Thursday, November 24, 2011

FAMU band director fired in wake of drum major's death

FAMU band director fired in wake of drum major's death
13 News
November 23, 2011

Florida A&M's band director has been fired, and Gov. Scott wants the state law enforcement officers to get involved.

They are the latest developments in the mysterious death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion following last weekend's Florida Classic.

As a task force begins investigating hazing at the school, a school spokesperson said the FAMU Department of Public Safety has three on-going investigations into hazing, and in two of those cases, 30 students were suspended.

Julian White, the school's band director, was placed on administrative leave with pay, with an official termination date of December 22. This is in line with the school's collective bargaining agreement.

In a letter from FAMU President James Ammons, White is accused of "alleged misconduct and/or incompetence involving confirmed reports of allegations of hazing within the department of music and the 'Marching 100'."

White has been with FAMU's faculty since 1972, and is a graduate of the school.

Gov. Rick Scott also asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement to get involved in the investigation. In a statement Wednesday he said:

The recent death of Florida A&M University’s “Marching 100” band drum major Robert Champion has generated great concern throughout the state and indeed the nation. While I recognize that the investigation into the death of Mr. Champion is being handled by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the reality is that the death investigation significantly impacts the University, the Tallahassee community, and the State of Florida as a whole.

Ammons suspended all practices and performances for the Marching 100 band Tuesday.

Champion died Saturday night in the parking lot of the Rosen Plaza Hotel on International Drive.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said hazing may have been a factor and it is an active criminal investigation.

Ammons announced the school will form an independent task force to look into the death and determine if there were ongoing inappropriate band customs or traditions.

"I am asking all that if anyone has any information to fully cooperate with the Orange County Sheriff's office. There will be no consequences or retaliation for helping. There will however be consequences for anyone who tries to impede it," said Ammons.

Champion's fellow bandmates likewise had no idea how he died.

Deputies said Champion threw up and complained about not being able to breathe beforehand.

The school has had problems with hazing in the past. Ammons said the school will cooperate with Orange County deputies who are investigating.

Wednesday, the Florida Civil Rights Association called for further action by asking the governor and FAMU Board of Trustees to fire Ammons, assistants to Dr. White and the entire leadership of the Marching 100 program.

The organization said in a statement:

The current administration within the University and in the Florida A&M Marching 100 has created a culture of corruption that tacitly approves of the persistent and deadly hazing that occures within the Marching 100 and Florida A&M University.

FCRA likened the situation to the scandal with the coaching staff and administrators at Penn State University. Read the full statement here.

Under Florida Statute, any death that happens as a result of hazing is a third-degree felony.

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