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Report sharply criticizes Florida A&M after hazing death

Florida A&M lacked controls to identify and halt hazing before the death of drum major Robert Champion, an inquiry finds.

December 28, 2012|By Denise-Marie Ordway
  • Robert Gerald and Pam Champion, the parents of Robert Champion, mark the one-year anniversary of their son's death, at the Community Achievement Center in Decatur, Ga.
Robert Gerald and Pam Champion, the parents of Robert Champion, mark the… (Curtis Compton, Atlanta…)

ORLANDO — Florida A&M University lacked the internal and institutional controls it needed to identify and fight hazing before the beating death of drum major Robert Champion in Orlando a year ago, according to a long-awaited investigative report that was released Friday.

The sharply critical report focuses on numerous problems that the State University System of Florida found during its yearlong investigation into whether FAMU did enough to deter hazing in the years before Champion was beaten by fellow marching band members after the Florida Classic football game.

Derry Harper, inspector general for the Board of Governors, which oversees Florida's 12 public universities, reviewed hazing complaints at FAMU between 2007 and 2011. He discovered numerous failings, including a lack of communication between the university's police department and the office that handles student discipline.

Most of the hazing cases reported to campus police were not shared with the discipline office, as they should have been, the report said. It also said nobody was tracking hazing complaints and disciplinary actions.

FAMU has 15 days to respond to the report, which is considered preliminary until the university submits a written response.

Public records, including police reports and letters from parents, show that FAMU has wrestled with hazing for years and that hazing within the Marching 100 was a grave concern even days before the band left to perform in Orlando.

Three days before Champion's death on Nov. 19, 2011, at least two key administrators — including the chief of the university's police department and the dean of students — recommended the band be suspended and not travel to Orlando, according to interviews and university documents.

Several administrators gathered on Nov. 16, 2011, specifically to discuss their concerns about hazing in the band.

dordway@tribune.com

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