Famed FAMU marching band suspended another year

4:59 PM, May 14, 2012   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida A&M marching band will remain on suspension through the 2012-2013 school year as a result of the hazing-related death of band member Robert Champion.

FAMU President James Ammons made the announcement Monday during an emergency meeting of the school's board of trustees.

He said the band must be completely restructured before it will be allowed to get back together. New requirements may include tougher academic standards, limits on how many years someone can play in the band, stricter rules on practice time, and more adults accompanying band members on out-of-town trips.

Ammons said he did not believe the university could develop and implement the new guidelines before the start of the new school year this fall. But Ammons said one of the main reasons he was keeping the Marching 100 on suspension was out of respect to Robert Champion.

"I think that it is just so important that we be respectful to him and to his family. Secondly, there is no question that the band must be restructured."

Drum Major Robert Champion died after being punched or kicked in a hazing ritual aboard a band bus in Orlando last November. Thirteen people are facing criminal charges.

Champion's death revealed a culture of hazing in the band and other cases of hazing. One female band member suffered a broken thigh and blood clots from a hazing episode. Last month, two music professors resigned following reports that they were involved with hazing in 2010.

Last week, new documents showed 101 people participated in the band even though they should have been ineligible.

Ammons blamed retired band director Julian White for the latest mistake.

"There is a clear policy here at the university and in the band that any student who participates in the band must be an enrolled student at the university. It is the responsibility of the instructors of those two sections, the band class, students must be enrolled in those classes in order to perform. (Is that Dr. White or someone else?) I think it is Dr. White who was the instructor of record for one of those sections."

Ammons has faced calls for his resignation since Champion's death. On Monday, he said he would not step down as long as the board of trustees wanted him to stay.

"There are other issues around Florida A&M University, other than hazing. Although we are deeply, deeply concerned about it, there are many other facets to this institution than the Marching 100 and the Board of Trustees asked me over five years ago to come and provide leadership to the university and that's my plan to continue."

FAMU's athletic department is already facing a deficit and the loss of the marching band at football games next year, especially at the school's two Classic games, could further impact its financial situation.

Ammons said the Florida Classic and Atlanta Football Classic together generate about $1.5 million for the school.

"We are working with groups on alternative entertainment for the Classics as well as home games. Further we're in conversations with our sponsors of the two Classics - the Florida Classic and the Atlanta Football Classic regarding this matter and will have more information to share at the Board of Trustees meeting in June. Also at the June meeting we will present our plan on how we will bring the band back and the strategy for the Music Department."

Students with band scholarships will be allowed to remain at the school but they won't be permitted to play in smaller music ensembles. That's been the policy since the Marching 100 was suspended.

The band's suspension will last at least another year. Ammons said he will reevaluate the question of reinstating the band next spring.

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