On November 19th, 2011 Robert Champion, Jr, was found dead on the charter bus belonging to Florida A & M University following a game between Bethune-Cookman parked outside an Orlando hotel. Champion was a member of the famed Florida A & M 100 marching band, one of the most prestigious marching bands that are part of the historical black colleges here in the US. Last week, the Orange County Medical Examiner ruled Champion’s death a homicide claiming he died of “hermorrhagic shock due to soft tissue hemorrhage, due to blunt force trauma.” Over the last month, this incident has sparked the interest of many African-Americans. One, due to the fact that it happened to a innocent student involved in what is now a hazing incident was killed. Two, it brings a negative blow to the many historical black colleges that provide the means for black students to earn a decent education. And finally, brings to light of how hazing in a band or fraternity/sorority is a means of what is called a “rites of passage.” A practice that many of these organizations have experienced due to the tune of lost charters and chapters of campus activities and criminal charges.
What is really shocking about this case is FAMU Band Director Julian White was placed on administrative leave for Champion’s death, but had many incidents like this while during his tenure. According to a story by Gary Fineout and Kyle Hightower of the Associated Press, “in 2001, FAMU band member Marcus Parker suffered kidney damage because of a beating with a paddle. Three years earlier, Ivery Luckey, a clarinet player from Ocala, Florida, said he was paddled around 300 times, sending him to the hospital and leaving him physically and emotionally scarred.” So, you mean to say that this death is reason for White to be placed on a leave? This is sick and he needs to be fired. The fact that he allowed these past incidents as well as Robert’s death sheds some light on how this problem could’ve been eliminated. Champion’s report according to Dr. Sara Irrgang, an associate medical examiner in this case, took the liberty to explain in detail how senseless the four students beat him. He had visual bruises on his back, chest, arms, and shoulders. The internal bleeding from his beating caused him to go into shock leading to his death. Under intense scrutiny and flack from FAMU’s board of trustees, Julian White is still on leave until the investigation is completed. Florida Governor Rick Scott is asking for the resignation of FAMU’s president. While last week, FAMU’s Board of Trustees reprimanded President James Ammons on how the handled these and past hazing incidents. University officials plan to investigate to see if hazing has been addressed properly and in a timely manner.
Just days before the Orange County Medical Examiner gave their report, three members of FAMU’s marching band were charged in the beating of a fellow bandmate. James Harris, 22, was charged with hazing, while Sean Hobson, 23, and Aaron Golson, 19, were charged with both battery and hazing. These three allegedly beat freshman band-member Bria Hunter with metal rulers and physically beating her, causing her to have blood clots in her legs and having a broken thigh bone. This incident took place three weeks before Robert Champion’s death adding to the drama of the hazing that members of the “Red Dawg Order” perform every year.
In the state of Florida, all deaths related to or involving hazing is considered a third-degree felony. This case is past a felony, it’s now a homicide. And with these new charges involving Bria Hunter, further raises the questions of why FAMU continues to let this go on?
What breaks my heart is that the actions of these students reflect the lack of supervision to a program who’s credibility brings the school notoriety and positive press around the world. Yet, the faculty turns a blind eye to the serious actions to these young adults. We’ve seen the situation unfold at Penn State where innocent teens and young adults were molested, while the school turns their back due to fear the school could lose hundreds of millions on severity of these crimes. FAMU acted in the same manner. They didn’t pay attention to the lives of the students at the risk of losing their credibility while protecting their students. College is supposed to be an enriching experience before one enters the real world. Its a time to find oneself and make decisions that will help one to become productive in society. When students hurt other students or innocently take ones life, that’s not part of what any student should endure. It seems that universities and colleges are now in the business of making money and not really paying attention to the students. If they did, then, we wouldn’t have the Coach Sandusky’s or the death of Robert Champion, Jr. I applaud the actions of sister Bria Hunter in that she made the right decision to speak the truth on hazing. Her actions are now the catalyst for schools to raise the bar on violence committed against other students. Schools have to start playing a role in dealing with hazing from jump. Not when someone dies or when they’ve made national headlines due to negative press over something that should’ve been prevented.
The Revolution Will Be Televised
The Pace Report