Remembering Robert Champion one year later

11:23 PM, Nov 19, 2012   |    comments
FAMU students gather to remember their friend Robert Champion on the one-year anniversary of his hazing-related death.
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Tallahassee, Florida - Monday was a solemn day at Florida A&M University on the one-year anniversary of Robert Champion's death.

Students, teachers and administrators gathered on campus Monday evening for a remembrance ceremony honoring Champion, who died as a result of hazing on a band bus.

Robert was remembered as a creative member of the Marching 100. He was always thinking of new band formations and pushing for more energetic performances.

That all ended on November 19, 2011 when Champion was involved in a grisly hazing ritual called "Crossing Bus C." Band members beat him with their hands and feet as he ran from the front of the bus to the back. He died within an hour after the beating.

Champion's friend Brandon Cunningham said he was thinking about Robert on Monday, thinking about his character and his drive to put forth the best effort every time.

"Just remembering Robert and just how great of a person he was and the things that he stood for and to remember the circumstances and that we never have to go through this type of tragedy ever again and that the students recognize that and we continue that on into the future."

Cunningham remembers hearing the news of Champion's death from then-band director Julian White. Cunningham says White usually was never at a loss for words, but that night, he stood before members of the Marching 100 and could barely muster these words: "We lost Robert."

Champion's hazing-related death prompted many changes at FAMU over the past year, including a new anti-hazing plan creating stricter oversight of the marching band and Music Department.

President James Ammons and White stepped down.

Cunningham says it is his hope that students not just at FAMU, but across the country, learn the lessons of Robert Champion's death. And Cunningham is hopeful FAMU, and members of the Marching 100, will recover.

"We're all going to make mistakes. But what defines us as champions and as great people is how we recover and we will recover from this situation and we will do better and we will be better people for it."

FAMU Student Body Vice President Michael Jefferson echoes that hope for FAMU's future. He says the university and students are locked in on the problem of hazing and have a new commitment to end it.

"We're very grateful to see that the university is doing more to brand itself as the number one university for students, but also that this is a safe place where students can grow, participate and do everything that they would want to do and do it safely as well."

Dave Heller

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