FAMU May Decide When Band Will Perform Again

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Famu hazingTALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Members of Florida A&M University’s famed Marching 100 band may soon know when they might perform again, six months after the hazing death of a drum major.

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FAMU President James Ammons is expected to discuss the band at a special meeting of the university board of trustees on either Friday or Monday, according to board member Torey Alston and a letter from Ammons this week.

Eleven FAMU band members face felony hazing charges in Robert Champion’s death in November. Two others face misdemeanor counts. Ammons suspended the band soon after Champion’s death.
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Champion died aboard a bus outside an Orlando hotel following a FAMU football game. His death revealed a culture of hazing within the band.

But according to information the university turned over to its board this week, three of those charged with Champion’s death weren’t FAMU students at the time.

Ammons also sent a two-page letter to trustees explaining that at the start of the fall 2011 semester there were 457 people on the band roster, but it turns out that 101 of them were not students at FAMU.

A total of 52 people – including 51 band members and one cheerleader – had been previously enrolled at the school but were not enrolled at the time of Champion’s death.

Another 49 were listed as students at nearby Tallahassee Community College or Florida State University but they were not enrolled in a FAMU band class, nor did the university know for sure if they were enrolled at the other schools.

Some band members, however, did not make the trip to Orlando. Twenty-six band members had been suspended prior to the football game because they were alleged to have been involved in other hazing activities before Champion’s death.

In his May 8 letter, Ammons explained that he is having the university “internal crisis management team” speak to faculty, students, as well as boosters and alumni about what conditions should be met before the Marching 100 can return.

Pam Champion, the mother of Robert Champion, has said that the band should be disbanded so the university can “clean house.” She and the family’s attorney contend there is a vast effort among students and others to cover up who is responsible for her son’s death.

While arrests have been made in the Champion case there is still an ongoing criminal investigation into the finances of the band, as well as a probe by the state university system into whether top officials at the university ignored past warnings about hazing.

The Champion family has already told FAMU it plans to sue the university. FAMU itself set up a task force to look at hazing, although the panel has not met since a flare-up over whether it should follow the state’s open meetings laws. Several members have since resigned.

Hundreds of pages of records reviewed earlier this year by The Associated Press showed years of repeated warnings about brutal hazing passed without any serious response from the school’s leadership until Champion’s death. Police files show that since 2007, nearly two dozen incidents involving the band, fraternities and other student groups had been investigated.

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