TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday he wants the president of Florida A&M University suspended amid multiple investigations spurred by the death of a drum major in a suspected case of hazing.
Scott, who just returned from a seven-day trip to Israel, called the chairman of the FAMU board on Thursday and asked him to suspend James Ammons immediately.
The board last week discussed suspending Ammons, but instead voted to publicly reprimand him. Board chairman Solomon L. Badger said the trustees will meet Monday to consider the governor's request.
"This is a very difficult decision that we are facing," he said. "We have supported President Ammons' leadership even through this crisis."
Scott said he doesn't have any evidence that Ammons did anything wrong, but that he thinks a suspension is warranted.
"I think it is in the president's best interest and the school's best interest that he step aside," Scott told reporters as he arrived at Tallahassee Regional Airport. But he said he told Ammons he didn't think he needed to resign until the investigations into the death of drum major Robert Champion and the FAMU band's finances are finished.
Ammons, in a statement released Thursday afternoon, said he is sure that the investigation will reveal that the administration acted appropriately under his leadership.
"I serve at the pleasure of the FAMU Board of Trustees and I will abide by whatever decision the board reaches," he said.
It was Scott who ordered Florida's law enforcement agency to join an investigation into Champion's death. The Marching 100 band member died following a FAMU football game last month in Orlando and hazing is suspected in his death.
State law enforcement officials earlier this week announced they have opened a second investigation into possible criminal violations dealing with the band's finances.
This week, police also arrested three band members accused of beating a female member so severely during hazing rituals that they broke her thigh. Tallahassee police said Monday that in hazing ceremonies Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, the three struck Bria Shante Hunter's legs with their fists and with a metal ruler to initiate her into the "Red Dawg Order." It's a band clique for students who come from Georgia.
Local alumni had mixed reactions to Scott's request.
"A suspension is more than appropriate," said St. Petersburg resident Donnie Ibn Malik Ali-McClendon, 29, who graduated from FAMU in 2005. "If anybody should be held accountable, it should be the president."
Others, however, said they didn't think Ammons' suspension would accomplish much.
"I think it's unfair," said Celeste Thomas, a guidance counselor at Lakewood High School, who earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees from FAMU. "I don't think he knew about it. … From what I can see, he's cooperated (with the investigation) and he's done pretty much what the community thinks he should do."
Scott said his request that Ammons step aside is needed to assure people the university is fully cooperating with investigators. Scott, however, said he has not been told that university officials are hampering the investigation.