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. moonwalker

    Lethal injections or life imprisonment sentence, your choice, for all four and college president.
    Have a nice day.

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

      You are a fool, no one forced this kid to do anything. He could have walked away and you want to execute people for it?

      December 1, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rider3

    Hazing should be considered a criminal act. No one should have to go through something that could hurt you and possibly kill you just to become part of a ridiculous "clique." If that's what you have to do, you shouldn't want to be in that group.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CTore


    Huh??? Every person I pledged with willingly submitted to being hazed. How can I tell? Well when they are holding a paddle and instruct you to grab your jewels and bend over and you comply ... well then you just submitted to being hazed. Every person who pledged knew this would happen BEFORE joining. Also, I agreed for the following reason: I would have never felt like a true member if I didn't go through the same difficult hazing challenges that were experienced by those before me. All in or why bother.

    That being said, the loss of any life is tragic and my prayers to the family.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Norm

      Spoken like a true part of the problem.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Acoustic D

      Spoken like a true idiot

      December 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      You are confusing submitting to innocent college pranks with submitting to criminal beatings. You are part of the problem.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ron

    Hazing isn't bad.... idiots are bad. Some frats make you wear the same shirt all week without washing it... that's fine.. that's what hazing is meant to be... get some idiots in the mix and it becomes a violent/dangerous thing.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Barbara

    What the HELL is wrong with people????

    Do we not know that this kind of thing is wrong?????

    December 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. kornholling

    Man I'd hate to be in any of these duds shoes if they are white!!! If they are white, they will be beheaded!

    December 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Get Serioius

    This kind of thing happens all the time with white people.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. nick rymond


    December 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Norm

      I think we can safely say the invention of the Caps Lock key was a great one for people like you.
      The ranter's electronic yelling key.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      Another sign of our failing education system is too many people who don't understand how the caps lock key works.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Former Marching 100 member

    Sam. I have not said anything that says I have first hand knowledge of the incident. Yes, I do know about all of the other stuff.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. FAMU Student

    While this is a tragedy, lets put some light on this situation.

    Robert Champion was a great man BUT he chose to "Cross Bus C." It was not a secret that he planned on doing this after the classic.

    Hazing is something you MUST be a willing participant of and not all hazing is physical. When I was an "IG" (interested girl) for the Beta Alpha line of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. I wanted to be apart of this sisterhood so bad that I paid for meals, phone bills, participated in "sessions" (which included slapping, punching, and the paddle). I was force to drink insane amounts for not knowing all the FAMU line history including line names, members and numbers. Enough finally became enough after a friend got a bust lip which led to an infection. I STOP IGing and didn't care if I made line. I could not understand how someone who beat me one day was going to call me their sister the next.

    Its sad what happen to Champ, but he knew what was going to happen that night. Death justed wasn't apart of the plan. He probably thought, like many before him and the ones who stood on th other side of this hazing, this will past and I will gain respect.

    RIP Robert Champion

    December 1, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • jhodges

      That's a very interesting point of view. It's tragic that you had to endure that just to be a part of a ridiculous group. The sad thing is, you kept going after the first time you were hazed. Also, if you didn't report your account of hazing, that's terrible, those are the reasons these organizations aren't reprimanded

      December 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • angela singleton

      I love your commentary FAMU Student. I agree with you that Champion played a role in his own death; and it's really sad that he had to die in order for hazing to end at FAMU.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Acoustic D

      SO just because he's willing to ne hazed means it's ok to haze him? SO just because I'm willing to get shot in the head means it's ok for you to shot me? GIVE ME A BREAK! I went to Southern U in Baton Rouge and I saw all the hazing and beatdowns....It's foolishness.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      Another college student who just doesn't get it........

      December 1, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • FAMU Student

      You all wonder why we don't speak up? When the successful crossing of 50-54 other people rest on your secrecy, its not so easy to speak up. You know everyone on that line has had the dream of being apart of the organization. The great sisterhood or brotherhood. You know that for all you have endured, the person on the left and right of you has done the same YET the keep trugging along. You know the amount of hate and shade that will come your way for speaking out about something you agree to is so unbearable that you might as well change schools. Its that burden that we bear and why we keep it a secret.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thoughtyoushouldnow

      Hazing will continue to happen. Their is only one band director, there is no way that he can sit up here monitor 420 kids especially in the dark hours of the night when most of this so called hazing occurs. These are adults we are talking about and Parents who have been told by their child has the option of pulling their child out of the band or better yet, the person could just stop just like this young lady did. My parents taught me to go to school to get an education
      , not letters or numbers on a shirt that cannot go with me when I leave this earth.

