FAMU's band director steps down after 40 years
Board of trustees plan to meet next week to discuss band's fate
FAMU drum major Robert Champion died after a November hazing incident
Thirteen people have been charged in his death
Florida A&M University band director Julian White, who had been under pressure to step aside after the hazing-related death of a band member, is retiring, his attorney announced Thursday.
White, 71, is stepping down just days after 13 people were charged in connection with the November 2011 hazing death of FAMU Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion. White was placed on paid administrative leave shortly after Champion’s death.
FAMU’s board of trustees is scheduled to meet on May 14 to discuss the future of the band.
Champion, 26, died within an hour of his 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.
As recently as last week, White had asked for full reinstatement as director of the famed university band.
White, who had been with FAMU for 40 years, had tried to root out hazing for the past 22 years, his attorney Chuck Hobbs said.
“Dr. White remains disappointed that barely 48 hours after meeting with band members, that Robert Champion was killed in an extreme, horrific and illegal act of bullying,” Hobbs said in an earlier statement.
The death prompted the university board of trustees to approve an anti-hazing plan that includes an independent panel of experts to investigate.
Currently, 13 people are charged in Champion’s death, 11 are facing felony hazing charges and two others are charged with misdemeanor hazing.
Champion’s death brought renewed public scrutiny to the practice of hazing, which has gone on for years despite what the Tallahassee university said were efforts to stop it.
Champion’s mother, Pam, has called for the FAMU band to be disbanded.
“They need to clean out the filth to move forward. How can they allow the band out there?” she said last week. “They haven’t done anything to safeguard students – certainly not my son. My son was murdered.”