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Hazing may have played role in death at FAMU

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Since Champion's death, the school has shuttered the marching band and the rest of the music department's performances. The longtime band director, Julian White, was fired.

The college also announced an independent review led by a former state attorney general and an ex-local police chief in Tallahassee, where the historically black college is based.

White, who believes he was unfairly dismissed, said Monday he had suspended 26 band members for hazing two weeks before Champion died. He took heat for the decision, particularly from the parents of band members, and said the punishments were like suspending star football players.

"And so the band members were apprehensive. 'Doc, you think we can go without 19 trombone players?'" White said at a Tallahassee news conference. "And other folks. 'Doc, do you thing you can do it without them?' My comment was, it doesn't matter, I am not going to sacrifice the performance for the principle."

Hazing has a long history in marching bands, particularly at historically black colleges, where a spot in the band is coveted for its tradition and prominence. Band performances are sometimes revered as much as the school's sports teams.

FAMU has been at the center of some of the worst cases. In 2001, former FAMU band member Marcus Parker suffered kidney damage because of a beating with a paddle. Three years earlier, Ivery Luckey, a clarinet player, said he was paddled around 300 times and had to go to the hospital.

Champion's parents said their son never spoke of hazing. Robert Champion Sr. said he talked to his son just a few days before his death and everything was fine.

"I wanted to believe stuff like that wouldn't happen," he said. "I would ask my son questions. 'Is there anything you need to tell me? Let me know.' He told me, 'Dad everything is going OK. I'm working, trying to go to school and practice.'"

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