The week following the tragic hazing-related death of Marching “100” Drum Major Robert Champion may have brought out the worst in many students, alumni and supporters of Florida A&M.
The campus has become the site of a media firestorm since Nov. 19, just hours after Champion was found unresponsive on a band bus after the annual Florida Classic football game.
The unrelenting attention from the media has unfortunately revealed many of the usual deep-seated issues of internal chaos at the university.
Nothing seems more telling of long-standing disorder than the contention that appears to have developed between President James Ammons and former Band Director Julian White.
The nature of their professional relationship before the Champion’s hazing-related death is not very clear to the public.
But Ammons’ and the Board of Trustees’ decision to terminate the famed band’s leader based on his failure to eradicate hazing seems to be just the “tit” White needed for his “tat”― a lawsuit against the university claiming the administration’s lack of support for his anti-hazing efforts
It’s casually apparent.
Ammons was provost at FAMU when claims of hazing led to legal battles for the university in 1998 and 2001.
Both he and White were also around for the bevy of other possible complaints about hazing at the university before it was addressed at the state level.
Many are baffled by the university’s failure to indefinitely suspend the band program after facing two previous lawsuits.
Indeed, there are those who share the sentiments of Pam Champion, the victim’s mother. She described the university’s efforts to eradicate hazing as “too little, too late.”
Even White alluded to this fact at his Monday press conference.
Still, the band’s suspension prior to Champion’s death may have had negative implications for the university’s image, often associated with the Marching “100,” as well as White’s job security.
White may have even contradicted himself in his said belief in rehabilitation for students found guilty of hazing.
If that’s true, then administrative action in those instances would have resulted in those students’ suspension, countering White’s belief in “second chances.”
Because of this, despite on which side of the aisle you choose to sit on in this morale-crippling debate, the phrase “scandal” is not an exaggeratory way to describe the situation.
Perhaps another tragedy, aside from the local rumor mill promoting the ongoing media frenzy and a distant second to the Champion family’s loss, is talk of the band’s demise leading to the inevitable closure of the entire university.
While the band means a great deal to university, some in the “FAMUly” have forgotten that we are and have always been bigger than the band.
The dazzling halftime shows that we’ve grown to love over the past 65 years only residually contribute to scholarship and academic merit, which are the lifeblood of every institution.
FAMU can and will move past this unfortunate event because the university is more than just a college football spectacle, as many pundits on Champion’s death would have those unfamiliar with the university to believe.
Those who have thrown FAMU under the bus amid this unfortunate event with derogatory discussions on social media websites and also to the media should be careful with their words.
If we are not careful about how we perceive ourselves in this situation, everything we love about FAMU can be dismantled, if the right people are given the wrong idea.