ATLANTA -- Four Florida A&M University students have been expelled for their role in what is believed to be a hazing death of a marching band member, the latest blemish for a rich and cherished institution at historically black colleges.
Hazing is part of the price band members pay at HBCUs to be part of a vaunted campus tradition that eclipses the prestige and popularity of the football team. Band members can endure anything from punching to paddling to being forced to drink copious amounts of water, all for a chance to perform in front of thousands of people at football games, parades and other high-profile events.
On HBCU campuses, band members are often given perks and treated like celebrities.
"If you were in the band, it was like you were a superstar," said Fontreia James, a piccolo player for three years in the marching band at Jackson State University in Mississippi. "People don't come to the games to see the football team. People come to see the band."