The Commercial Appeal
FAMU lifts suspension of marching band
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida A& M University’s interim president lifted the suspension of its famous Marching 100 band Thursday about a year and a half after a drum major’s death led to the departure of school leaders and reforms trying to crack down on brutal hazing in the band, fraternities and other groups.
Interim President Larry Robinson said the university has taking many steps to prevent and investigate hazing, including a revision to the anti-hazing and student conduct polices, student forums on hazing, an anti-hazing website, money to research hazing prevention and creating two new positions to address hazing.
“It has helped us to respond more swiftly and decisively to any allegations of hazing,” he said.
The anti-hazing efforts were a response to the death of Robert Champion of Decatur, Ga., in November 2011. Prosecutors say he collapsed and died after walking down a gantlet of other band members who beat him with fists and instruments on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel following a football game.
The hazing scandal led to the retirement of band director Julian White and the resignation of former President James Ammons.
Last month, the university hired Sylvester Young to rebuild the band. Young is a FAMU alumnus and one-time director of the Ohio University marching band. Robinson said he tapped Young because he had the experience and strong discipline to help the school decide when it was right time for the Marching 100 to return to the field.
Young said he was already holding rehearsals and he hoped, but didn’t guarantee, that the band would be ready to take the field when the football season starts. The Rattlers open their season against Mississippi Valley State in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge on Sept. 1 in Orlando. Their first home game is Sept. 7 against Tennessee State.
About 14 band members have been charged criminally in the beating, and several have pleaded no contest or guilty to reduced charges.