4 FAMU students dismissed over suspected hazing death
Florida A&M University student Robert Champion, 26, became ill and died November 20.
December 1st, 2011
01:56 PM ET

4 FAMU students dismissed over suspected hazing death

Four students were dismissed from a Florida university in connection with the death of a drum major last month in what officials have called a hazing-related incident, a spokeswoman for the school told CNN.

Authorities have not specified what caused 26-year-old Robert Champion's death after a performance earlier this month with the Marching 100 band from Florida A&M University (FAMU). Officials said hazing was involved, and his family has said it plans to sue the school "to get answers."

Under Florida law, any death that occurs as the result of hazing is a third-degree felony.

"At the center of my focus is the life of a young man that ended too early," President James H. Ammons said in a memo to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday.

"I want to report that four (4) students have been dismissed from the University in connection to the Robert Champion incident," he said in the memo. "Further, 30 students were dismissed from the band prior to the Florida Classic."

No reason was given for the dismissal of those 30 students.

In the memo, the president emphasized that any hazing accusations occurring in any campus organizations must be reported to the campus police.

"This is not a time for silence; if there are cases of misconduct then we encourage people to report these to the proper authorities," he said.

Calls to end hazing ring out at funeral

After the death, Ammons suspended all band performances and said he will convene a task force "to determine if there are any unauthorized and questionable activities associated with the culture of the Marching 100."

In addition, FAMU moved to fire longtime band director Julian E. White. White had led the 420-member band since 1998 and has hired an attorney to fight for his job.

"We believe that he was not treated with the respect that was due," Tallahassee attorney Chuck Hobbs said. He described as "ludicrous" the university's assertion that White did not do what he could do to address hazing.

White said he had told the victim's parents about their son's death.

"That was extremely difficult for me," he said. "I wish that this could have been avoided. I took the necessary steps that this tragedy could have been avoided."

David Frank, a Tallahassee lawyer who represented another hazing victim, said it was not clear whether it was White or others who were at fault for this hazing incident.

Frank filed a suit against the school on behalf of a band trumpeter, Marcus W. Parker, who was beaten in 2001. Frank won the case for undisclosed damages (FAMU's sovereign immunity caps its liability for a negligence action at $100,000) and won another case against those who beat his client for $1.8 million, he told CNN in a telephone interview.

Frank described the hazing as part of a deep tradition with the band, where each section acts like a fraternity. "The trumpet section was the Screaming Eagles," Frank said. "The school says you don't have to be a member of this fraternity. That's just horse s***. You couldn't survive as a trumpeter if you were not a member of the Screaming Eagles."

The beatings were meted out with paddles, but that doesn't fully describe what happens, he said. "Paddling is just the wrong word for it. It's vicious beating. I think one guy got hit over 100 times. And this is a solid wood paddle. This isn't some Wiffle bat. This is something that would kill you."

In Parker's case, he was hit 30 times in his buttocks - "so hard they put him into renal failure," Frank said. "His kidneys stopped working and he had to go into the emergency room. He almost died."

soundoff (372 Responses)
  1. Andriana casias

    Hopefully they are charged with a crime and not just dismissed from school.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MtMan

    If this was an athletic team the head coach would have been fired. Sounds like a bad sequel to Drumline

    December 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • PaulNYC

      The truth is that any supervisor should also be fired over this. What is it with this hazing nonsense anyway? There was a reason I never had a desire to join a frat in college. I'm not going to let someone treat me like garbage and then call him my "brother" - no thanks.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • director660238

      The head director has been fired. He is currently fighting to get his job back. Please read about everything that is going on before you leave comments that show that you are unaware of the entire story.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • JAL

      Drumline was a bad sequel to itself.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. My opinion

    I hope those college kids get whatever the max sentence is they have coming!!!

    December 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Eastender

    I hope this is followed up with arrests. No one should be beaten in order to perform in a marching band. That's ridiculous! The Director obviously didn't do anything to stop it after the Parker hazing, and should be fired immediately. Accept nothing but zero tolerance when it comes to hazing!

    December 1, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. AL in West Palm Beach

    I am a product of FAMU. I attended the school in the late 90s (around the time Princeton Review named the school number 1 in the country). I was not a member of the band, but it was known that hazing was a big part of the band...


    December 1, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug Green

      #1 in the country in what? The band? I'm sure it's a good school, but just wondering what the Princeton Review voted it #1 for.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      since when was FAMU ranked #1 by Princeton Review???

      December 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • MDguard00

      OK....in 1997 they were named Time Magazine/Princeton review College of the Year for their commitment to enrolling whites as well as African-American students in the face of the reversal of affirmative action laws.

      However, read the history of FAMU. They lost accreditation a few years back and have a history of POOR academics. I would rather have my son go to a local community college than attend a school like FAMU and get a degree worth NOTHING.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. commenter

    He is a drum major he is the cool kid of the band why would they be hazing him... It would be like hazing a senior qb.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gabby

      At my university, the president of a fraternity got hazed, needless to say, the kicked the fraternity off campus. No one is immune to being hazed.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gabby

    Anyone who had ANY knowledge of the hazing needs to be kicked out of the band at the least. Hazing is terrible and no one should be forced to lose their dignity to join a group of egotistical morons because that's all it boils down to. If you have to be hazed, that organization is not an organization, it's a gathering of idiots.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. weucaowe

    "Dismissed"? You mean expelled?

    December 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gabby

      I don't know why they can't say EXPELLED. No one is 'dismissed' for a 3rd degree felony.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. CPW

    So let me get this straight. I can kill someone, if I go to college and haze someone, and all they will do is dismiss me?

    December 1, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      Dude, you can fcuk a kid if you are in a Big 10 school and you work for the football team, apparently.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. WhatTheWhat

    Any reason the photo that is being used looks like a mug shot. Is there not a better photo available?

    December 1, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • ilikeme

      That's an unrealistic analysis for the picture. Obviously, he is wearing his band uniform.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. joestecco@gmail.com

    I think students should sign a contract when starting school that states any hazing activities will result in total wipe-out of all credits within that school. See how many idiots want to take the risk of losing all of their credits!

    December 1, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • B. Maynard

      That is actually a good idea.

      December 1, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tea Party Express

    So a black stupid dies and some kids get kicked out of school???

    If it was a white kid that died, some black dude would already have been hung by now!

    December 1, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Voice

      You should be more clear on who you're throwing your racists insults toward.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. B4Cons

    Why does hazing have to be life threatening with these kids? It used to be just a laugh at the "newbies" embarrasing expense.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Voice

      Why does hazing have to exist period?

      You're either saying this because
      1. you hazed,
      2. you WERE hazed
      3. BOTH

      Just because you hazed, were hazed, or both and no one died, doesn't mean anyone should go through that.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Marci

    If one has to be beaten to join a so-called fraternity then its not a group to join!

    December 1, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Only1Voice

    Many earlier comments on this topic defended the hazing of "crabs," inferring the newer generation of players were inferior and weak for even complaining about beatings. I wonder if the newer generation of upperclassmen are just more violent thugs? Is this necessary for esprit de corps in this group? If so, maybe the school is right to shut them down.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
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