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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

FAMU hazing panel will meet in private



The Florida A&M University task force entrusted with reviewing the university's anti-hazing policies voted Friday to change its mission to "fact-finding" -- shifting gears from the original charge of delivering best-practice recommendations to FAMU's Board of Trustees.

If the change seems innocuous, consider Florida's public record laws: Under the new duty, the panel can now meet in private.

The intent, said trustee Belinda Shannon in a board conference call, is to allow members of the committee to communicate on a one-on-one basis throughout the endeavor without each meeting having to be publicly noticed. It will allow work to be done "as expeditiously as possible."

The group was formed after FAMU drum major Robert Champion died in November following what police said was hazing.

The mission-change motion passed, but it wasn't without push-back from a couple board members.

"I find this very disturbing," said trustee Narayan Persaud.

Universities across the state and around the country have already established "best practices" for rooting out hazing on campus, Persaud said. Why does FAMU need to reinvent that wheel? Why not review the existing practices and deliver recommendations, as originally tasked? And why not do it in public? he asked.

Trustee Rufus Montgomery had similar concerns.

"We cannot continue to be in a posture where... to the outside world, it may appear as if we are once again hunkering down, going into a bunker mentality, having conversations in secret and then coming out with a big plan at the end," Montgomery said.  "The original charge should stand, and it should allow the committee to function in an open forum."

Shannon and the other board members disagreed. Persaud and Montgomery were the only trustees to vote against the move.

[Last modified: Friday, March 23, 2012 10:07am]


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