Recommendations for suspension preceded FAMU band death

Posted at 2:38 PM, Jul 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-06 14:38:59-04
(CNN) — Three days before Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion died in a hazing incident last November, the campus police chief suggested the suspension of the band because of hazings, a document released by the school shows.

The university’s communications department on Friday released notes taken by Dean of Students Henry Kirby at a November 16 meeting with other administrators.

The meeting between administrators and the police chief was in response to allegations of off-campus hazing by band members.

According to the document, University Police Chief Calvin Ross recommended that the entire band be suspended, or as an alternative, for the suspension of all upperclassmen.

Kirby wrote that he, too, supported a suspension of the band, specifically a long-term suspension intended to scare straight other campus organizations that hazed.

Champion, 26, died after a hazing ritual that happened three days later.

According to the document, Kirby explained that he was not aware of any hazing incidents by the band in the fall semester of 2011.

On November 16, he received a call alleging hazing by the band members, and hours later the top administrators were in a meeting.

According to Kirby’s notes, the others present were band director Julian White, Provost Cynthia Hughes Harris, Vice President William Hudson Jr., Chief Ross, and police Lt. Angela Kirkland.

The band director responded to the police chief’s suggestion by saying he didn’t think the band should be suspended, the document states.

Kirby countered that he felt long term suspension “would effectively stop all of this hazing.”

The band director suggested that maybe scholarships could be withdrawn from students found to be involved in hazing, the notes say.

That same afternoon, Kirby and Ross addressed the band.

“I used some very strong language, frequently laced and sprinkled with some ‘hells,’ ‘damns; and ‘ass’ terminology,” Kirby wrote in his notes.

Champion died on November 19, within an hour of being badly beaten during a hazing incident on a band bus following a football game in Orlando, Florida. The ritual, called “Crossing Bus C,” is an initiation process in which pledges attempt to run down the center aisle while being assaulted by senior members, according to some university band members.

An autopsy found “extensive contusions of his chest, arms, shoulder and back,” and “evidence of crushing of areas of subcutaneous fat,” medical examiners reported.

Since then, White has retired as band director, the Florida A&M board of trustees has issued a vote of no confidence against University President James Ammons, and the marching band has been suspended through the 2012-2013 school year.

In a statement released Friday, Ammons said of the meeting that it was the group’s decision for the police chief, dean of students and band director to address the band about hazing.

“No one told me before the Florida Classic (football game) that they disagreed with the group’s ultimate decision and course of action,” Ammons said. “Rest assured that we are making a real good-faith effort to settle this entire matter with the Champion family, but to date no settlement has been reached, and so I must follow the advice of legal counsel in not commenting further at this time.”