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Thursday, June 7, 2012

FAMU President James Ammons Receives "No Confidence" Vote From School Trustees: Robert Champion's Hazing Death

FAMU President James Ammons is in the Hot Seat!
After a "No Confidence" Vote by School Trustees, Ammons' job is on the line.
Ammons was criticized for his mishandling of Bandmember Robert Champion's Hazing Death Investigation.
It appears Mr. Ammons has long cultivated an environment ripe for Hazing.
If this is true than Yes it is most certainly time for FAMU to seek New Leadership.

No-Confidence Vote for FAMU Head Over Hazing

The president of Florida A&M University received a no-confidence vote Thursday from school trustees for his handling of the hazing death of a drum major in its famed Marching 100 band, but he said afterward that he won't resign.

The board voted 8 to 4 to approve the no-confidence measure against university president James Ammons.

Ammons signed a five-year contract extension last year. He said he plans to remain in his post and help the university stamp out what many call a culture of hazing surrounding the university and its nationally recognized band, which has played at Super Bowls and inaugurations.

"This is very serious for the future of this university," Ammons said after Thursday's vote. "You have my commitment to fix them and get this job done."

The school has been reeling since the November death of drum major Robert Champion. Eleven members of the band have been charged with felony hazing for allegedly beating him to death. The death exposed a wide culture of hazing at the school. Critics say Ammons and other administrators ignored it.

Champion died after being beaten in a band bus outside an Orlando hotel after a football game. Ammons suspended The Marching 100 soon afterward and last month announced he was continuing the suspension for the coming year.

Ammons became president in 2007 following a budget scandal that threatened the school's accreditation. He said recently that the current crisis triggered by Champion's death marks the biggest challenge of his career.

Trustees who voted against Ammons not only cited problems with hazing and The Marching 100, but also the fact that a top auditor at the university resigned after it was revealed that false audit summaries were presented to the board of trustees. The university is also struggling with financial woes because of state budget cuts and a likely decline in enrollment this fall.

The school, meanwhile, wants to launch a major fundraising campaign in the coming year but its athletic program, now grappling with a deficit, must figure out how to fill football stands this fall even though the band has been suspended for the coming year.

"I do not have confidence in Dr. Ammons to lead us out of this crisis," trustee Bill Jennings said.

Narayan Persaud, the faculty member on the board, said he had concluded that the university was "caught in a wilderness of errors."

"How can we reclaim control of the dignity of this once prestigious university has been pulled backwards and backwards?" Persaud said.

Last month, university officials acknowledged 101 members on the 457-member marching band roster were not FAMU students. Earlier this week, Ammons proposed limiting the band to only full-time FAMU students and stiffening requirements for membership.

No-Confidence Vote for FAMU Head Over Hazing

FAMU president gets no confidence vote amid hazing scandal

The Florida A&M Board of Trustees issued a vote of no confidence against the university's president Thursday in the wake of last year's hazing death of a school band member.

President James Ammons acknowledged the board's feelings after the 8-4 vote.

"I hear you loudly and clearly," Ammons said. "I understand there are measures I have to take, as president of the university, to fix things. And I will fix them."

The vote followed a series of investigations into the university amid concerns over the November death of drum major Robert Champion. The vote was also related to financial audits that resulted from the investigation.

Champion's family said they agreed with the vote.

"They have no confidence in Dr. Ammons' ability to effectively manage this hazing crisis," the family said in a statement released by their spokesman, Ryan Julison.

Champion, 26, died after the initiation ritual aboard a bus, of what the Orange County medical examiner said was "hemorrhagic shock due to soft tissue hemorrhage, due to blunt force trauma."

The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, prompting a police investigation and renewed public scrutiny of hazing in the university's famed Marching 100 marching band, which got its name in 1950 and actually has about 400 members.

Four students were expelled from the school and another 30 were dismissed from the band soon after Champion's death.

The police investigation resulted in charges against 14 people. Eleven face one count of third-degree felony hazing resulting in death. Each also is accused of two counts of first-degree misdemeanor hazing.

State law provides a prison term of up to six years for those facing the more serious charges.

Three people each face a single count of misdemeanor first-degree hazing. Sentences in such cases typically call for up to a year in jail.

FAMU said it took steps to eradicate the problem of hazing after Champion's death, and the the board of trustees approved an anti-hazing plan that includes an independent panel of experts to investigate hazing allegations.

The band has been suspended since Champion's death and Ammons said last month it will stay inactive through the upcoming school year. The band's long-time director, Julian White, retired earlier this month.

There are more than 2,000 pages of police interviews with witnesses and defendants who were aboard the bus on the day of Champion's death.

Multiple witnesses say Champion was forced to walk, shirtless, from the front of the darkened bus to the back while being beaten with drumsticks, bass drum mallets, punches and kicks.

"You get beaten until you get to the back," one band member said on the condition of anonymity.

Drum major Keon Hollis told investigators he went through the same ritual just ahead of Champion and that they did it to gain respect.

Hollis said they had to fight their way through a fury of punches and slaps, while other band members swung with sticks and straps.

"(Robert) really didn't want to do it, but he was kind of like, 'I'm just going to do it,' " Hollis said. "You know, I told him, I said, 'if you don't want to do it, don't do it.' "

Champion's parents say their son was against hazing and would not have participated willingly.

The Marching 100 is one of the top university marching bands in the United States, famed for its elaborate dance formations and innovative style incorporating popular music.

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Sources: ABC News, CNN, New Service Florida, NY Times, Youtube, Google Maps

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