Florida A&M University's prestigious marching band, scarred by the hazing death of one of its drum majors, won't be taking the field for at least another year.
FAMU President James Ammons said Monday that the band should not take the field again until a new band director is hired and new band rules are adopted. Among the rules being considered: Academic standards for band members, more chaperones on out-of-town trips and limits on how long a student can remain in the band.
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Ammons also said that it is "critical" that all ongoing investigations into the band be wrapped up before moving forward.
Robert Champion died in November after being beaten during a hazing ritual on a band bus outside an Orlando hotel. Eleven people face felony hazing charges in his death, and two more have been charged with misdemeanors. The band was suspended soon after Champion's death, and officials tried to fire band director Julian White. He fought his dismissal, but he recently retired.
White acknowledged on Monday that the hazing problems had gotten so bad last fall that he and top universities discussed the possibility of having the Marching 100 sit out the Florida Classic game where Champion marched for the last time. Champion's mother has said the band shouldn't be reinstated until the school "cleans house."
State university system officials are still looking into whether FAMU officials ignored past warnings about hazing. Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement continues to investigate the band's finances.
FAMU has already begun making some changes following Champion's death - including a new regulation requiring those attending, visiting or working at the school to tell police within 24 hours about any hazing incidents. But some say there is still good reason to keep the band from marching for now.
"If they don't address this and things continue to happen and it could be the next person, someone else's son or daughter could die over a hazing situation, so FAMU's got to do what it has to do," said Rayshun Head, a 22-year-old student.
Source: Associated Press