Florida A&M University president Ammons on way out?by Dara Kam | December 16th, 2011
Florida A&M University Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion‘s hazing-related death was a homicide, an autopsy report ruled today.
The Orlando medical examiner’s findings were released as Gov. Rick Scott stepped up pressure for the historically black university’s president James Ammons to step down.
After being summoned to Scott’s office this afternoon, a subdued Ammons – until then appearing to reject calls for his ouster – said the governor was committed to preserving FAMU’s future and indicated he may go along with Scott’s recommendation before the university’s board of trustees meet on the issue, again at Scott’s urging, by telephone Monday morning.
“It’s something I’m considering,” Ammons told reporters before leaving the Capitol to hand out diplomas at FAMU’s fall graduation ceremony.
Champion’s death was caused by internal bleeding after suffering blunt trauma, the Orlando medical examiner’s office said. The autopsy found the 26-year-old had bruises to his chest, arms, shoulder and back and suffered bleeding from soft tissues.
Former state Sen. Al Lawson, a FAMU alumnus who accompanied Ammons to Scott’s office in the role of mediator, said it was no surprise that Champion’s death was a homicide.
“This young man lost his life as a result of hazing. It had to do with a lot of physical blows and so forth, in that report. I think everybody expected that it would be that,” Lawson said. “We know the history of hazing at the university. It’s been around since the early 50s.”
Lawson also advised Ammons to stay on the job until the trustees reach a decision Monday morning, and indicated the governor-appointed board may not agree with Scott.
“Whether that’s consistent with the governor’s recommendation…It may not be,” Lawson said. It’s obvious the board of trustees have a lot of pressure on them. Anytime the governor speaks, it creates pressure. I think it’s going to be a long weekend for them.”
But Scott insists Ammons should step aside until the investigations into Champion’s death and FAMU administration’s handling of hazing are complete so that the public “feels comfortable” that the inquiry is “fair and open and people are cooperating.”
“I care about what happens to FAMU. It’s important to our state. It’s important to the country. And I want to make sure that I let people know what I believe because I think it’s the right thing for James Ammons, the president. I think it’s the right thing for FAMU. And I think it’s the right thing for the state,” Scott told reporters before meeting with Ammons.
But Ammons supporters, including hundreds of students who protested outside the governor’s mansion last night and whom Scott addressed with a bullhorn, want Scott to butt out.
“It’s particularly galling that the governor justifies his action as a way to assure people the university is fully cooperating,” FAMU alumna and state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said in a statement. “This is the same Rick Scott who had no similar compunction to immediately step aside as CEO of HCA when the FBI launched its probe into what became the largest health care fraud case ever in this country’s history.”