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UPDATE: Scott orders investigation into Marching 100 death, band director fired

by Dara Kam | November 23rd, 2011

UPDATE: Longtime FAMU Marching 100 band director Julian White has been fired. FAMU President James Ammons sent White a termination letter Wednesday, citing White’s inability to stop suspected hazing in the music department.

“He has been placed on administrative leave with pay, effective immediately pending the final resolution of this employment action. The reason for this intended employment action is based upon alleged misconduct and/or incompetence involving confirmed reports and allegations of hazing within the Department of Music and the ‘Marching 100.’ He has 10 days to respond in writing before action is taken,” FAMU spokeswoman Sharon Saunders said in an e-mail.


Gov. Rick Scott has ordered an investigation into the death of Robert Champion, a drum major with the renowned Florida A & M University Marching 100.

Champion, 26, was found unresponsive on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel on Saturday night after the school’s football team lost to rival Bethune-Cookman. Investigators believe hazing occurred before 911 was called. Champion was vomiting and had complained he couldn’t breathe before he collapsed. He died a short time later at a hospital.

Champion’s death has “generated great concern throughout the state and indeed the nation,” Scott wrote to Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey on Wednesday.

Acknowledging that the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is investigating Champion’s death, Scott said the FDLE inquiry is necessary as well. Under Florida law, any death involving hazing is a third-degree felony.

“The reality is that the death investigation significantly impacts the university, the Tallahassee community and the state of Florida as a whole,” Scott wrote.

Scott ordered FDLE to work with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and any other investigative agencies “to assure that the circumstances leading to Mr. Champion’s death become fully known, and that if there are individuals directly or indirectly responsible for this death, they are appropriately brought to justice and held accountable.”

University officials on Tuesday suspended the famed Marching 100 band and all other FAMU music department ensembles, affecting more than 400 students.

The Marching 100 — whose rich history includes performing at several Super Bowls and representing the U.S. in Paris at the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution — was scheduled to perform at the fall commencement on Dec. 16.

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7 Responses to “UPDATE: Scott orders investigation into Marching 100 death, band director fired”

  1. Ex-Teacher Says:

    I went to college, I remember hazing, but nothing like I heard from former students who would come back to visit and detail their hazing at FAMU.

  2. Jennifer Says:

    Unfortunately, hazing will never end. It is ingrained in the minds of American students. To be in a band or organization where respect is earned through hazing leaves a student 2 choices: go with the flow or face social suicide.

  3. Eddiev Says:

    It is unfortunate that someone had to die before this particular pocket of hazing culture comes under such scrutiny.

    Of course hazing can be abolished. It is not hard-wired into anybody; it is a social construct and can be changed by decisive action.

    If hazing led to this young man’s death, then we’re not talking about hazing; we’re talking about murder.

  4. SciGuy Says:

    Anthropology studies tell us that initiation into a culture or society takes many forms. These rituals usually involved some form of bravery for men and other activities for women. I don’t see how hazing to test a person’s desire to belong to a particular group of people is really necessary in today’s society unless you are trying to become a gang member. Musicians spend long hours practicing to polish their skills and have a motivation often missing from many other people. Hazing in a music program seems so unnecessary and counterproductive especially a band where members have to create intricate maneuvers on the field and great music together. Someone had another agenda when it came to “initiating” or hazing this young music student into FAMU’s band culture. Primitive, tribal, and crmininal now.

  5. Robert C. Says:

    Refusing hazing is not social suicide. I believe the trouble with America is the outdated and oversold college system in America. Hazing and the system produces good worker bees. America desperately needs bee hive builders. Quit college. Invest your money in a business you start and run. In the long run a young person would be far ahead of their counterparts. Stories such as this and Penn State turn my stomach.

  6. Alicia L Hunt Says:

    This is a travesty upon the reputation of an organization that has been renowned for it’s flamboyant dress and the musical abilities of the Marching 100. It is also representative of what is now a widespread problem in urban America. The blatant disregard for human life and the ignorance when “younguns” don’t know limitations. Now instead of the 120 hours needed for graduation and other possibilities the simple-minded students that did this are looking at time in jail. And on the other side a parent has lost their child who is irreplaceable. Rumor has it that this is an ongoing problem for FAMU in other areas so perhaps more than the band director should lose their job. Sounds like apathy is commonplace there now and I remember when it wasn’t!

  7. William Hill Says:

    Firing Julian White for hazing in the FAMU band is like firing our governor because of the continued illegal drug trade in the State of Florida. Those persons guilty of hazing are a part of a secret “sub-culture” who could not care less about the FAMU band or anything else other than their own sadistic impulses. Like those involved in the illegal drug trade, members of this “sub-culture” are continuously changing, secretly cultivating new members as old members are being filtered out by the establishment. When did we start hazing drum majors? I always thought that collegiate hazing was a freshman problem.

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