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FAMU boosts security, saying ''campus safety is paramount''

4:24 PM, Apr 5, 2012   |    comments
Robert Champion
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Tallahassee, Florida - Florida A&M President James Ammons says he's beefing up security around campus with more security guards, new lighting and additional video cameras.

Ammons announces the extra security measures as Gov. Rick Scott questions whether parents will send their children to FAMU if the school is unable to eradicate hazing.

The university continues to struggle with the fallout from the hazing-related death of Marching 100 band member Robert Champion after a performance last November.

His death revealed a culture of hazing in the band and led to a series of other complaints about hazing attacks in recent years. One complaint alleges two FAMU music professors were present during a hazing ritual at the home of one professor in 2010. The professors have been suspended.

Ammons says "campus safety is paramount" and he wants to be better informed of any problems.

Ammons is directing FAMU's police department to notify him immediately about any reports of hazing, assault, battery, or sex assault on or off campus involving FAMU students or staff.

"I did this to promote transparency and accountability as we implement corrective actions to ensure the safety and well being of our students, our faculty, staff and anyone who visits the campus. Efforts are under way to hire additional security guards, who will be strategically placed around the campus. Additionally lighting improvements have been implemented and nearly completed. We're also continuing our efforts to monitor the campus through nearly 110 cameras that are strategically located throughout the campus."

Ammons says he's also committing to improve communications with faculty, staff, students, alumni and the Florida Board of Governors.

Meanwhile, FAMU is considering using other kinds of entertainment at football games this year if the famed Marching 100 is still on suspension as a result of Champion's death.

FAMU President James Ammons says he has not decided yet whether he will reinstate the band.

FAMU Director of Athletics Derek Horne says the school is waiting to see the report from the new Anti-Hazing Committee to determine a response.

So Horne says FAMU will look at a range of entertainment alternatives that the school features during its Classic football games.

"There are a number of ancillary events that go on prior to the game, post-game and during the game. So we're taking a look at that as a footprint on what we can do to enhance our fan experience. It's new territory for us. But what we want to make sure that we can do is offer the best experience possible."

Gov. Rick Scott is catching some heat from FAMU graduate and former state Sen. Al Lawson.

Lawson is taking issue with a comment by Scott, who said parents will decide not to send their children to FAMU if the school cannot eradicate hazing.

Lawson calls that a bad statement by the governor and he should not talk about the school's future in those terms.

"The school is not going to be closed down. Right now FAMU has a record number of students applying for admission to the university. We want kids to go to college. It's the largest historically black college in America. Sure, there's a problem with hazing. No one said anything about hazing at the University of Miami. No one said anything about hazing at the University of Florida. Hazing exists on college campuses."

Lawson says he does agree with one thing the governor said. Scott said hazing needs to stop and Lawson is optimistic that goal can be achieved.

Dave Heller

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