Law enforcement investigations surrounding claims of hazing in Florida A&M’s Marching “100” did not just happen after the death of Robert Champion.
Before his death, at least 26 other band members were suspended during the football season.
Bria Hunter, a first-year graphic communication student from Atlanta, was taken to the emergency room at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital after she was allegedly beaten by band members. Hunter then filed a report with the Tallahassee Police Department. The 18-year-old reportedly suffered minor abrasions and bruises.
She provided police with a sworn statement and will be pressing charges against her assailants, according to the Tallahassee Police Department.
If found to have been involved in Hunter’s alleged beating, the named suspects would also face battery charges under Florida Statute 784.03(1A1), in addition to hazing charges.
Because Hunter’s report is still being investigated, the names of the students she identified in the incident cannot be revealed. But three band members were suspended in connection to Hunter’s hazing on Nov. 8.
Former Director of Bands Julian White also alerted FAMUPD of possible hazing in the trombone and clarinet section. He issued suspension letters to 22 trombone players for alleged hazing in the sections.
On Nov. 10, White issued suspension letters to seven clarinet players after he “was informed that initiation rituals, which included paddling had occurred for the band sub-group ‘Clones,’ a sub-group consisting of some clarinet players,” according to the letter.
The result of the investigation is pending.
The ongoing investigation explains why spectators at the Nov. 19 Florida Classic football game saw a much smaller version of the band.
White also suspended seven students in May for what he called “conduct unbecoming of a Florida A&M University band member,” in a room at the Rosen Centre Hotel — the same where Champion’s hazing-related death occurred.
To combat hazing, a special independent task force was assigned by President James Ammons to review patterns of behavior by the band.
The task force will offer recommendations to Ammons based on the results of their investigation.
Charles Hobbs, the attorney representing White, said his client is worried that the task force may be biased. He cited the inability to identify conflicts of interests between the president and task force appointees.
“There are concerns about whether the task force is fair and impartial in and of itself, based on the relationships some of those members have with administrators,” said Hobbs.
Ammons also suspended the Marching “100” indefinitely during the investigation of the hazing allegations.
Kelvin Williams, a non-active member of the band from Miami, said White was against hazing.
“He would tell us if somebody’s hazing you, please let somebody know because this is a non-hazing band,” Williams said.
Although, the university has an anti-hazing policy, Williams, who played the trumpet, said there were always rumors of hazing in the band.
“The events that took place are tragic and the hazing allegations are even worse,” said William Underwood III, a fourth-year music education student from Detroit and a piccolo player in the band.
“When I was in the band, there were always rumors of hazing,” Williams said. “A few of my brothers were involved in hazing activities during my freshman year.”