Florida A&M President James Ammons pledges to institute “a complete culture change” at the university in the wake of the death of drum major Robert Champion several days ago. The death, which occurred in Orlando during Florida Classic weekend, has drawn national attention following conclusions by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office that hazing caused Champion’s death.
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Solomon Badger, chairman of the Florida A&M Board of Trustees released a statement regarding the ongoing investigation of the death of student and drum major Robert Champion.
“The members of the Board of Trustees are deeply saddened by the loss of our student Robert Champion. Each of us will keep his family and the FAMU family in our prayers,” Badger stated.
The chairman said that the BOT has been working closely with both the administration and law enforcement agencies to ensure that justice is served for the Champion family.
“He [Ammons] has responded appropriately to this tragic situation and he has taken measures to get to the root cause of what has happened and to make recommendations regarding matters that should be addressed at the administrative level,” said Badger.
Badger acknowledged that investigations regarding hazing in the band were in progress before Champion’s hazing-related death occurred last Saturday after the Florida Classic.
“Prior to the Florida Classic, there were other measures taken to ensure that students in the band were aware of not only the university policy, but also the penalties under Florida’s anti-hazing law,” he said.
“It is my understanding that the cases that were brought to the attention of this administration were referred to the FAMU Police Department for review.”
Badger said the university will continue its search for answers about long-standing hazing practices in the band, as well as what may have caused Champion’s death.
“There is an ongoing investigation by the Orange County Sherriff’s Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement. At this time, we are relying on the law enforcement agencies to complete their investigation, as well as the task force to issue its report.”
Former Director of Bands Julian White has filed a lawsuit against the university, seeking reinstatement. White cited the administration’s lack of support in his anti-hazing efforts over the years. White was put on administrative leave on Wednesday. His termination is effective Dec. 22.
Attorney Chuck Hobbs will represent White. The Hobbs Group will hold a press conference on Monday, Nov. 28.
Attorney Arthur Chestnut said that Robert Champion’s family is planning to sue the university. He said while the family has spent the holidays planning a funeral for Champion, they want to raise awareness about hazing at Florida A&M and other campuses.
The Famuan has learned that Julian White, former director of bands at Florida A&M has hired a lawyer and is seeking reinstatement at the university.
Florida A&M President James Ammons announced the internal task force that will investigate the inner-workings of the Marching “100.”
Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, along with Quincy Chief of Police Walt McNeil and former state senator Al Lawson will spearhead the investigation, announced by Ammons on Tuesday.
Five others were also announced: Joe Oglesby, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Editorial Page editor of The Miami Herald and a FAMU graduate; Derek Daniel, former executive director of the Florida Commission on Human Relations; John Charles Thomas, director of Communications and Political Initiatives for the Florida League of Cities; Freddie Groomes-McLendon, and Tallahassee Atty. Daryl Parks, president of the National Bar Association and a former member of the FAMU Board of Trustees who served as chair of the Student Relations Committee.
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Gov. Rick Scott has called on Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey to launch an investigation into the death of Rober Champion.
The recent death of Florida A&M University’s “Marching 100″ band drum major Robert Champion has generated great concern throughout the state and indeed the nation,” Scott stated.
“I request that FDLE thoroughly investigate the death of Robert Champion by working with the Orange County’s Sheriff’s Office and any other investigative agencies to as may be necessary, to ensure that the cause of Robert Champion’s death become fully known, and that if there are individuals directly or indirectly responsible for this death, they are appropriately brought to justice and held accountable.”
The Famuan has just received word that Julian E. White, director of bands at Florida A&M, has been fired effective Dec. 22.
White joined FAMU’s faculty in 1972 and has been director of the Marching “100” since 1998. The same year he became director, Ivery Luckey, a clarinet player said he was hazed. In 2004, the Board of Trustees awarded Luckey $50,000 for having been paddled 300 times resulting in him being hospitalized.
In 2001, the university awarded $1.8 million to Marcus Parker, a trumpet player who was beaten so badly one of his kidneys temporarily failed.
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The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that Robert Champion’s death was connected to hazing.
Florida A&M President James Ammons announced the indefinite suspension of the Marching “100.” He said the suspension would continue pending the investigation.
Ammons said he plans to develop an internal task force to look into hazing and its role in the “culture of the band.” The head of the task force is said to be announced later this week.
Rumors that hazing may have been the cause of Champion’s death surfaced just hours after police found him unresponsive on a band bus just before 10 p.m. last Saturday.
Ammons also said that his task force will not necessarily try to blame the alleged hazing on any individual(s). Rather, he wants to know how the alleged incident impacts university policy.
Just last week, nearly 30 members of the band were dismissed due to hazing allegations, according to Ammons and Director of Bands Julian White, who also attended the press conference.
White said reports were filed with the FAMU Police Department against students allegedly involved. FAMU PD is investigating.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is continuing its investigation. A memorial for Champion is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Lee Hall.
Capt. Angelo Nieves of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said that a team of investigators will come to Tallahassee tomorrow to continue their investigation into the death of 26-year-old Robert Champion.
The drum major of the Marching “100” was found unresponsive on a bus in a hotel parking lot in Orlando on Saturday evening. He was pronounced dead later that night.
A Florida A&M student and drum major, Robert Champion, died late Saturday night on International Drive in Orlando, Capt. Angelo Nieves, Unit Commander with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, reported.
The 26-year-old was unconscious when OCSO and paramedics arrived on the scene, and was found on a student bus.
He was then transported to Dr. Phillips Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
No foul play is suspected, according to Deputy Ginette Rodriguez, Public Information Officer for OCSO.
After the game, the band returned to the Rosen Plaza Hotel at 9700 International Drive in Orlando where the victim reportedly vomited in the parking lot and started to complain about not being able to breathe.
Those on the scene called 911 and administered CPR. He was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased. The victim’s mother was contacted by university officials and notified of Champion’s death.
“We are in shock,” said FAMU Director of Bands and Chairman of the Department of Music Julian White.
“He was a very fine drum major who was of excellent character and very trustworthy. I had not told him yet, but he was slated to be the head drum major next year.”
Champion, a music student from Atlanta, served as one of six drum majors for the 375-member Marching “100” band who traveled to Orlando this weekend for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Classic. A drum major since spring 2010, Champion had performed in the Classic’s half-time show earlier in the day.
Circumstances surrounding the student’s death are still being investigated. This story will be updated as more information is received.
Bereavement continues to loom throughout the university community and among others who knew Champion.
“Robert was an extraordinary guy and was very determined to be a leader. When I found out, I was in shock, disbelief,” said Ronald Sandridge, a former clarinet player in the band who said Champion was his section leader and drum major.
“I had just seen him performing on Saturday and before the band left on Friday. I wished him luck before we departed,” said Sandridge who heard the tragic news while visiting Orlando for the game.
A memorial has been reportedly scheduled for Tuesday Nov. 22 at 6 p.m.