Corps confronts hazing issues

Administration continues efforts to reduce unsafe conduct among cadets

By Kathryn Whitlock @kathrynwhitloc8

Cases where there was no finding of responsibility for any kind of charge are not included in the statistics because, as per student rules, the records are destroyed. Total numbers of students found responsible for hazing are not included in this data. Total Texas A&M enrollment is currently close to 65,000 while Corps of Cadets enrollment is roughly 2,500.  Graphic by Nic Tan

Cases where there was no finding of responsibility for any kind of charge are not included in the statistics because, as per student rules, the records are destroyed. Total numbers of students found responsible for hazing are not included in this data. Total Texas A&M enrollment is currently close to 65,000 while Corps of Cadets enrollment is roughly 2,500. Graphic by Nic Tan

In recent years, Texas A&M Administrators and staff overseeing the Corps of Cadets have made efforts to reduce hazing among cadets.

According to conduct data from the Offices of the Dean of Student Life, 207 cadets have been found responsible for some degree of hazing since 2010. Though cadets make up roughly four percent of the student population, over 45 percent of hazing investigations on record since the 2012-2013 school year have involved the Corps.

However, there was a large drop in Corps hazing charges from then to the 2013-2014 school year, and the number has remained relatively low. The fewest cadets found responsible for hazing since 2012 was during the 2014-2015 school year with just six. According to Dean of Student Life Anne Reber, these falling numbers are due to diligent work by the university and Corps that aims to put an end to hazing.

“Corps hazing numbers have dropped incrementally over the years since I started in my position,” Reber said. “We — Student Life and the Corps staff — have worked hard to educate and address issues of hazing, and the numbers reflect that.”

Agricultural systems management senior and cadet in outfit E-2 Robert Crum said he agrees that the amount of hazing has decreased and changes are being made for the better. 

“Hazing has gone down so much in the Corps,” Crum said. “There are a lot of positive changes that have happened because of that. Kids aren’t getting hurt, and they are, in general, being better cadets. But talking about stuff they did back in old army, there were terrible things done to cadets.”

However, Crum said that with hazing incidents decreasing, the difficult and unyielding reputation of the Corps has changed. 

“The Corps, to me, has just gotten so much easier that I don’t know who they are anymore,” Crum said. 

From freshman year to senior year, cadets are required to attend briefings to discuss behavior, said assistant commandant for discipline Col. Gary Beaty. The briefings are held at the beginning of each semester and are about three hours long.

“So you’re talking six to seven hours roughly each year is the overall training,” Beaty said. “Then you get into all your weekly stuff. All your training goes on to a training schedule that gets approved. There’s a military member that’s an advisor if you will. They live in the buildings. They’re there at the formations. They see the training. They are checking on everything. They go through and review all those training pieces. There’s a series of checks and balances.”

Assistant commandant for operations and training Col. Glenn Starnes said cadets are constantly reminded of the gravity of their position and role in the Corps. 

“We also require our cadet leadership to hold their cadets to a higher standard,” Starnes said. “Before we have a long weekend, before Thanksgiving, before spring break, we require our leadership to do safety briefs with their cadets, reminding them ‘don’t be stupid’ and to know that they’re going to be held at a higher standard.” 

To avoid becoming a stagnant organization, Starnes said the Corps continually remains up-to-date on current events and changes.

“We constantly review each semester and take a look to see if there’s an event or something that occurs and see what changes do we need to instill and do we need to update our rules because a university rule changes,” Starnes said. “It’s an evolution.”  

Beaty said the system seeks to create a pyramiding effect that also motivates cadets to be aware of their responsibility to report incidents and be explicit in their accounts.

“Each individual cadet is a platform, so they are able to come back and say ‘I saw or heard something that I don’t think is quite right,’” Beaty said. “They have the ability to pass those questions to the cadet side or report that through the chain of command to the Office of the Commandant, or they can go directly to the university. You’ve got to be transparent about it. There’s nothing that requires a cadet to come see Col. Beaty before he goes and talks to the university.”

Beaty said the Corps’ goal is to shape cadets into various kinds of leaders without distracting, unnecessary behavior. As an example, Beaty mentioned the recently-ended practice of square meals, in which freshmen cadets were required to pick up and eat each bite of food by making a square motion with their hands.

“The purpose of the Corps is to produce officers,” Beaty said. “Twenty-six years in the army, I never had to eat a square meal. I never once had to yell at a soldier to get something done. I never had to put my hands on someone and harm them in any way physically. So the question becomes, ‘If we’re training people to become military leaders or captains of industry and they’re not doing that in any of those two capacities, then what are they doing here?’” 

Starnes said the immense size of an organization can hinder its ability to function properly. Starnes said he ultimately prioritizes proper training and discipline above increasing the Corps’ size.

“We’ve had a lot of people saying the Corps is getting soft; well, you’re wanting quantity over quality,” Starnes said. “So the Corps is not getting soft; we’re making it more professional.”