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. Big D

    band sections groups r and attempt to form section unity. plz lets not blame the sectionals for this incident.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • humberto

      FAMU students and organizations were informed
      and knew hazing was illegal and can cause death, what kind of higher education crap is that that all students and organizations involved are not banned from attending any publically assisted college?

      December 1, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • brick

      Hey, Im all for unity but death is a problem. This was done by students, there has to be some responsibity shared. It was individuals but lets be real this was not isolated or unknown. He allowed himself to be Hazed but if it was you, would you expect to die from it? Thats the problem with kids dishing out punishment. They dont understand boundaries yet because they dont live real life. Until you are an adult you live in a fantasy land. Trust me. Im only 29. Hasn't been that long. If this boy messed up then his punishment or correction should have been handled by adults. Im from Atlanta when to Lakeside High...Dekalb county school system. The same school system that SW Dekalb is located in. (His highschool) We are serious about our bands (well was, my highschool sucks now) but this is ridiculous. Nobody should die because he messed up a performance. Its just music. Its no more important than the next Twilight movie. Purely for entertainment. Not to disrespect musicians because i am one. But when bad music starts requiring death sentences and bodily arm we got a problem.

      December 1, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • brick

      @humberto: ummm you do know these kids are paying to go to college to learn a skill. Most in the band are on music scholarships you cant just do that to people. Not every kid was involved. Also, it would be quite the legal issue to ban everybody for what a few did. No really the best soluton.

      December 1, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Informed

    There is a better story with more details surrounding his death at NYTimes.com.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • MidMoMedic

      Then please go there and stop "reporting" for CNN. If you don't like a particular site...then go there! Troll!

      December 1, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. browneyedsista

    This is what happens when you have a nation full of followers. No one wants to be an individual and march to the beat of their own drum, no pun intended. Everyone should have enough dignity and respect for themselves to not let someone put their hands on them. I dated a guy who spent 7 years in undergrad, because he spent 2 years pledging omega psi phi (q-dogs), just for the line to be dropped. I'm definitely not blaming the victim, because this story breaks my heart. But we all have to accept personal responsibility and stop being followers and conformers.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • brick

      No disrepect but the concept of Band means many work for 1 common goal. Not every band member was a hazer. We can't comdemn everybody for a 1 act. Also, your ex or maybe still current man was trying to achieve something. Sometimes it doesnt work out. Doesnt mean we can just say all Frats are bad or any organization of that nature. Unfortunately there is a history of violence with this but that doesnt meant he organization stands for that. I think some people in power are corrupt and we must root them out but we can not allow those people to ruin the good that all of these groups do in society. Sometimes you need a band of people to accomplish a goal. Not to stay you cant do things on your own but you can't be a whole drum line alone nor can you run a fundraiser for needy kids. Lets not use a car to kill ant when a shoe will do.

      December 1, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Hoofleau

    But still no arrest warrants for murder. They killed this young man! They took away anything he was going to have or do in his lifetime. They robbed him and this makes me angry.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • CT

      He was 26 years old, not some young naive person. He could have used that gray matter between his ears rather than participating. He made a choice that killed him but no one murdered him (unless you're saying that at 26 years old he was so afraid of being kicked out of the band that he HAD to go through hazing...which just makes him pathetic).

      December 1, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yeah Right

      CT – I doubt that he realized the beating he was about to receive. If he did he probably wouldn't have agreed. My guess that because he's a big kid they beat him extra hard. Please don't call him pathetic when you don't know the facts. How would you it if it was your son?

      December 1, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Get a Clue!

      Yes We dont know the facts, but what you can know is that, he was not clueless to what could, was going to, and what did happen. He is a drum major, a DRUM MAJOR, with one of the most prestigous HBCU bands in the nation. He wa not clueless. Unfortunately, he lost his life, but before we just place blame on the persons hazing, look at the whole situation and get more facts, THAT ONLY THE PEOPLE THAT WERE THERE KNOW. No one killed that young man!

      December 1, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      His age has no bearing on any criminal charges those responsible for the hazing may face, and shouldn't.

      I think it is pathetic for someone to imply since he was 26 years old, he's the one responsible for his death.

