Florida A&M president, James H. Ammons, and the Student Government Association hosted an event in nearly full Gaither Gym Monday evening. The anti-hazing forum was aimed at changing the culture of the university.
The event follows the death of Marching “100” member Robert Champion Nov. 19 and swirling allegations that hazing is believed a factor in his death.
“FAMU is facing one of the greatest challenges in the life of this university,” said Ammons, “We are going to have to unify around the legacy of Robert Champion.”
Classes during the forum were canceled and representatives from each of the 160 student organizations and clubs were required to attend, with penalty of being placed on “inactive status” for disregarding the mandate.
“It’s a student culture and it [change] starts with us. In order to make this vision come true, we have to come together as a family,” said
Student Body President Breyon Love before leading the crowd in reciting an anti-hazing agreement that was distributed and signed by students.
Marvin Green, director of student activities, said the way to keep organizations and clubs that are an integral part of FAMU life and culture is to address the issue of hazing head-on.
“Hazing is the opposite of what your group stands for,” said Green, who later urged attendees to join hands and chant, “These are live bodies. These are real people. These are your fellow Famuans.”
Students agreed that the forum was a good idea and would help to address a hazing trend that is present at FAMU and other universities nationwide.
“It’s not that hazing doesn’t happen at other universities,” said third-year graduate student Ariana Marshall. “I’m not sure what became the excuse for it leading to such violence, but our society is becoming more violent.”
Ammons, Love and Student Senate President Marissa West fielded questions from the audience, written on index cards. The three of were critical of the way the events that have surrounded FAMU in the past weeks have been covered by the media. The questions drew a large reaction from the crowd.
Green, who himself was critical of the media, including The Famuan student newspaper, said to students, “You have the chance to show what real excellence with caring is. You have the chance to do that. If you want them to write something different, you have to be something different.”
Despite a call from administrators to unite and address the media, many students remained reluctant to speak. Troy Harris, student body vice president, said the difficult situation required tact and warned against Famuans being their own biggest weakness.
Ammons vowed that FAMU would be a leader in the national dialog against hazing.
“We are going to eliminate this pattern of destructive behavior on campus,” he said. “We have broken through and you’re going to see a change in the culture in student organizations and in the behavior of students at Florida A&M University.”