The president of Florida A&M University announced late Thursday that he was postponing the work of a task force he appointed to review anti-hazing rules at FAMU, which is reeling after the hazing-related death of drum major Robert Champion in Orlando last month
FAMU President James Ammons said he thought it would be "prudent" instead to fully cooperate in various investigations already under way into Champion's death. The Board of Governors, the Orange County Sheriff's Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement are already looking into Champion's death.
Ammons confirmed to The Associated Press that he dismissed four students but it is not clear whether it was tied to the death investigation.
The president's statements come amid the release of a 911 audio this week from people who tried to help Champion after he collapsed Nov. 19 aboard a bus parked behind the Rosen Plaza hotel.
"He is in my hands, ma'am. He's cold. He's in my hands," a caller said.
The dramatic audio was released the same day Florida Gov. Rick Scott called on all state universities to crack down on hazing, encouraging presidents to "reevaluate…hazing and harassment policies and procedures."
During the 911 call, the man said he was affiliated with FAMU and told the dispatcher that that there was vomit in Champion's mouth: "His eyes are open but he's not responding," he said.
In the background, another voice is heard saying he was calling band director Julian White, who was fired shortly after Champion's death.
The 71-year-old White is fighting to get his job back and told the New York Times that a small group of band members punched Champion repeatedly as part of a hazing ritual. Authorities have not confirmed those details but Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said the death was related to hazing.
"People are coming out of woodwork now saying they were hazed," said FAMU trustee and alumnus Dr. Spurgeon McWilliams, whose son was also hazed in 1989 as a trumpet player for the Marching 100.
His son was hit on the head and taunted with songs, causing him to leave the school for a time. McWiIliams said administration did nothing then but he continued to support the school years later.
"If somebody's wrong, they are wrong but we don't know that yet," McWilliams said, adding he knew nothing about the school's most recent hazing allegations.
The highly-publicized fatality has "opened up all kinds of wounds," for Vonda Carson, who said her daughter Tranea Cannon was severely beaten in 2007 during a hazing incident.
Family spokesman Robert Weneck said Cannon, a trombonist, was beaten and stomped so badly that she had boot marks on her face and urinated blood.
Carson said she was reluctant to speak out but "something has to be done to stop it."
email@example.com or 407-420-5471Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun