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. Acoustic D

    TO JAIL WITH THE HAZERS....BET IT WONT HAPPEN AT FAMU AGAIN!! CAN YOU SAY "NO MORE CROSSING THE BURNING SANDS!!!"? IDIOTS

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

      T-Pain got arrested?

      December 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Former Marching 100 member

      I regret to inform you that you are mistaken. I KNOW of people who were arrested for hazing in the Marching 100 years ago. I don't know why it hasn't stopped but i can tell you that is not from lack of effort on the band staff's part.

      December 1, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. RSilva

    When is this stupid hazing going to stop?

    Enough is enough already. Hazing should equal automatic prison time, no matter if the result doesn't lead to a serious injury or death.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. T-Bone

    For those who have been in these bands, I read that the victim was in his 5th of 6th year at FAMU. If that's the case, why would be hazed? Wouldn't that be for the newer members of the band? I'm asking honestly – I'm missing something,.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Spaz

      Maybe he was the hazer and not the hazee and wore his arms out paddling the new recruits?

      December 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • FAMU Student

      He was a freshman drum major. So while his years at FAMU may look like he was not in a position to be hazed, this was like a "final" right of passage. He was also from Atlanta where there is an alumni band group that does not accept you unless you have "crossed bus C."

      December 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • TampaCJ01

      You can not only be hazed upon entering an organization, but upon gaining leadership positions. I beleive he had just gone from being a band member to being a drum major. The change in status may have required another round of hazing "to prove his worth." Please note that I no way condone this behaviour, I am simply explaining how it might have come about.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Evan

    The family should name the four students in the lawsuit to send a message to students everywhere that causing anyone's death is wrong. It's sad the legal system must "incentivize" the motivation not to commit what amounts to murder (or precisely some form of "manslaughter").

    December 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. george lewis

    I guess that getting hazed to get into a band or fraternity is no different than getting jumped in to get into a street gang.

    December 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ian

    This is silly the university should be in any way liable. You can't police thousands of kids all the time. People just looking for a payday.

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

      Thousands of 26 year old adults.

      tiftfy.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tonyi

      This wasn't 1000 students, it was a marching band that represented the university. Certainly the school has some culpability in this matter!

      December 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      right....thats when the parents sue...they will get paid

      December 1, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gene

      The university sanctions a band. It is liable for the behavior of the students with regard to the injury of others. It is sick and ridiculous to think someone thinks those hazed are after money. We are speaking of people losing their lives because of the sick demented rituals of a band's group. I think they should disband the band for a period of 1 to 3 years to send a message and disallow .....any group forming like "The Screaming Eagles." If there comes word back that these groups in sections form, suspend the band again until they understand this is not humane .... and it is sick. Anyone having to do with these hazings should go to prison for a long period of time ...it is the equivalent of manslaugter and the book should be thrown at them and their names released upon the determination of a guilty verdict

      December 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • FAMU Student

      I agree. Much of the hazing that happens with student organizations happen off campus. In fact, I can only think of one event that happened near FAMU's campus during my hazed days. It happens at night under the cover of darkness. The little hazing that happens during the day (like not being able to talk to ANYONE [even professors]) was not reported by anyone- the hazee (like myself) included.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lance Johnson

      I have mixed feelings about the money. The school may need to feel pain in order to make it stop the hazing. I'm not sure a few hundred thousand dollars will impact events though and lean more towards criminal culperbility if foreknowledge can be shown. On the other hand I am not so sure that the family should get money in this case. The student was 26 years old, was fully aware both of the hazing ritual and possible consequence of it. If this was a 4 year band member I would venture to say that he had participated in hazings before. I don't mean to be cruel but sadly too many American's see anything but a natural death of a relative as hitting the lottery. Why not fine the school's band program and put that money somewhere else.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming the victim. I'm just not sure this isn't a crime with criminals but no victim.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trying to be the voice of reason...an objective one!

      Did any of you read that this person and all parties involved signed a contract agreeing not to be hazed and not to haze, i.e. not to be a participant of hazing in any way. No one is blaming the victim, just saying that he and the others made a decision that, unfortunately, had a fatal out come. I am sure that he did not intend to die but he did not have to "Cross over" on the BUS. He was 26, the should have been enough for him to earn respect. Come on people while hazing is illegal, it is hard to keep adults from doing what they WANT to do. As a matter of fact. He was buried in his DRUM MAJOR'S uniform. Yet the family still feels the need to sue the school.

      December 1, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hello Buddy

    I have a question....if the victim hazed incoming freshman during his 6 years in the band....what does that make him???

    December 1, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      A dead man!!!

      Lets get h... oh... nevermind.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • T-Bone

      Along those lines, was he being hazed as a 6-year member of the band? I don't get that. Wouldn't that be just for the newbies?

      December 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      The only reason to allow hazing is because he wanted "respect"

      December 1, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      It makes him a hazer too. But what is your point? Are you suggesting that law enforcement and the university just ignore the criminal act that occurred simply because he was part of the group that killed him?

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

      Not at all....law enforcement should do their job, but if he was a hazer himself...was he or was he not a perpetrator the the "hazing" culture??

      December 1, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      If he was a hazer himself, then yes, he was part of the culture. But what is your point? Are you suggesting that his death should be treated differently because he also hazed people? If not, then what are you getting at?

      December 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      What Im getting at is this GROWN MAN...did not report any hazing that he was aware of during his 6 years of the band. This GROWN MAN made a decision that "respect" is more important than physical safety and this GROWN MAN enjoyed the culture of the band apparantly. His death was a tragedy...plain and simple, because he "loved" the band and everything that came with it. The assailiants will be prosecuted and heads will roll. He played a part in this debacle is what im saying. This is common knowledge

      December 1, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      Ummmm, it's a little late to hold him accountable for any acts of hazing he may have taken part in. It's meaningless at this point.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      Im not holding him accountable for dieing. At what point are his actions and decisions held accountable?

      December 1, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      At what point? Certainly not after he is dead.......

      December 1, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      They should write about that also...

      December 1, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      Well, perhaps since this is an article about those who took part in his hazing being dismissed from the school, this is might not be the place to "write about that". Save that for the discussion with students in an effort to end hazing that reaches level of criminal activity.

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

      ok

      December 1, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bill

    3rd degree felony.

    I hope they enjoy their prison hazing.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jack NYC

    It seems like these band members are acting more like gang members. This is the same mentality you see in some fraternities. It's all the same. It's about power and control and intimidation. Grow up guys. Join the real world. Beatings and such are not going to make you a better person and definitely not a better musician.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mark

    Anyone who blames this kid simply does not have an ounce of compassion in their heart. Period. He just wanted to play his instrument and be a part of something larger than himself with a sense of tradition and history. What needs to be changed is the culture of violence and aggression that fed this crime and continues to on this comment page. That change must takes place at the top and be made very clear all the way down – if you hurt someone, you're gone and you will be prosecuted. Zero Tolerance. That's what these Band Directors, Administrators and Faculty get paid for – to teach, mentor and help young minds grow. Not destroy them by condoning violence as an acceptable rite of passage.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      I agree, but if he hazed people himself...then what???

      December 1, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      Then what? He's dead, it's kind of hard to hold him accountable now.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      Bottom line...a 26 year old hazer...get hazed himself....and it goes too far....

      December 1, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      But why is it relevant that he was a "hazer" too? Should the people that hazed him get a lesser sentence because he hazed people too?

      December 1, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      its relevant because hazing is illegal so if he was a hazer himself...they just didnt "go to far" the times he may have hazed people

      December 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • twirtzy

      That doesn't make it relevant to his death. It maybe relevant to the overall problem of hazing on our college campuses, but it has absolutely no relevance to his death, or how it is handled by the justice system.

      December 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lookingatsky

      IF he hazed people, his relatives shouldn't be awarded $$$$. He had a part in his own death.

      December 1, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mike

    Whether someone willing submits to hazing or does not is irrelevant. Doesn't matter. A vicious beating should never be tolerated or condoned. Clearly, the university is at fault as they turned a blind eye to this type of hazing for decades. It does appear the band director tried to put a stop to it but whatever he did wasn't enough. Changes need to be made. it's time to clean house and start over again.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      Mos Def needs to clean house

      December 1, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. charles johnson

    why isn't this involuntary manslaughter. They didn't mean to kill him, but he died as a result of their actions. Let's see...where have I heard that before???? Oh yeah..Conrad Murray (aka Michael Jackson's doctor.)

    December 1, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. charles johnson

    People, please do some research. He was not being hazed in. It was punishment for him dropping his baton during a performance.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      aka...first year drum major hazing....

      December 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tonyi

      So the death penalty is given?

      December 1, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thoughtyoushouldnow

      Please get your facts straight. The half time show video is on youtube and he did not drop his baton, a band member messed up on their routine and step in front of him and he politely guided them to their right place.

      December 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. CJ

    You would have thought that the Marching 100 would have learned their lesson about hazing in 2001.

    December 1, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hello Buddy

      and that is why Dr White was fired.....

      December 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. cruzin100

    This is BS

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

      What's BS?

      December 1, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
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