TALLAHASSEE (AJC)- Florida A&M University trustees Thursday called on a group of outside experts to help come up with solutions to hazing, which led to the death of a student band member from DeKalb County last fall.
FAMU president James Ammons announced the school’s new anti-hazing committee, which will start work immediately, at a university board of trustees meeting. Ammons also announced an anti-hazing research initiative, in which FAMU professors can compete for two grants of $25,000 to carry out research on hazing.
But a friend of Robert Champion, the FAMU drum major and Southwest DeKalb High School graduate who died in a Nov. 19 hazing incident, said he questioned whether a committee of outsiders will be able to unravel the mystery of why hazing is so pervasive on campus.
“We need to fix the actual issue that we are having at this university,” said senior Travis Roberts, a clarinetist in the Marching 100 band. “How will they gain enough evidence from the student body to make proper recommendations? I respect their background, but they have to focus on what’s happening here.”
Even Roberts, however, said he didn’t know what causes hazing at FAMU.
The public university has been dealing with the recent hazing-related death of Champion as well as the separate arrests of FAMU students on charges of hazing other students in the school’s famed marching band.
Ammons already has cancelled a summer band camp and stopped students from joining student groups. That move prevents clubs and organizations from recruiting any new members during the spring and summer semesters. Any organization that violates the ban will be suspended from campus.
In November, Champion died hours after the Florida Classic football game in Orlando in what authorities said was a hazing ritual. His death from shock caused by severe internal bleeding has been ruled a homicide. No charges have yet been brought in his death.
Three people were charged after alleged hazing ceremonies Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, when a student’s legs were beaten with fists and a metal ruler to initiate her into the “Red Dawg Order,” a band clique for students who hail from Georgia.
And another four were charged last month with hazing pledges of a Florida A&M marching band club known as the “Clones.” Those students were dismissed from the school.