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. john

    ok... this is nutty behavior. who's in charge of these children? sounds like lord of the flies. the adults are negligent because they most certainly knew what was going on. throw them all in jail.

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

      Children? These are not children, they are adults. They need to be held accountable as adults. However, let's all hold on to the notion of "innocent until proven guilty".

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

      I hate to break it to you, but these were college students and therefore "adults". Our future leaders....

      December 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Portland tonyi

    Isn't college supposed to take young people and help shape them into responsible adults?

    December 1, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Ask Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, Mike McQueary, and Bernie Fine about that.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Easy E

    If the only way you can "earn respect" is to be beaten by a mob of violent idiots, then I submit that such an organization isn't worth a damn. Furthermore such an organization can only exist because the school tolerates its existence.

    Call me crazy, but most musicians achieve reknown for being able to play well, not for being able to tolerate paddling by a bunch of eff-tards.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jules

    apologies if this posted twice –
    Speaking as someone who report hazing and abuse to my chancellor, I can tell you it is a terrifying experience. I received numerous death threats, was followed by current and alumni band members, and assailed in the campus newspaper. When the band was put on probation, the chancellor asked me to leave the city (and my dorm) because they didn't feel they could protect me adequately. I went to my sophmore finals with an armed police escort. I was terrified and, while my choice to report the misconduct resulted in changes to the band, the fall out from that decsion was very difficult to overcome. I just wanted to play the saxophone, I didn't want to have to put up with hazing in order to do it. This organization should have had better oversight, plain and simple, or their funding should have been cut to zero.
    Stop blaming this young man, for God's sakes, he's DEAD.

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

      Im truly sorry for what you had to go through. I don't think anyone should be presecuted for telling the truth and standing up for themselves, but I have to point out one thing you said. You said that you went to the chancellor to report the hazing because you didn't want a part of it. You made a conscious choice of saying, "No, Im not going to let this happen to me, just to do something I enjoy" , and you didnt. BUT HE DID. I'm not blaming him at all, because this should never have happened, but just like you made a choice not to participate, he made his choice as well.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Noren

    Instead of focusing on education and providing positive learning environments, universities are all too often concerned with meaningless athletic programs and idiotic activities that detract rather than add to the educational process. Yes, I know all of the arguments and roads that many of you may wish to follow in defense of this stuff, and I might agree were it not for the fact that our educational system is in the crapper.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      "meaningless athletic programs"? What college, if any, are you associated with?

      December 1, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • ToKEvin

      What college is irrelevant. Unless you make sports your profession, sports are meaningless, just a diversion. Yet too many university programs seem to behave more like cults or not-so-secret societies where those who break ranks are harassed, threatened, humiliated, and all too often injured in one way or another.

      That said, this is not limited to sports programs and related. Any university group is all too often subject to hazing.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. morph147

    sadly they forgot to do something. publishing the 4 peoples names and the exact reason why they were dismissed. we know they were dismissed because of direct connection to this incident but i want to know exactly what they did. because if the school knows what they did then those kids should have been not only dismissed but lead off in handcuffs.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Yabaduu

    It's obvious that hazing is a part of life at FAMU according to the previous post. What is disturbing is the level of hazing that is going on. The administration should put an immediate halt to and disband any fraternity or whatever that continues this type of behavior. Students who allow themselves to be subjected to this should be removed from the school. Your only going to stop this if you attack it from all angles.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff

    I cannot feel sorry for people who willingly submit to barbarous hazing rituals for the privilege of joining a social group. Champion knowingly put himself in danger of the "deep tradition" of vicious physical abuse that comes from being part of band camp!

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

      Did it ever occur to you that maybe all this man wanted to do was be in a band? Do you honestly think he wanted to be beaten to death? He had a choice, he could either give up on his talents and a scholarship, or he could go along with the criminal demands that were implicitly sanctioned by the school.

      Stop blaming the victim and place the blame where it belongs: at the thugs who carried out the beating, and the fools in charge of the band and school administration who tolerated a large criminal organization within the school.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. kat

    Hazing should be consider a crime period. No matter what school you attend. Anyone who wants to join this kind of crap is crazy. If you think being in some faternity garbage is more important then your education it's totally wrong. After all that you are still stuck with a big college debt.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tom Nunnery

    For those who say they were hazed and now we are making too much of this incident, I say this: YOU DID NOT LOSE YOUR LIFE.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ericka

    The lengths some people will go, just to be accepted is baffling to me.
    Willing allowing others to assault, humiliate, and disrespect you to be part of an organization? Weak.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • SK

      Sounds like basic training....

      December 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. PinkFloyd

    This stuff has been going on for a long time and everyone is right that its not right. I doubt if the band leader knew of this as it's typically hidden from any adults that could possibly squash it.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nurse143

    dismissed? Sounds toothless – were the concerning details that led to their dismissal reported to police – hazing deaths are felonies? Is simple dismissal the extent of the school's responsibility to the dead student?

    December 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. snowdogg

    The student were only "dismissed"? I hope that is a preface to "Pending charges being filed".

    December 1, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. larry.feltonjr@yahoo

    Man some of these racist craker heads I just can't stand you tricks..

    December 1, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
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