The crowd was small and the dÃ©cor was simple at the remembrance ceremony for Robert Champion last week. The usual sharing of smiles and memories of happier times did not seem to be the main focus.
I have attended my fair share of remembrance ceremonies and this one paled in comparison to those. Typically, when someone dies, it is up to his or her loved ones to share words of comfort and fond memories. No one wants to be reminded of how this person died.
How Champion died seemed to be the main topic of discussion at the ceremony. While the various prayers and speeches were being given, I could not help but wonder what went through the minds of those closest to Champion. Should more people have been allowed to speak on his behalf? Could there have been programs printed? Would a slide show of Champion’s photos on a projector screen have been too much?
Last year, students filled the Jake Gaither Gymnasium days before the Orlando classic for, what now seems like a foreshadowed, Bethune-Cookman University Wildcat funeral. Fake funeral programs were printed, an actual casket was used to house the unusually lively corpse of our rival and people were weeping and wailing in their Sunday best. Great measures were taken to make sure that the crowd was engaged. The first time students make light of death during the usual Orlando classic pre-celebration precedes the first death of someone while attending the widely anticipated game. No one knew that they were witnessing an ironic occasion that would mark the beginning of a new era at FAMU.
It is in reflecting on these moments that I realized what is most important to the student body, university officials and others who are affiliated with FAMU – our image. In efforts to eradicate hazing on this campus, some fail to realize that there is a time and a place for everything. What might seem like an effective public relations tactic can be perceived by the public as insensitive and redundant. Every moment in the pubic eye should not seem so robotic and calculated.
The only people who benefitted from this remembrance ceremony were university officials. This was another opportunity to preach about the effectiveness of current anti-hazing policies. It was an opportunity for more press coverage on “showing the world how to stop hazing.”
While some see Champion’s death as an example, I am sure those closest to him view his death more humanely.