By JAMES L. ROSICA
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — Florida A&M University trustees Thursday called on a group of outside experts to help come up with solutions to hazing, which led to the death of a student band member last fall.
FAMU president James Ammons announced the school’s new anti-hazing committee, which will start work immediately, at a university board of trustees meeting. Ammons also announced an anti-hazing research initiative, in which FAMU professors can compete for two grants of $25,000 to carry out research on hazing.
But a friend of Robert Champion, the FAMU drum major who died from hazing, said he questioned whether a committee of outsiders will be able to unravel the mystery of why hazing is so pervasive on campus.
“We need to fix the actual issue that we are having at this university,” said senior Travis Roberts, a clarinetist in the Marching 100 band.
“How will they gain enough evidence from the student body to make proper recommendations? I respect their background, but they have to focus on what’s happening here.”
Even Roberts, however, said he didn’t know what causes hazing at FAMU.
The public university has been dealing with the recent hazing-related death of Champion as well as the separate arrests of FAMU students on charges of hazing other students in the school’s famed marching band.
The anti-hazing committee’s members are:
— Na’im Akbar, a Tallahassee-based clinical psychologist who specializes in Afrocentric psychology;
— Elizabeth J. Allan, a higher education professor at the University of Maine who has researched hazing for 20 years;
— Michael V. Bowie, executive director of the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers, which awards scholarships to college students intending to become public school teachers;
— David Brewer, a former superintendent of the Los Angeles school system and a retired Navy admiral;
— Mary Madden, another University of Maine professor and hazing researcher. She co-directs the National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention with Allan;
— Stephen Craig Robinson, who will chair the panel. He is a former federal judge and U.S. attorney and was an attorney for the FBI;
— David Starnes, band director and music professor at Western Carolina University.
FAMU trustee Belinda Reed Shannon, who helped select the committee members, said they will work largely through conference calls and the Internet and will continue “as long as is necessary.” She said she expects an initial set of recommendations in about two months.
The committee will look into hazing at other colleges and how it’s been addressed, what works in getting students to resist hazing other students and how to best oversee the Marching 100, Shannon said.
Ammons already has cancelled a summer band camp and stopped students from joining student groups. That move prevents clubs and organizations from recruiting any new members during the spring and summer semesters. Any organization that violates the ban will be suspended from campus.
In November, Champion died hours after the Florida Classic football game in Orlando in what authorities said was a hazing ritual. His death from shock caused by severe internal bleeding has been ruled a homicide. No charges have yet been brought in his death.
Three people were charged after alleged hazing ceremonies Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, when a student’s legs were beaten with fists and a metal ruler to initiate her into the “Red Dawg Order,” a band clique for students who hail from Georgia.
And another four were charged last month with hazing pledges of a Florida A&M marching band club known as the “Clones.” Those students were dismissed from the school.
The Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s 11 public universities, has launched its own investigation into whether FAMU officials ignored past warnings about hazing. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also is investigating the Marching 100’s finances.
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