Hazing’s impact in aggieland

Major incidents ushered in lasting consequences for A&M students

By Meagan Sheffield & Jane Turchi @mshef350 & @JaneTurchi

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The Fish Drill Team was suspended during the 1997-1998 school year. In 2001, upperclassmen advisors were selected by the commandant’s office and practices were once again allowed. Yearbook spread courtesy of the 2002 Aggieland Yearbook, Pg. 462-463

Since Texas A&M transitioned from a military college to a university where participation in the Corps of Cadets is no longer mandatory, the definition and consequences for hazing have evolved.

Reports of hazing have come from both the Corps and other student organizations at A&M. Historian and author John A. Adams, Class of 1973, participated in the Corps throughout his undergraduate career in Squadron 1. Adams returned to A&M twice more to receive a master’s and a doctorate degree in history. Adams is the author of “Keepers of the Spirit,” “Softly Call the Muster” and also co-wrote “Aggies Go to War: In Service of their Country.”

There is an important distinction between hazing, which is dangerous for students, and the rigorous routines that are expected of cadets, Adams said.

“Safety and the respect of people is extremely important, and so you want that protected,” Adams said. “But that doesn’t mean I might not yell at you or make you get up early and do extra push-ups to get your attention, because I want you tough. I want you to go through this, but I want to be fair, and I want you to have a good experience.”

Born into a military family, Adams said his time in the Corps consisted of many early mornings and challenging workouts. Concerned that some may consider strenuous routines in the Corps to be hazing, Adams said the issue is not cut and dry.

“The Corps provides a regimented environment, and this unarms a lot of people,” Adams said. “You get up early, you learn how to be on time, show up ready to play, dress ready to play. Then you’re going to probably be pressed physically — push-ups, running, mentally you have to learn things.”

But even in an intense physical environment like the Corps, there is a line between legitimate military training and hazing. At different points throughout the organization’s history, there have been students who chose to cross that line.

Post-World War II

During World War I and II, A&M transformed into a military training base and cadets graduated in about two and a half years instead of four to meet the increasing demand for military officers.

According to Sanders Corps of Cadets Center museum curator Lisa Kalmus, when freshmen entered in the fall of 1946 after World War II ended, they encountered a Corps that was “more crass and unrefined” because of the returning veterans. The freshmen were relocated to the Riverside Annex, where the RELLIS campus is located today, to minimize hazing.

“After WWII when veterans came back, [they] called the Corps ‘the kiddy Corps’ because they were never in the military,” Adams said.

Cadet death in 1984

Four cadets were indicted after sophomore cadet Bruce Goodrich died of a cardiac arrhythmia caused by forced strenuous exercise. Twenty-year-old Goodrich was a new transfer into the Corps of Cadets, according to The New York Times.

Goodrich was roused from sleep at 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 30, 1984, then forced to perform “motivational exercises,” which included running, doing push-ups and sit-ups for roughly an hour. After collapsing in the humid weather, Goodrich was motivated to keep running by upperclassmen cadets in Company F-1 ­— Jason Miles, Louis Fancher and Anthony D’Allesandro. Goodrich died at a Bryan hospital later that day.

The cadets pleaded guilty to hazing charges and served probation, according to The Eagle. A fourth cadet, former Corps personnel officer Gabriel Cuadra, was charged with tampering with evidence after destroying an exercise schedule while police were investigating Goodrich’s death.

The incident led the Corps to re-examine training techniques, according to The Eagle. Today, the Bruce Goodrich sophomore leadership award is given to outstanding sophomore cadets in Goodrich’s honor.

Fish Drill Team disbanded in 1997

After nine upperclassmen student advisors within the Fish Drill Team were arrested and charged with at least 54 cases of assault and hazing, the team was disbanded in 1997.

“You know it’s serious when you stop it immediately,” Adams said. “I mean that is one of the real icons of the Corps of Cadets, the Fish Drill Team, the fact [was] that there was a problem, they addressed the people who were causing it… and they ended it.”

Kalmus said the FDT was reinstated in 2001 after the cadets involved in the hazing had graduated.

“They reformed and they have maintained and attained a high level of performance like they always have,” Kalmus said. “They win the national title almost every year.”

Parsons Mounted Cavalry investigation

In 2002, the Parsons Mounted Cavalry was suspended for accusations of hazing where students were beating others with ax handles and throwing horse manure. They were reported by a student commander at the time.

A&M held disciplinary hearings beginning in spring 2003, but District Judge Rick Davis ultimately ruled that A&M violated PMC members’ right to due process because they were punished before the hearings were over. In the summer of 2003, there were 23 PMC members who filed lawsuits against the university. In Feb. 2004, A&M was ordered to redo the disciplinary hearings.

According to an August 2004 article from The Eagle, the 23 cadets received around $350,000 to make up for legal fees. While many students were found guilty, an appeals court threw out the case in 2006, and no criminal charges were filed.

F-2 and duct tape incident

Junior Brad Barrick was bound with duct tape by seven seniors in his outfit, F-2, on Nov. 22, 2004, as part of Thanksgiving “antics” that had been occurring for the previous decade, according to a Dec. 2004 article from The Eagle. Former Corps Commander John Huffman witnessed the incident.

Kalmus said duct tape was not allowed in the dorms for a period of time due to the hazing case.

“F-2 was not disbanded,” Kalmus said. “However, the Corps Commander, who was from F-2, was removed. Because the incident did involve duct tape, it involved them cutting off duct tape and somebody becoming injured in the process, duct tape was decreed ‘an instrument of hazing.’”

Hazing outside of the Corps

The Corps is not the only organization that has a record of hazing. Since fall 2014, at least 10 student organizations have been punished for hazing.

Recently, the A&M chapter of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity was found responsible for breaking the university’s hazing rules. This came shortly after the death of Joseph Little, a new member. Phi Gamma Delta, or FIJI, has their organization recognition suspended until January 2022. Other organizations that are either suspended or have restrictions on their group due to hazing activities include Sigma Phi Epsilon, Kappa Delta Chi, Delta Kappa Epsilon and the Aggie Wranglers.

The Corps of Cadets has enacted stricter rules against hazing in the last 20 years, Adams said.

“The Corps is under a little bit more of a microscope and well, you know what, that’s good,” Adams said. “You ought to be under a microscope, because we hold ourselves to a little bit higher standard — keepers of the spirit. Remember that.”