FAMU's Hazing Scandal: What Now?

Alumni and experts discuss what happened at FAMU and how to make sure it never happens again.


After the vigils for Robert Champion, after the marches, after the homicide investigation and after the headlines, the campus of Florida A&M University will have to move forward.

Champion, a 26-year-old drum major for FAMU's celebrated Marching 100 band, died on Nov. 19 from what authorities say was hazing.

Since then, three other members of the band have been arrested in connection with a hazing incident that occurred three weeks before Champion's death and resulted in a female student's leg being broken. Law enforcement has also opened an investigation into FAMU's finances pertaining to the band's travel.

On Dec. 16 a report was released that confirmed an investigation into the possible molestation of an 8-year-old on the school's campus by an 18-year-old. And about a month after he collapsed on an Orlando, Fla., band trip, Champion's death was ruled a homicide. It has been hard to keep track of the investigations and scandals surrounding FAMU, the nation's largest HBCU, over the past four weeks.

Two days after rejecting a recommendation by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to suspend FAMU President James Ammons while the series of investigations are conducted, the chair of the university's board of trustees spoke with The Root about how the school can get a grip on the issue of hazing.

Solomon Badger, who stressed that he was speaking for himself and not the entire board, said he would like to see a campuswide conference or discussion on the impact of hazing that involves sociologists and psychologists. He also said he would like to see something larger involving all of Florida's universities.

"It's a start," he said. "And just imagine what it could be if you had the minds of academia on 11 state universities just congregating around that same question." Badger said that college students should address hazing with high school students.

"Just like we bring that van of students around for recruiting, well, do the same thing and go around and say we're the anti-hazing people," Badger said. In addition, he wants to discuss the possibility of a credit-earning course that is focused on hazing or that would require students to participate in anti-hazing initiatives. As soon as investigations are over, he said, he will begin seriously discussing remedies for the problem.

Students at FAMU already attend anti-hazing meetings, sign anti-hazing pledges and have watched classmates go to jail. What more can be done to get them to stop hazing one another?

"I don't know if anyone has the answer to that question," said James Bland, a 26-year-old Los Angeles-based actor who graduated from FAMU in 2008. "The thing that I do know is that it has to start with the students. It has to start on the ground."