.
When crisis strikes, you need to be transparent, open, and willing to give information publicly that might create discomfort in the organization. But, we also need to be willing to make the hard decisions. Be willing to sacrifice urgent restoration for the greater good, if needed.