Florida A&M president to keep his job amid hazing probe

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 19, 2011 1:18 PM

By Michael Peltier

TALLAHASSEE, Fla (Reuters) - Florida A&M University trustees said on Monday that the school's president will keep his job during the investigation of a marching band member's hazing death, despite a call by Governor Rick Scott for the administrator to temporarily step down.

Trustees said President James Ammons should remain to help steer the historically black college in Tallahassee through troubled times.

Law enforcement officials are conducting separate probes into Marching "100" drum major Robert Champion's death, which medical examiners ruled a homicide last week, and unrelated alleged financial mismanagement at the university.

"We will stand firm against outside influence, regardless of how well-intended, that could lead to detrimental consequences that threaten the viability of the university," Chairman Solomon Badger told fellow board members during a phone meeting.

"Our decision will be fact-based and result from a deliberative process dealing with a sensitive matter," he said.

Champion, 26, died November 19 after a performance of the renowned marching band at the Florida Classic football game in Orlando. Emergency responders found him unresponsive on a band bus parked outside the band's hotel.

On Friday, the Orange County medical examiner ruled Champion's death a homicide by blunt force trauma. The medical report said the otherwise healthy drum major died within an hour of suffering multiple blows to his chest, arms, shoulders and back.

His death is the latest in a series of hazing incidents within the band and university over the past decade and is being investigated by local and state authorities. No criminal charges have been filed.

Earlier this month, the board reprimanded Ammons in connection with Champion's death but did not place him administrative leave.

Scott last week suggested trustees should suspend Ammons while the investigations were ongoing, but the governor said on Monday he would abide by the board's decision.

"For the sake of appearances, and to assure the public that these investigations are clearly independent, I believe it would have been in the best interest of Florida A&M University for President Ammons to step aside until all of these investigations are completed," Scott said in a statement following the board's meeting.

"However, we have a process in Florida for the administration of the state university system, and that process has been followed."

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)