      December 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • brick

      @ Getaclue: That was a real classless statement. Regardless of his age or knowledge unless he was tryna commit suicide he did not deserve to die. The problem is the he was involved in a system that uses violence to correct insignficant errors. What did this man do that required him to get beat or beat to death? Mess up a performance. Who cares about FAMU's band messing up when it comes to the real issues in life? Music is an art not a need. Nobody deserves to die for a daggon song. Not tryna down you but come on. We all need to get a clue. This was an uneccessary death over an insignificant issue. Im saying this as a music producer. We need to focus on how we can educate people on how not to allow this evil into their organization and how to find justice for all involved. Everything else is irrelevant!!

      December 1, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Yonder20

    Isn't the drum major in charge of the situation?

    December 1, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. KMAC

    I'm a 1991 graduate of FAMU and hazing in the band was going on then and before 1991.I also saw it for myself within the band,fraternities and sororities.This exist at all colleges and universities at major white programs as well.We all have turned our heads away from it.Ask any of the countries lawyers,doctors and other professionals they new it while they attended college as well.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      yep...this is a tragedy...people are trying to make it seem as though this 6 year band member was kidnapped, drugged, and hazed against his will...this is a tragic accident...people are to blame...

      December 1, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big D

      being an ex band member though u r aware that no one can make u allow urself to be hazed. it seems as if all the blame is beimng but on the hazing instead on the actions of the indivisuals. hazing is going to happen without poeples knowledge. it is up to u as an indivisual not to allow urself to be hazed.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      That would be redefining the word accident. It's tragic, but hardly an accident. There was an intent to commit harm. That is not an accident.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      of course...that is HAZING!!...and he knew it...whether it was phsical harm or mental harm...hazing is hazing....he wanted to be hazed...stop trying to spin it as though he didnt know he was being hazed.....ot of the decades of known hazing this is the first death...of course it was a tragic accident

      December 1, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      Not once did I even come close to implying that he didn't know he was being hazed. Quit trying to spin it as though since he knew he was being hazed, his death was just a "tragic accident". Assault that leads to death is not an accident.

      December 1, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. brick

    How many years have we been talking about Hazing? Seems to me as far back as the 80's. It was a hot topic in the 90's and early 2000's but now its back again. Hazing, Bullying, etc its all the same. These kids are more violent because they see more violence. You wanna stop this. Stop the violence Adults!! We need to stop blaming children and young adults for what we teach em. You wanna change. Change yourself. (sounds like a Micheal Jackson lyric) but anyway. We as people (Americans) are exposed to more violence than any other civilized country. Not in just the media, our entire culture is violent. Not to say violence isnt necessary at times but come on! It is no secret that if you teach a kid something they will use it.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. steve

    so young
    i hope these thugs are proud of themselves taking a young man's life

    December 1, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. The_Mick

    I was initiated into my college frat in the 70's when almost anything went with hazing and we had enough sense not to put anyone's health in jeopardy. We didn't force people to drink until they passed out, bury them up to their neck in wet beach sand, or force them to do impossible acrobatic feats off roofs, cliffs, trees, etc. Anyone running the frat initiations that includes such things surely knows they are dangerous, is being criminally negligent, and should get convicted of something stronger than involuntary manslaughter, because planning went into it.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. CC

    This is so sad. The colleges top heads will never do anything about hazing, what do you expect, hell they were hazed. I think whatever is handed down to these individuals they most certainly deserve. I remember when a frat burned my son several times with a cigar in his chest and guess what I dd? I went to whooping his ole ass for being on college campus with these young men, he didn't run tell that, because he knew would be prosecuted, so he took a mama ass whooping and we had no more problems after that and yes my son crossed over.. Yeah, I said it, I am a woman and he an old ass frat took a good ole fashion ass whooping from me about my child that I paid tuition for. Parents have to stand up for their children, HELL I did...

    December 1, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Yugo

    Who are the faculty that allowed this to happen? They are the ones responsible for the death of this poor kid – where is the supervision and leadership? These are musicians. Why isn't their talent enough to have them accepted? Something is very very wrong in our university system. Maybe things are a little too liberal and the important values needed to groom our youth are being supplanted by games, sports, money and a lack of moral direction. And I am a flaming liberal!! this is beyond the pale. the poor kid just wanted to be in the band. Shame, shame shame on you.

