Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Aftershocks from hazing death hit FAMU again

TALLAHASSEE — Aftershocks from the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion six months ago rocked Florida A&M University again Thursday, with the state's top university official calling for the Marching 100 band to stay suspended.

And after FAMU president James Ammons disclosed that 101 of the band's members were not enrolled in FAMU last fall but marched anyway, longtime band director Julian White abruptly announced his retirement.

A few of those unregistered band members are among the 13 people arrested last week on hazing charges in connection with Champion's death.

"It's been a crazy year for FAMU," said Board of Trustees chairman Solomon Badger.

Frank Brogan, chancellor of the state university system, urged Ammons not to reinstate the band in a Thursday letter citing "the ever-increasing body of issues that harm the institution, its students and, therefore, our state university system as a whole."

Among them: pending criminal cases against band members; an ongoing state investigation into band finances; the status of FAMU's largely deserted antihazing task force; and the "questionable" enrollment issue.

"Reinstating the band prior to these issues being resolved would side-step efforts under way, which could impact the band's long-term survival," Brogan wrote.

Trustees expect to hear Ammons' decision about the future of the band in a Monday meeting. He divulged the enrollment issue as part of a routine update to trustees Tuesday. It was common for students from neighboring schools to be in the band if they were enrolled in a required music course at FAMU, but a quarter of the members last fall were not.

From his letter:

• FAMU students comprised 331 of the band's 457 "travelers" at the beginning of the fall semester. Twenty-five were employees.

• Forty-nine members were students from Tallahassee Community College or Florida State University. None was enrolled in the required FAMU music course.

• Fifty-two members attended FAMU at one time but were no longer enrolled while playing with the band in the fall.

FAMU officials said about 60 of the 101 students who weren't enrolled at FAMU attended the Nov. 19 Florida Classic in Orlando, where Champion died.

Investigators say Champion, 26, was killed after a brutal hazing ritual aboard a bus after the game against Bethune-Cookman.

Three band members arrested on felony hazing charges in Champion's death were not enrolled at any institution in the fall semester, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

"Nobody should be playing in the band that's not enrolled in a school somewhere," Badger, the FAMU trustees chairman, told the Times/Herald. "Wherever the ball was dropped on that it has to be corrected and corrected immediately."

But the issue of non-FAMU students playing in the Marching 100 is not new.

Castell Bryant tried to tackle it when she took over as interim FAMU president in 2005.

The size of the band shrunk under her two-year tenure because she insisted the band be solely for FAMU students.

Band members once threatened to strike if TCC, FSU and ex-FAMU students were not allowed to perform in a big game in Miami.

Bryant warned she would rescind scholarships if they didn't show up.

"There was a radical turn," she said. "I stepped in there and made it go away."

Ammons tried firing White, 71, from his 14-year post as director not long after Champion died, saying he failed to end hazing despite years of incidents within the band. White, who joined the music department in 1972, argued his warnings were routinely ignored, and he was later put on administrative leave with pay.

Badger had not heard of White's retirement when reached by the Times/Herald.

"It's just a surprise to me because I didn't know that was even on the radar screen for him," Badger said. "I'm happy for anyone that's put 40 years into the education community."

Henry Rivers, a FAMU drum major in the mid 1990s, said he was shocked to hear White is finished for good.

"I just hope that Doc is okay," he said. "I know that this is certainly not how he envisioned his retirement."

Aftershocks from hazing death hit FAMU again 05/10/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 11, 2012 12:20am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pasco targets repeat offenders with new code enforcement tactic

    Local Government

    HOLIDAY — The out-of-date and overpriced gasoline cost on the sign outside — $2.69 for a gallon of regular — is the first indication that business isn't booming.

    Basil A. Almamluk is the owner of the closed Pure Gas station in Holiday, which has emerged as a poster child for a new "high return'' county code enforcement effort. The property on Mile Stretch Drive is littered with discarded furniture and other trash. [Photo courtesy of Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Pasco tax roll shows increase, but so, too, are budget requests

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County's tax roll grew by more than 5 percent in 2016, but it's a figure that likely would require local government budget writers to trim proposed spending requests.

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
New construction accounted for $693.5 million in taxable property values being added to the Pasco County tax rolls in 2016, according to preliminary estimates released by Property Appraiser Gary Joiner. Overall, the property tax roll grew more than 5 percent, according to the preliminary numbers.

  3. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  4. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  5. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared


    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.