Former Presidents and alumni discuss accreditation concerns

Florida A&M’s National Alumni Association held a phone conference Wednesday to discuss issues pertaining to the “Marching 100” and the university’s accreditation.

“There are a number of issues that the university has to deal with at this time,” said Bishop Holifield, former FAMU general counsel. “Ultimately, if we don’t maintain our accreditation none of these other issues will matter.”

In November 2011, FAMU received national attention following the death of Robert Champion, a “Marching 100” drum major. The 26-year-old died Nov. 19, 2011 during the Florida Classic in Orlando after participating in a “crossing bus C” ritual.

The band has since been suspended and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) placed the university on probation for 12 months.

Former university President Frederick Humphries said that if the university fails to demonstrate that it has restored the integrity of its operations and key administrators, this could cost FAMU its accreditation.

“If we get denied in probation, more than likely, we will lose our accreditation, and that means that we cannot compete for research grants or Title III money or any money from the federal government,” Humphries said.

Humphries also said on the conference call that as it relates to the band, it would be impossible for the school to show that it is working in honesty if a “Marching 100” staff member is chosen as the new director of marching and pep bands.

“The band director has to come from outside of the university and that person has to be squeaky clean in terms of their operation in a band configuration,” Humphries said.

Last month, a press conference that was scheduled to announce the new band director was postponed and the position was reopened last week. Applications are due March 1.

Fred Gainous, who served as the university’s ninth president, reflected on the death of Champion and the issue of hazing. He said that FAMU has become an example for the nation.

“Hazing is not new. It was not invented at FAMU,” Gainous said. “Unfortunately, what Florida A&M University has done is to show the nation how to handle hazing situations.”