Florida college may sideline band over hazing death

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 06, 2012 8:13 PM
Florida college may sideline band over hazing death

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - The Florida college rocked by the hazing death of a student who served in the ranks of its famed but scandal-plagued marching band may force the band to sit out next fall's football season, a school official said on Friday.

"We're going to make sure we stay in tune with what the university's doing, but also have plan A, B and C just in case we have to use those options," Derek Horne, athletic director for Florida A&M University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, told Reuters.

Horne declined to specify the options for halftime entertainment on FAMU's closely-watched football field. But he said a university gospel choir and a step dance team were among the entertainers who filled in for the band during this spring's basketball games.

In January, FAMU trustees banned recruiting until at least the fall for the college's renowned "Marching 100" band as well as all other student organizations to allow enough time to establish new anti-hazing policies.

The brutality of the band's hazing culture came to light in November 2011 when drum major Robert Champion, 26, was beaten to death during a hazing ritual aboard a chartered bus during the band's trip to a football game in Orlando.

Champion's death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. Orlando detectives turned their case over to prosecutors last week.

Charges have yet to be filed. But several students have been arrested since Champion's death, in connection with other hazing incidents that fell under scrutiny.

Trustees this week established a new policy requiring students, faculty or anyone with knowledge of hazing at the university to report it to campus police within 24 hours, prohibiting retaliation for reporting hazing, and allowing anyone who is subjected to retaliation to file a complaint.

The trustees also accepted the resignation of FAMU campus Police Chief Calvin Ross, whose department recently was criticized by Tallahassee police for its handling of hazing cases involving at least two FAMU professors.

Ross has said his departure was pre-planned and that he actually stayed in the FAMU job longer than he had intended,

Champion's parents and family lawyer raised concerns this week about the progress of the criminal case. The family conducted its own investigation and filed a civil lawsuit almost two months ago against the charter bus company, claiming its employees facilitated the deadly hazing.

The bus company has denied wrongdoing.

"We are just kind of angry, disappointed, because they haven't made any arrests in this case. I think that this is not justice for my son and my family. We want answers," said Champion's father, Robert Champion.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Paul Simao)