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Florida A&M president resigns in wake of drum-major hazing death

July 11, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • James Ammons, president of Florida A&M University, resigned Wednesday, the same day parents of a drum major who died during a hazing incident added the university to a wrongful-death lawsuit.
James Ammons, president of Florida A&M University, resigned Wednesday,… (Phil Coale / Associated…)

Florida A&M University's James Ammons resigned as president of the school on Wednesday amid an ongoing scandal involving the school’s famed marching band and the hazing death of one of its drum majors.

In a letter to the chairman of the board of trustees that was released by the university, Ammons announced he would step down as president on Oct. 11. He said he will stay on as a tenured full professor dealing with science, technology, engineering and math initiatives.

"I am indebted to you and the Board of Trustees for allowing me to work in this capacity with you and the FAMU community,” Ammons wrote to Solomon Badger III, chairman of the board.

"I am saddened by President Ammons' decision to resign, but it is his choice to do so," Badger said in a prepared statement. "Given all that has transpired, it seems to be in the best interest of the University and I applaud him for putting FAMU ahead of his personal goals.”

In June, the trustees gave Ammons a no-confidence vote and questioned his leadership.

The resignation came on the day that the parents of Robert Champion, who died in the hazing incident, filed their anticipated wrongful death suit against the university. The parents contended that the school had failed to do all it could to supervise the Marching 100 band, which had performed at Super Bowls and presidential inaugurations.

The family had previously announced that it was going to sue FAMU — Florida's only public, historically black university — after waiting the required six months. Champion died Nov. 19 in Orlando after he was beaten during a hazing ritual by members of the marching band. The hazing took place on a rented bus carrying the team to a football game against FAMU’s rival, Bethune-Cookman University.

Eleven members of the band have been charged with felonies in connection with the death.

The band’s activities have been suspended through 2013.

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Join Michael on Google+. Email: michael.muskal@latimes.com

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