Despite public calls for his ouster from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Florida A&M University president John Ammons will remain at the helm during the ongoing investigation into the hazing death of slain student band member Robert Champion, the university’s board of trustees announced Monday.
"We will stand firm against outside interference, no matter how well intended," Solomon Badger, the FAMU board chairman, said during Monday’s board meeting.
Just three days after investigators ruled Champion’s death a homicide, the university’s board of trustees held a meeting Monday to determine whether university president John Ammons would keep his post.
Ammons and other university leaders have come under fire for not taking bolder action in response to the culture of hazing known among the school’s marching band. Although hazing has been a known issue for years, new light was shed on the problem after 26-year-old band member Champion died after medical examiners say he was beaten to death, after the lashes he suffered caused internal bleeding, eventually sending his body into shock.
Immediately following the incident, the band’s director, Julian White, was suspended and Ammons was reprimanded by the board. However, even following the reprimand, some said that more should have been done to protect students like Champion from hazing and Ammons is directly responsible.
Less than two weeks before Champion's death, another band member, Bria Hunter, was hospitalized with a broken leg and blood clots in what authorities say was also an act of hazing.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott was one of the boldest voices to contend that Ammons should be suspended, but made clear to note that his opinion is not meant to sway the board in any direction.
"I merely suggested it would be wise for Dr. Ammons to step aside until these investigations are completed," Scott told the Associated Press. "It is up to the FAMU Board of Trustees and Dr. Ammons to determine how to proceed. I have not and will not try to influence their decision. Like all other Floridians, I will abide by the decisions made."
Despite strong public reactions against Ammons’ leadership in light of the tragedy, there remain students who believe that Ammons is still the man for the job.
Taking the helm in 2007 amid corruption and accreditation troubles, Ammons is credited with turning the university around, restoring accreditation and getting finances back on track — accomplishments that make some believe he can help the university weather this storm.
"He brought us through that," FAMU student Tommy Mitchell told AP. "There's no reason for us to believe he can't bring us through this."
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(Photo by Don Juan Moore/WireImage)