FAMU president says students were involved in the death of Robert Champion.
FAMU President James H. Ammons said that the expulsions were connected to Champion’s death in a memo to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, but didn’t specify what the students had done. He also confirmed that 30 other students had been dismissed from the band prior to Champion's death. He added that now “is not a time for silence; if there are cases of misconduct then we encourage people to report those to the proper authorities.”
The 26-year-old drum major died on Nov. 19 after performing with the Marching 100 at a FAMU–Bethune-Cookman football game in Orlando. The Orange County Sheriff's Office suspects hazing was a factor, however, authorities have not released the official cause of death. Emergency 9-11 recordings from that night indicate that Champion had vomit in his nose and mouth moments before he died.
Shortly after the incident, Ammons also fired longtime band director Julian E. White, amid accusations of “alleged misconduct and/or incompetence” involving confirmed reports of hazing “with the Department of Music and the Marching 100.” White has since fired back that he warned the school of the band’s dangerous hazing practices and called the horrific acts of initiation “a phenomenon” among marching bands around the country. Sadly, Champion’s death is one of several strikes against the band’s good name, including an incident involving a trumpet player in 2001 who suffered kidney failure after he was paddled 30 times with a wooden board.
Since Champion’s death, the president has suspended all band performances and said he will enact a task force "to determine if there are any unauthorized and questionable activities associated with the culture of the Marching 100."
The incident casts a dark cloud over the band’s reputation as electric performers. The band was scheduled to be the first HBCU to perform at Carnegie Hall and previously performed at President Obama's inauguration parade in 2009.
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