updated 12/19/2011 12:15:42 PM ET 2011-12-19T17:15:42

Florida A&M's president will keep his job after the university board of trustees Monday rejected a call from Gov. Rick Scott that James Ammons be suspended while the hazing death of a band member is investigated.

The decision comes three days after the state medical examiner ruled that 26-year-old Robert Champion's Nov. 19 death was a homicide. Officials say he was beaten so severely that he bled internally and went into shock. He died within an hour.

"We will stand firm against outside influence, no matter how well intended," Solomon Badger, the FAMU board chairman, said during a board meeting that was held by conference call.

Scott said he would abide by the board's decision.

Ammons and other university leaders have been criticized for not doing enough to stop a culture of hazing within the university's famed "Marching 100" band. Band director Julian White has been placed on temporary leave and the board had already publicly reprimanded Ammons.

Students protest
Students had largely stood by both leaders. Students protested outside the governor's mansion on Thursday to show support for Ammons, and the president of the national alumni association at a news conference Sunday contested Scott's involvement and recommend Ammons not be suspended.

Badger said that the board should keep Ammons status unchanged until an investigation with all the "official facts" was concluded. None of the FAMU board members disagreed with Badger.

"I think we all have the number one priority of keeping the university strong as we move through this challenging time," said Kelvin Lawson, a board member from Jacksonville.

Video: Florida A&M hazing fallout (on this page)

The only action related to the investigations that the board took was to agree to meet weekly for the next day 60 days while the investigations continue. There was scant discussion of the homicide ruling or the opening of a new criminal investigation into the finances of the Marching 100.

Scott said in a statement issued before the meeting that he was not singling out FAMU and called on all universities in the state to examine their hazing and harassment policies. He said he was offering his opinion and counsel regarding Ammons and would abide by the board's decision.

"I merely suggested it would be wise for Dr. Ammons to step aside until these investigations are completed," Scott said. "It is up to the FAMU Board of Trustees and Dr. Ammons to determine how to proceed. I have not and will not try to influence their decision."

Champion died after falling unconscious on a bus outside an Orlando hotel after the school's football team lost to rival Bethune-Cookman. Witnesses told emergency dispatchers that he had been vomiting.

Paddling injuries
The medical examiner's office in Orlando found that Champion had bruises to his chest, arms, shoulder and back and internal bleeding. No charges have been filed.

Champion's death exposed years of hazing that has plagued the band and left several students injured. In 1998, Ivery Luckey, a clarinet player from Ocala, Fla., was hospitalized with kidney damage after being paddled as part of an initiation to become a member of a group known as "The Clones." Three years later, band member Marcus Parker was also hospitalized with kidney damage after being paddled.

Ammons, a FAMU alumni, became president in 2007 at a time when the university was under considerable distress. There had been four presidents within the previous six years and an audit in 2007 uncovered 35 findings, including $4.5 million in unaccounted sports tickets and lost equipment. The university was placed under probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Under Ammons' leadership, the university's accreditation was restored and its finances improved. An audit done two years later found the university still needed to do a better job at paying bills on time and keeping a closer eye on employee use of state-owned cell phones, but those problems paled in comparison to the previous report.

But hazing continued to be a problem. White has provided letters of suspension issued to dozens of band members for hazing, including many of which Ammons was reportedly provided a copy.

Band members charged
Less than two weeks before Champion's death, band member Bria Hunter was hospitalized with a broken leg and blood clots in what authorities say was another act of hazing. Three band members have been charged in the beating.

And two days before Champion died, White sent a letter to alumni, urging them not to "return and perpetuate the myth of various sectional names."

But FAMU alumni have insisted that the problem of hazing is widespread across the country and that too much attention is being focused on their university.

"Name another university president that suspended a president for hazing," said Tommy Mitchell, president of the FAMU National Alumni Association. Mitchell also went so far as to question "why is that this hazing has gotten so much attention?"

Ammons suspended the band after Champion's death, dismissed White and expelled four students in connection with the hazing. White was later placed on temporary leave and the students were allowed to attend class after state authorities urged the university not to take disciplinary action before the investigation was complete.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has warned Scott's push to suspend Ammons could affect the school's accreditation because of "undue influence" on the board from outside.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Florida A&M hazing fallout

  1. Closed captioning of: Florida A&M hazing fallout

    >>> his job, at least for now. this morning, school trustees jekted calls from florida 's governor to suspend him as authorities investigate the apparent hazing death of a marching band member. the school's president has been criticized for not doing enough to stop the hazing. joining us today is florida congresswoman, careen brown. she is an alum nis of famu. nice to have you.

    >> thank you very much.

    >> i want to start with your personal connections so everybody understands. as i understand it, you earned your bachelor's degree from famu. this is one of the most famous black universities in the u.s. how is this student's death and allegations of hazing impacted the institution itself and its reputation?

    >> first of all, let me just say that the entire florida a&m family, hearts go out to robert champion and his family. this is a sad situation and legal action is being taken place. but to single out florida a&m and historical black colleges, this is a problem that exists not just in historical black institutions and throughout florida and the country. i pulled a record is between schools with this problem and we need to address it. a unique problem at florida a&m yufrts and let me also say that when you look at solutions, we need to look at, we don't just throw out, i've heard people say let's do away with the band. with sororities and fraternities. if you have a problem with a police officer , you don't do away with the entire police force . you correct it. that's what we need to do here.

    >> i think at many universities and colleges, hazing situations that go unnoticed, you're quoted as saying florida governor rick scott overstepped his bounds by calling for amonos to be suspended. why do you feel he overreached, if you look at the records, there are these incidents of hazing within the band itself.

    >> let's be clear. florida has a board of trustees , a board of region, a board that regulates the institutions. and clearly for the government to step in like he did, jeopardizes accreditation status of florida a&m and that would be true of any school in florida . we have a trustee board that regulates the schools. we have a board, educational board that also educates the -- that regulates the higher ed institutions in florida .

    >> and you're saying that this really needs to be looked upon as how the culture of the institution, the marching band itself has been allowed to perpetuate. doesn't need to be disbanded, but needs to be investigated.

    >> and corrected. that's what we do. if you have a judge and that it's a problem with the judge, you don't dismantle the entire criminal justice system .

    >> as you make a great point, the hearts go out to the family.

    >> and it's no winners with this. heart goes out to the entire institution.

    >> we understand your feelings on this, thanks for your time. i appreciate it. that's going


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments