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."

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soundoff (372 Responses)
  1. lawyer up

    Why is the band director thinking he will get his job back? Probably because he believes no "hazing" occured on his watch, whoops I meant to say MURDER.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. FamuAlumni

    just to clarify it's..."Screaming Demons" not "Screaming eagles"

    December 1, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • iluvla

      Whatever the name is it's DUMB!!! It's a bunch of nerds that helped kill someone!!!!

      December 1, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. lisa

    why are people not outraged at the murder of this guy? he did nothing wrong ya hes black but that ain't against the law as far as i know. what the hell is wrong with alll you morons sheeesh just put his killers in jail already and throw awawy the key forever andthen move on with life. morons!

    December 1, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. cheyenne m.

    President Ammons calls it "the Robert Champion INCIDENT"???
    Incident is if another student hid his drum.
    Robert's death is hardly an incident.
    Guess the school's public relations people had a go at the statement.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Solange305

      Good point, I didnt even catch that. "Incident"? Sheesh

      December 1, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sean

    A third degree felony. That is the most asinine charge out there. Although death was not the intent, death was caused by intent to do harm here. Is that not what hazing is? Should be at least second degree. A good kid has died, a family has lost a son and no one will realistically pay the price. 25 years is all I ask here.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. The Woof

    What is wrong with these knuckleheads! I went through a hazing in the military and it was called basic training LOL! But these idiots, why did they go to college to be stupid? And over being part of a instrument section in a band? To quote Puck, "What fools these mortals be!"

    December 1, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Earnest T Bass

    Hazing means to embarrass or to make a spectacle of – just kidding around. Hazing don't mean DEAD! Get it right.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. HxC19D

    Watch the movie "Dazed and Confused" to get an idea of what paddling entails.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jusformommy

    Can't believe people at college level care to be in a group that much so they expose themselves to harm!!

    December 1, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JMD2

    I marched in a HBCU band. Everyone, lets be honest........hazing happens at about every HBCU that has a band. And its not just HBCU's either. It's other non-HBCU's that do the same thing. I just dont understand why hazing has to take place when all you want to do is march in the band?? Marching Band is a class that you have to take and earn credits for......you dont earn any "extra credit" for being hazed.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • FamuAlumni

      Thats whats makes it dumb

      December 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. FamuAlumni

    He was in the band for 6 years.....what does that tell you????

    December 1, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Voice

      It says he was in band for 6 years which makes it even worse. There is no discipline or RESPECT in that organization. That's what it says. This is no way his fault. If you're trying to say it is, go to h3ll

      December 1, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • jaintn

      Seriously? You're going to trash talk the victim in this? Pig.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Earnest T Bass

      a professional Drum Major? He liked music? a professional student? A good tax deduction.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jaintn

    It's amazing that people bright enough to be accepted into a decent college would then revert to acting like sociopathic 8th graders and it's amazing that their peers would stand for it for one second. These are not children, these are adults. For God's sake, grow a pair! If someone lays a hand on me they'll pull back a stump. That simple.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Former Marching 100 member

    At the end of the day, when we leave our parents' house, we think we are grown and tend to do what we want. God rest Robert's soul but he was even more grown, as he was 26. I had a job at 26; however, while I am not condoning hazing, what I am saying is that Robert and ALL students involved made a decision and the actions of their decision were carried out behind the backs of the band director's in charge just as hazing on all university campuses does. Additionally, all of the students involved (including Robert) signed a contract stating that they would not haze and would not be a willing participant in hazing. I think Dr. White did everything he could. Maybe the university could have acted faster but the students that were reported were NOT the ones who allegedly carried out this act. I honestly think that everyone should just wait and see what happens. Your judgmental comments won't change the outcome. I on the on the other hand, having seen students get arrested and kicked out of school under the presidency of Dr. F Humphries, know that Doc did his part and I will be writing a letter on his behalf. At the end of the day, when an adult decides to drink and drive, it is the adult who receives the consequences of his/her actions not the bartender, not the alcohol company ,and not the maker of the vehicle. Why isn't this any different?

    December 1, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Voice

      Actually, a bartender can be charged in the death of a drunk driver. He wasn't a willing participant. They took advantage of him. The victim of a hazing incident is not the person to blame. YES he was an adult but that doesn't mean he was at fault.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • DaJSUDiva

      From another HBCU alum to another.. thanks for this post.. a lot of people commenting have no idea.. they don't even know the experiences that go on at an HBCU campus let alone the band.. I feel for the situation I really do.. it's a horrible outcome. I have to agree it's not like they do this in front of the director..he has been the director since I attended JSU sad to see it end like that...

      December 1, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • pete

      Have something done TO you is different that doing something to YOURSELF. If you drink and drive it is your own fault. If someone forces you to drink and then make you drive, the fault would be on them. You can't be responsible for your own beating!

      December 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Forced how? Everyone is saying forced? I'm sure he was pressured, strongly pressured, just like I am by people every day.

      I doubt he was forced or tricked or anything that would totally absolve him of responsibility. I have been hazed. I have witnessed hazing. I have never witnessed somebody being held down, force-fed pills or booze or imprisoned against their will. I'm not saying that it DIDN'T happen, just that it PROBABLY DIDN'T happen.

      As surprising as it may be to people who have never participated in this sort of thing, hazing comes from a place of love (or should or is believed to by the people involved). They are a group of people who want to be strong together. Trials and tribulations and getting drunk together make groups stronger, so that's the idea. This is, no doubt, a tragedy, but there are a lot of people out here who have no idea what hazing is or what it's like to belong to a group where it takes place.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MotoJB

    Sceaming Eagles? You guy's blow air and spit through brass horns! Idiots....

    December 1, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. FamuAlumni

    I wound'nt be surprised if the drum major that died was a "HAZER" himself.....

    December 1, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Voice

      Honestly, if he was, I think that would have made the news along with his death. When someone is dead, all of their dirty laundry comes out along with their death because there is no more fear of telling the truth if the person is dead.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
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