When Marching to the Beat of the Drum Means Beating the Drummer

An Analysis of Hazing in University Marching Bands

The prevalence of hazing in universities is not a novel issue. For both fraternities and sororities, it has become a key part of the initiation process for new members. Yet, what happens when hazing occurs in other university contexts? This has increasingly become a concern as the prevalence of hazing in university marching bands continues to make itself known. Traditional laws regulating and punishing hazing in the university setting typically focus on the nexus of the hazing to a student’s direct involvement in the university sponsored activity. Many of those laws only protect against physical injuries that result from the hazing conduct in initiation-type settings. This leaves many students who are subject to hazing without remedy when the conduct occurs following their initiation into an organization, or when it constitutes emotional or mental trauma rather than physical. This Note seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of existing state antihazing statutes and their application in the context of university marching bands. It will look at the historical approaches the law takes in its attempts to regulate hazing, and consider the core theories of recovery that plaintiffs can pursue against universities to hold them liable. This Note will recommend that states remove exclusions for entire groups, that hazing should encompass acts that occur at any time relating to membership in an organization, and that hazing that results in mental or emotional trauma should be treated the same as that which produces physical trauma. Finally, courts need to establish a standard for university liability for hazing that occurs in university marching bands by modifying the Third Circuit’s three-factor approach in Kleinknecht v. Gettysburg College to adequately protect all marching band members from reasonably foreseeable harms resulting from hazing.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.