Amid ongoing investigations into the death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, the school’s board of trustees has come to an agreement on how the institution will move forward with its efforts to stem the culture of hazing that has become synonymous with band membership.
In a 9-1 vote Monday, the board approved a plan which includes the formation of an independent committee tasked with studying hazing, as well as the construction of a campus memorial in memory of Champion and the creation of a scholarship in Champion’s name.
The board specified that the independent committee would consist of five experts from the fields of law, academia, public policy, psychology and band organizations. The panel will examine hazing at other universities and how students resist hazing in an effort to determine how the university’s award-winning Marching 100 band should be managed.
Although the trustees came to the decision with just one dissenter, who called the measures “shortsighted,” Champion’s family seemed to agree with the lone, rogue trustee.
"Memorials, scholarships and committees will not bring Robert Champion back, nor will they prevent another student from dying as a result of the culture of hazing in the FAMU marching band," the family's attorney, Christopher Chestnut, said in an email, according to The Associated Press. "We hope that the FAMU administration focuses its time and resources on developing substantive strategies that protect its band members from hazing; that is the legacy Robert would have wanted."
Champion, 26, collapsed and died in November just hours after performing during halftime at the annual Florida Classic football game. Police believe that his death was the result of a hazing ritual and have ruled the death a homicide. Medical examiners say that his body showed signs of severe trauma, the likes of which is usually only seen in car accidents, prolonged seizures, child abuse and torture.
Although still unconfirmed by police, some students have spoken out and said that Champion’s death was the result of a FAMU band ritual called “crossing Bus C.” An anonymous student told CNN that the hazing rite requires members to "walk from the front of the bus to the back of the bus backward while the bus is full of other band members, and you get beaten until you get to the back."
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(Photo: Jim Rassol: Sun Sentinel/MCT /Landov)