President of Florida A&M Resigns as Parents of Hazing Victim File Lawsuit

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The president of Florida A&M University, James H. Ammons, resigned on Wednesday, eight months after a member of the university’s celebrated marching band collapsed and died after a hazing ritual.

Dr. Ammons, who served five years as president, resigned on the same day that the parents of Robert Champion, the drum major who died Nov. 19 after being beaten, filed a lawsuit in Orlando. The lawsuit asserts that university administrators failed to do enough to end student hazing, a longstanding ritual among university band members that involved beatings and verbal abuse.

Offering an example of what it called university wrongdoing, the lawsuit states that university leaders, including the band director, failed to take action after the dean of students recommended a long-term suspension of the band three days before Mr. Champion died. The recommendation was made after a string of hazing-related episodes surfaced before the Florida Classic football game in Orlando, a showcase for the Marching 100, as the band is called.

The university is best known for its innovative band, which numbers 375 and serves as a centerpiece for fund-raising and recruiting. Administrators were not willing to suspend the band for fear it would hurt the university’s budget, the lawsuit asserts. The university’s board of trustees, the company that owns the bus on which the hazing took place and the bus driver are named in the lawsuit.

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