FAMU board approves plan to battle hazing

Florida A&M University student and band member Robert Champion, 26, died November 19.

Story highlights

  • The plan includes a memorial, a scholarship and the creation of an independent panel
  • It passed in a 9-1 vote
  • Investigators are looking into the death of drum major Robert Champion
Nearly two months since the hazing death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, the school's board of trustees voted Monday to approve a three-part plan to tackle the issue of hazing on campus.
The strategy, devised by the public relations firm hired by FAMU in December, Dan Klores Communications, includes creating a memorial on campus for Champion, setting up a scholarship in the deceased drum major's name and organizing an independent blue-ribbon panel of experts to examine hazing.
Trustee Belinda Reed Shannon proposed the measures during a scheduled monthly conference call with fellow board members, and said she would lead the task of selecting the panel of five experts, with backgrounds in law, academia, public policy, psychology and band organizations.
The proposal passed in a 9-1 vote, with the only opposition coming from trustee Narayan Persaud, who described the strategy as "shortsighted."
Shannon told board members the panel would take a "forward looking" approach at hazing on campus, and that it would not conflict with any current investigations into the Marching 100 band at FAMU.
Monday's vote came two weeks after a December conference call, when board members agreed to take a more active role in examining the culture of hazing on campus.
Champion, 26, collapsed in Orlando on a bus carrying members of the band after a November football game that included a halftime performance by the group.
Christopher Chestnut, a lawyer for Champion's family, has charged that Champion died after receiving "some dramatic blows, perhaps (having an) elevated heart rate" tied to "a hazing ritual" that took place on the bus.
Some band members have said Champion died after taking part in a rite of passage called "crossing Bus C." One member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that students "walk from the front of the bus to the back of the bus backward while the bus is full of other band members, and you get beaten until you get to the back."
No one has been charged in Champion's death; the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Orange County Sheriff's Office are investigating the case.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also launched a separate investigation into band employees, who were allegedly engaged in financial fraud.
The medical examiner's office has said Champion "collapsed and died within an hour of a hazing incident during which he suffered multiple blunt trauma blows to his body."
An autopsy conducted after his death found "extensive contusions of his chest, arms, shoulder and back," as well as "evidence of crushing of areas of subcutaneous fat," which is the fatty tissue directly under a person's skin.