Ahead of Florida hazing death, official proposed action: newspaper

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 06, 2012 9:45 PM
Ahead of Florida hazing death, official proposed action: newspaper

By Michael Peltier

TALLAHASSEE, Fla (Reuters) - Days before the 2011 death of a Florida A & M marching band member in a ritual hazing, a school official urged the university to suspend the band because of concerns about hazing, according to a news report.

Drum major Robert Champion, 26, was beaten to death aboard a charter bus carrying the university's celebrated "Marching 100" band to a football game and band competition in November 2011 in Orlando. Eleven band members face felony hazing charges in connection with this death.

In May, the university indefinitely suspended the marching band, which is renowned for its high-stepping showmanship. The band is widely credited with a key role in transforming the style of college bands from traditional military precision to more innovative pageantry.

According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, university dean Henry Kirby recommended at a November 16 meeting that the band be barred from traveling to the Orlando event.

Notes taken by Kirby back up comments made last month by former FAMU Chief of Police Calvin Ross, who also said such recommendations were made at the meeting but not adopted.

Notes of the meeting were obtained by the Sentinel under Florida's public records law, the newspaper said.

Instead, Kirby's notes indicate he, Ross and former band director Julian White each gave band members a stern warning before the group departed for the high-profile rivalry that hazing would not be tolerated.

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Ross retired in April. White retired in May after a months' long fight to keep his job.

FAMU president James Ammons has said he was aware the officials had spoken to band members but unaware that any recommendation had been made at the November 16 meeting to suspend the band.

(Reporting By Michael Peltier; editing by Edith Honan and Todd Eastham)