Florida A&M University has put on hold its move to dismiss its band director while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates the death of a who drummer died of an apparent hazing-related death, the school said Wednesday.
The school said that band director Julian E. White was placed on administrative leave with pay on Monday. He will remain on paid leave until the FDLE completes their investigation into the incident. The school also rescinded the dismissal of four students who were disciplined as a result of the death.
“Consistent with the commitment of the FAMU Board of Trustees and President (James) Ammons to be fully cooperative, we are awaiting the outcome of the investigation before any personnel or disciplinary actions are taken,” said FAMU Spokesperson Sharon P. Saunders. “We are honoring the recommendations of not only FDLE, but the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Board of Governors as we await the completion of their investigations.”
Julian E. White was dismissed from his position four days after the death of band member Robert Champion. The school said they based the initial dismissal decision on White's "alleged misconduct and/or incompetence" relating to the hazing-related death.
Champion, 26, "reportedly threw up in the parking lot and started complaining of not being able to breathe," the sheriff's office said in a release. Champion was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“This is a step in the right direction, but we still believe that administrative leave with pay is tantamount to a form of discipline," attorney Chuck Hobbes said. "We will continue exploring all legal options to have Dr. White fully reinstated as director of bands and to his position as full tenured professor and chair of the FAMU Department of Music.”
White has led the 420-member band since 1998.
“This continues to be a sad time for the entire FAMU community, but each day, I see that Robert Champion’s death was not in vain," White said. "A dialogue of healing has begun, and I’m encouraged to see students, faculty, alumni, administrators and trustees taking steps to get rid of hazing.
"Robert’s parents are starting a hazing hotline. Today I joined ministers and community members at a prayer service for the Champion family, the Marching 100, and for the FAMU Nation. I ask people to continue praying for the Champions and for the Rattler Nation, and I look forward to working with these groups to eradicate hazing on and off campuses throughout the country — in Robert’s name.”