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. sammy sozo

    Call hazing what it is and make it illegal anywhere and everywhere no matter the activity. Idiotic.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sunflower

    Dismissed??? NO police investigation and murder charges??? Bet the family is not to happy.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • sunk

      they were dimissed from the school

      December 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pirate

      Maybe toy missed the part about "class 3 felony."

      The school doesn't file murder charges. That is the job of the district attorney's office, which I am sure they will do.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Red Blooded American

    Hazing of ANY kind should be a felony, resulting in the ejection, expullsion, and dismissal of all involved.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jake

    My condolences to his family. But Florida A&M issuing college diplomas is the real tragedy. That and you tax dollars pay for those diplomas will Pell Grants (free money from our tax dime).

    December 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tegan

      Yeah, diplomas going to people who finish school is the real tragedy when compared to someone being beaten to death. Totally bro.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Florida A&M is fully accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS); therefore they are ok to hand out diplomas to students who have met the requirements for respective degrees and certifications.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Portland tonyi

    It's obvious that the school's president knew or should have known this was going on. For a band this famous, that represented the college, the scrutiny had to have been there. If the school's administration merely played lip service to the hazing ban, they too must be held accountable. As far as the band goes, it was the "inmates running the asylum".

    December 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RCBinTN


    December 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Former Marching 100 member

    At Hello Buddy at 3:16, very well put. At least someone gets it!

    December 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      No problem man, these folks in here are reading an article and think they know EXACTLY what happened. Furthermore, they have no idea of the dynamics that took place with this incident.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tonyi

      I know! A man died......

      December 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Ok, have either of you two guys gone to authorities about what you know? CNN moderates your comments and your IP addresses can be traced back to you. Talking about specific events that happened with this drum major can incriminate you if you do not talk to the right people. I'm just saying, you should either stop commenting specifics, or go to the right people before they find you

      December 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      He was hazed..thats common knowledge..I wasnt there I just know what the culture of hazing....

      December 1, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gillian A.

    My heart just broke yesterday when I read about this young man's funeral. I am so so so sad for this family, and I hope they know that there are many of us who have shed tears for their boy. This won't bring him back, but I want them to know that they are not alone.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. zzzzzz

    so a kid died, and the people responsible just got a slap on the wrist? shame....

    December 1, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. fastball

    Ah yes, the great American pastime. Sue the school to "get answers".

    December 1, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Fig1024

    am I the only one who finds it very odd that a university has a "Drums" major?
    Hazing violence should be considered criminal assault, and Drums cannot be a major.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      This is literally the DUMMEST comment I've ever seen. If you have no idea what a Drum Major is, please GO AWAY NOW!

      December 1, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      Hahahahaha, fig, are you serious?! He's a drum major in the band, not a dude majoring in drums! HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      December 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      That's hilarious. Yes, you may be the only one who read this article without knowing what a drum major is......

      December 1, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sarah

    College students are adults. Why is the band director (another adult) being held accountable for other adults' actions? The students know better! They know the difference between right and wrong, and they chose wrong. For how many years do people need their hands held before they can actually be held responsible for their OWN actions?

    December 1, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tonyi

      Good point! However, it was FAMU's band.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Former Marching 100 member

      and THAT was my point!

      December 1, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. runforestrun

    We need hazing, just a better more controlled version

    December 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Hazing is not a need.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Marz

    Trouble at band camp....

    December 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. God

    Black drum majors haze harder and more cruelly than white fraternities. This was nothing.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
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