Hazing was deemed illegal by the state of Florida and Florida A&M in 2005, yet in 2011, students and administrators could face legal action due to the issue.
The Florida A&M University Regulations Anti-Hazing Policy defines hazing as “pressuring or coercing the student into violating state or federal law, any brutality of a physical nature […], or other forced physical activities that would adversely affect the health or safety of the student and also includes any activity that would subject the student to extreme mental stress.”
The university has also established punishments for students who violate the Anti-Hazing Policies. In subsection three of the Anti-Hazing Policies, any student, student group or student organization associated with FAMU that is responsible for hazing could face fines.
The university can also withhold academic records until the fines are paid, or pending compliance with the Student Code of Conduct.
Among other consequences, the policy calls for the “probation, suspension, dismissal or expulsion of said person(s) or organization(s), and/or recession of permission for the University sanctioned organization(s) to operate on the Florida A&M University campus or to otherwise operate under the sanction of the University.”
“I believe the punishment for hazing is fair. To become a part of a group, the process itself is to make ties that bind one to the group,” said Lynetta Russell, a senior English student from Chicago. “The magnitude of defilement that groups go through is grotesque. Being part of something does not mean you should be disrespected.”
The Anti-Hazing Policies say further action can be taken after the school has handed down its punishment. After the school makes its decision, students and organizations involved in hazing will also be subject to any penalty imposed by the state under Florida Statues 1006.63.
Hazing is a third-degree felony as set forth by the Florida Hazing Law. This includes forcing organizations’ applications to stay up for days at a time and dangerous stunts that do not constitute crimes.
Halley B. Lewis III, a partner with Fonvielle, Lewis, Foote and Messer is not associated with either lawsuit against the university. He said, however, he has been following the case, and said any criminal activities used in the process of hazing hold punishments of their own.
“If they beat the person, or contributed to delinquency of minors, if they provide alcohol, or any other number of things, they could be charged with what the specific act was,” said Lewis.
Under the Florida Hazing Law, hazing can be either a third-degree felony or a first-degree misdemeanor. In the case of Robert Champion, those involved could be facing the former
“FAMU has a very detailed hazing policy in place. What it really comes down to is whether or not the music department enforced it and how much knowledge they had of what was going on,” said Lewis.
“Just putting a hazing policy in place and then putting your head in the sand doesn’t work. We all know that.”
The Office of the General Counsel is unable to comment at this time, due to the ongoing investigation of Champion’s death.