Florida A&M Lifts Marching Band Suspension

Florida A&M University interim president Larry Robinson lifted the suspension on the school’s Marching 100 band Thursday.

The band was suspended about a year and a half ago after drum major Robert Champion died during a hazing. Champion collapsed and died after running down a gantlet of band members who beat him with their fists and other instruments on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel.

Former FAMU president James Ammons resigned following the scandal, and band director Julian White retired. Thirteen people were charged in connection with Champion’s death, but none of them have admitted to the hazing. Last month, 27-year-old Shawn Turner, who said he was Champion’s “protector” and did not participate in the hazing, pleaded no contest to a felony charge.

Robert Champion Sr. and his wife, Pam, were unhappy with the decision to reinstate the band.

“I don’t think it’s a problem that you can fix in just one year,” Robert Champion Sr. said. “It is not the time to put that band back on the field.”

Robinson said that FAMU has revised its anti-hazing and student conduct policies, and has created two new positions to address hazing. The university has also spent money to research hazing prevention, and has created student forums on the practice.

“It has helped us to respond more swiftly and decisively to any allegations of hazing and any university group, emphasizing our board’s policy of zero tolerance towards hazing,” Robinson said.

But Pam Champion said there have been a number of hazing incidents since her son’s death in November 2011.

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“We have to look at what has been done and whether what has been done is effective enough. They don’t know. They’ve been forced to put something in place, but there is no proof that what they have in place… is effective,” she said. “I’d like to understand the rush to get that band back on the field. What is that real rush? What is your real priority here?”

Last month, FAMU alumnus Sylvester Young was hired to rebuild the band. Young was a one-time director of the Ohio University marching band, and Larry Robinson said he chose Young because he had the experience and discipline to help the university decide when it would be the right time to reinstate the Marching 100.

What do you think of Florida A&M’s decision to lift the suspension on the Marching 100?

[Photo credit: Brian Steele / Flickr]