TALLAHASSEE — Florida A&M University's Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet today to consider Gov. Rick Scott's request that President James Ammons be suspended while authorities continue investigating the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.
The meeting comes three days after the state medical examiner ruled Champion's death a homicide. Officials say he was beaten so severely that he bled internally and went into shock. He died within an hour.
In the wake of Champion's death, Ammons and other university leaders have been criticized for not doing enough to stop a culture of hazing within the university's famed "Marching 100" band. Band director Julian White has been placed on temporary leave and the board recently voted to publicly reprimand Ammons.
But students have largely stood by both leaders. Students protested outside the Governor's Mansion on Thursday to show support for Ammons, and the president of the national alumni association held a news conference Sunday to contest Scott's involvement and recommend Ammons not be suspended.
"This is under investigation," Tommy Mitchell said. "How do you make a determination before all the evidence is in?"
Scott said in a statement that he is not singling out FAMU and called on all universities in the state to examine their hazing and harassment policies. He said he was simply offering his opinion and counsel regarding Ammons, a FAMU alumnus who became president in 2007.
"I merely suggested it would be wise for Dr. Ammons to step aside until these investigations are completed," Scott said. "It is up to the FAMU Board of Trustees and Dr. Ammons to determine how to proceed. I have not and will not try to influence their decision. Like all other Floridians, I will abide by the decisions made."
Champion, 26, died Nov. 19 after falling unconscious on a bus outside an Orlando hotel after the school's football team lost to rival Bethune-Cookman.
Champion's death shed light on years of hazing that has plagued the band and left several students injured.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has warned that Scott's push to suspend Ammons could affect the school's accreditation because of "undue influence" on the board from outside.
A crowd of roughly 75 FAMU alumni gathered in front of the university's main administration building on Sunday afternoon to voice their displeasure with Scott's actions. They contended that Ammons was being unfairly singled out for a problem that goes on at many universities. They said that nothing should happen to him until the investigations are over and there is a chance for "due process."
"Name another university that suspended a president for hazing, and there have been deaths every single year," Mitchell said.