NEW: Police report describes difficulty in investigating hazing allegations
Two music professors at FAMU have been placed on leave with pay
They are being investigated over hazing allegations from 2010, the university says
The probe is not related to the suspected hazing death of Robert Champion
Two music faculty members at Florida A&M University have been placed on administrative leave due to hazing allegations related to the marching band, university officials said.
The university investigation follows the high-profile suspected hazing death of FAMU band member Robert Champion in November, but the cases are unrelated.
Faculty members Diron T. Holloway and Anthony E. Simons III were placed on leave effective Wednesday because of “allegations of misconduct and/or incompetence involving reports and allegations of hazing within the Department of Music and the Marching ‘100,’” according to the university. The Marching 100 is the university’s nationally recognized band.
Holloway is an associate professor and director of clarinets and saxophones, and Simons is an assistant professor for euphonium and tuba. The pair will receive pay while on leave, the university said.
The university did not disclose details of the investigation, but said the hazing allegations stem from an off-campus incident in 2010.
Tallahassee police conducted a separate investigation into the allegations against Holloway and Simons, but the case was closed last week after the state of Florida decided it would not pursue criminal charges because it could not prove that hazing occurred and because the statute of limitations likely expired.
The police report, however, sheds some light on the allegations and the difficulty authorities face when investigating such incidents. Many students police sought as witnesses refused to cooperate or retained lawyers.
According to the police report, the incident happened sometime in the spring of 2010, but was not reported to FAMU police until November 2011, and did not reach Tallahassee police until January of this year.
In the wake of Champion’s death, a band student and member of the Kappa Kappa Psi fraternity confided in a professor that he was involved in a hazing incident at Holloway’s home. The professor informed band director Julian White, who went to police.
The student told police that the pledges at Holloway’s house were hit on their bodies and necks, and that they were paddled with “a very thick piece of wood.”
He offered details and said he suffered bruising on his buttocks from the paddling, but told police that he had no desire to press charges.
“He stated he wanted to be there and go through the ritual so he could become a Kappa Kappa Psi member,” the police report says.
The student told the police this over the phone. When the authorities tried to set up an in-person interview, the student’s mother called to protest, saying her son would not give a statement.
When police reached out to other potential witnesses who were there the day of the alleged hazing, the response that often came back was that they couldn’t remember the incident or would have to contact a lawyer before speaking.
According to the police report, some of the witnesses relented and spoke with police, but only after subpoenas were issued.
The students offered conflicting accounts in which some admitted there was some hitting, but no blows that caused injury. Some said Holloway was present during the hitting, and others said he was not. Some witnesses said Simons was also at the house. No one admitted to having witnessed paddling.
Holloway himself was questioned by police, and said he told the fraternity members not to hit “in the face and don’t paddle.” However, according to the police report, he said paddling may have happened outside or in the garage.
He denied that he did anything resulting in bodily harm, but said, “It’s possible to say that I did do something under the circumstances… maybe I did do something.”
According to FAMU President James H. Ammons, once the university’s investigation is complete, it “will take appropriate action against faculty members or students, up to and including dismissals.”