Florida A&M University (FAMU) President James Ammons resigned July 11 in the wake of a hazing scandal that led to the death of one student from DeKalb County and the arrest of more than 10 members of the school’s famed “Marching 100” band.
Ammons’ announcement came on the same day the parents of Robert Champion Jr. filed a lawsuit against FAMU. Champion was a drum major in the school’s marching band and was a graduate of Southwest DeKalb High School.
Champion’s death was ruled a homicide as a result of the alleged hazing incident, which occurred Nov. 19, 2012, on a tour bus after a football game in Orlando. Champion’s parents Robert Champion Sr. and Pamela Champion have also named in the lawsuit the company that owns the bus on which the incident occurred.
“After considerable thought, introspection and conversations with my family, I have decided to resign from my position as president in order to initiate my retirement on Oct. 11, 2012,” Ammons, who served as president since 2007, said in a statement.
In the medical report, officials from the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that “the death of Robert Champion, a 26-year-old male, is the result of hemorrhagic shock due to a soft tissue hemorrhage, incurred by blunt force trauma.”
Several days after Champion’s death, FAMU Band Director Julian White was fired. In a press release, FAMU President Ammons said White was dismissed for “alleged misconduct and incompetence involving confirmed reports and allegations of hazing.”
The lawsuit alleges FAMU has a long history of “knowledge and tolerance” of hazing within the FAMU band and cites examples of hazing incidents dating back to the early 1980s.
Additionally, the suit alleges that three days before the incident that caused Champion’s death, university officials knew about ritual hazing, and FAMU Dean Henry Kirby proposed imposing a long-term suspension of the band to deal with its “egregious” hazing.
“FAMU failed to implement Dean Kirby’s proposal after opposition was voiced from FAMU Band Director Julian White,” the lawsuit states. “FAMU refused to suspend the FAMU Band prior to the Florida Classic, as suggested by Dean Kirby, due to the public notoriety and financial gain of participating in events during the three-day Florida Classic Weekend.”
The Florida State Attorney’s Office has charged 13 individuals in the hazing death of Champion. Of the 13 individuals charged, 11 are charged with felony hazing; the remaining two are charged with a hazing misdemeanor. All of the individuals charged with felony hazing have turned themselves in to various law enforcement agencies throughout Florida.