      December 1, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Russ

    Boys will be boys! But seriously, this kind of crap goes on everywhere. I was subject to it too when I was in college, and it wasn't fun. The problem with hazing is that it can cross a line very easily, especially if there are some sadistic people doing it. Out of 20 boys doing the hazing, chances are that there is at least one, then the others join in because of peer pressure and animal instincts.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Russ

    Omitted word SADISTIC in my previous post.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Samuel Cole

    This is more than hazeing this is assault at the least, and second degree murder at the most which it should be. When i go to college i know that im paying for an education, but this is totally unacceptable to allow people to commit crimes that anywhere else would get prison time.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      I totally agree. Calling criminal acts "hazing" doesn't make them acceptable, or any less criminal.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JB

    First off, let me say prayers go out to the victim and the conspirators family. I know people are asking why the conspirators, and my answer for that is anybody who is this misguided in life to haze someone until they lose their life needs prayer and a stern punishment.

    My second thing is, although I feel sad for the victim, I will say, as someone who has is apart of the Greek community and has given seminars and been through protocal training for events such as these, one CANNOT be forced to be hazed. I know when you read the story it looks that way, but hazing only works when it is put into to action by 2 parties, the person who is the hazer and the person who AGREES to be hazed. Now, I know that sounds crazy, because who in their right mind would want to be hazed, but it is true.

    People in organziations, such as these KNOW that hazing is illegal. Before you enter any greek, band, or any kind of organization on a college campus, you go through a intake seminars, which details how the organization works, what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable. Hazing is one of the MAIN things talked about in these seminars, and it usually states that anybody who is found to be hazing OR a willing participant of it, will usually be blackballed from said organization and kicked out of their university, and depending on the state, you can also get jail time.

    With all this being said, this young man had to WILLINGLY go along with hazing in order for the hazing to take place. Someone who does not want to be hazed does have the choice not to participate in it. No one willingly takes someone who does not want to be haxed because its a liability for things like this to happen or the person will either end up reporting said organization to their national head, which will shut the organization down and create all kinds fines for the university.

    Now at 26 years old, you are considered an adult. Hell, at 18, when you step onto a college campus, you are considered a adult capable of making adult decisions. You can be a part of an orgnaization and NOT be hazed, why, because that is YOUR choice.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Norm

      So according to your logic and many other deranged comments I've seen here...if a person tells you to shoot them in the head, you aren't committing a crime?
      Good grief...our society has really fallen from God's grace.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • JB

      No Norm, Im not saying that all, Never in my post did I not say that hazing was NOT illegal. I even mentioned that in some states, that is is considered an illegal act. No where in my post am I making it sound like this is ok. I even go so far as saying that the people who did this be punished. Thanks.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • FAMU Student


      No one is saying that hazing is right. What we, those who have been through the process, are saying is that hazing take a willing participant. If I ask you to shoot me in the head, I am aniticipating my outcome to be death. So if you comply, you are willingly killing me (at my request) but you still know there is a strong possibility of death. When you are enduring some of the traditional hazing rits you are thinking about dying, you are thinking about the respect, number, letter, and bond that forms in the aftermath. After the wounds heals, after the bank account is off E, comes the "glory" of a bond. I am deeply saddened by what has happened to Champ. You do not know the depth of my pain or tears. BUT I also know the people involved didn't intend to kill him just like he didn;t intend to die. Hazing will never go away. It goes underground because until you have "crossed the burning sands" and endure what thise before you have, you won't have the respect/bond you desire. Again- its not right. BUT its not forced.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • SheRock

      This is not a completely honest statement. Yes, some form of willingness is on the victim's part, but this is not COMPLETE willingness because there are serious COERCION going on if you do NOT cross. You are shunned, spoken about, disrespected, and generally not accepted. Sometimes, heck MANY times, you are harrassed out of the band.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. www.twitter.com/hlmelsaid

    Tragedy ,screaming story.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
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