    December 1, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • ToneBro

      @Yugo: Faculty most time can prove hazing. No one is going to haze in front of them. They can however do their jobs in informing and promoting against it. Unless someone who is being hazed speaks up about it, then no one will really know outside of that little inner circle. They know that the director will kick them out of the band for hazing. I fault the school for not making an example out of the 26 students that the director kicked out for hazing. They should have been kicked out of school for such. But it is sad. Probably 95% of the hazing cases go unresolved due to people wanting so much to be a part of some group, organization, fraternity, or sorority. Because they were hazed, they now want anyone else who come in behind them to endure the same. The problem with it is that some people take it too far. You should never beat someone like they are in a gang. My experiences with hazing was fun. We were made to do silly things, exercise, or just be a little clown when I was in band and when pledging a fraternity. When we made mistakes or disrespected someone or the director, we were made to do exercises, which in turn were good for us. Never have I ever seen anyone punched or kicked or hit with any type of object. That is brutality, not hazing. Pledging or being in one of these activities is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, not something that is subject to injury.

      December 1, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Get a Clue!

    First, for those persons making comments that have never been in a marching band, an HBCU marching band, or some type of fraternity or sorority, you would not understand the culture, or the reasons behind most of the things that go on. NO, I DO NOT WHATSOEVER AGREE WITH NOR CONDONE HAZING. Unfortunately, someone has lost their life, but let us all be reminded, this is not the first time. Let their be another reminder that hazing is not in a box, is crosses all color lines, genders, schools, groups and organizations. Some of you need to research the definition of hazing, because you most of you get hazed everyday. If it was so easy to get rid of hazing, do you think it would still be happening after all these years. It is a two way street, the person hazing and the person getting hazed. EVERY ONE HAS A CHOICE IN THE MATTER REGARDLESS OF WHAT ANYONE THINKS. YOU HAVE A CHOICE. No you do not have to be hazed, and if that is a requirement, tell someone, or just dont join the group. No one can make you do anything. Addtionally, prior to joining "these" groups or organizations that haze, MOST people know that they do. Now,parents sorry that your children are being hazed and not telling you, but again that is a choice they are making. Yes, in this a case the band director probably has did what he could do to rid the band of as much hazing as possible. Some of you act like the hazing is made public record. Obviously its meant to be a secret, so how can he handle something he or no one else besides the participants know about. Unfortunately, this one incident nor others or its nature, nor suing the school, director, or students will create some major platform for hazing to end. I know many will have something to say about this comment, but go ahead, its an opinion. Yes I will continue to pray that God provides peace for the friends, family, school, etcc of the deceased. I hope that this situation will bring about some type of awareness about the things that go on, and create proactive measures. Although, I know that realistically, hazing will not end. So parents talk to your children, teenagers and your grown adults about choices. And in the case there are any questions, yes I have marched in an HBCU band, was in the band sections organization, and is a member of two frats.

    December 1, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gillian A.

      While I understand what you are saying, the fact is, sometimes people just want to belong, and so they are influenced to do things that they would not normally do. Maybe this young man got sucked into that kind of thinking. I am just sorry that he is dead. It breaks my heart.

      December 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Get a Clue!

      Yes you are saying something that is very true, most people are looking and searching for some type of belonging when joining certain groups and organizations. He had been in the band SIX years and was a DRUM MAJOR, clearly he belonged. He had time to get sucked in if he did, and make change for the better, after all the drum major position is a MAJOR leadership, if not the TOP leadership position of all bands. I am not at all looking over the fact that is cost him his life. I just dont like when people that dont really have a clue about certain things have so much to say, and wants to place the blame in a certain place. Once the family grieves, at some point they will have to realize, he had part in it to.

      December 1, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Yeah Right

    It's would be nice to know the facts before we start calling it murder or it was an accident. Did they beat him extra hard... we don't know. Did he have a heart condition and they did the usual hazing... we don't know.

    December 1, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Beel

    And in other news; Amnesty Internationale is demanding the arrest of former president George W. Bush when he travels to Africa to support raising awareness of breast and cervical cancer. Bush has been accused of approving the water-boarding of 3 terrorists who subsequently divulged the location of Osama-bin Laden.

    Bush has offered to surrender to James H. Ammons, President of Florida A & M University, or, anybody from Penn State. He explained that both schools are the only organizations he knows of that would treat him fairly.

    December 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Gillian A.

    I see so much anger here, but nothing matters except that we learn from this horrible event. Whatever happens, this family needs love and support, and we can give them some of that here. I want the family to know that the world is out of kilter because their boy is no longer in it.

    December 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
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