Florida A & M University (FAMU), trying to restore its prestige in the aftermath of the recent death of a FAMU band member after a hazing incident, issued a sweeping ban Tuesday on campus club intake for the remainder of the school year.
FAMU also cancelled its popular summer band camp, a key recruiting tool that historically draws several hundred top high school musicians to the FAMU campus from across the country.
“Our top priority is the health, safety and well being of students,” a FAMU statement quotes its president, Dr. James H. Ammons, as saying. “We are convening a panel of experts and outstanding thinkers to provide advice and recommendations on the operation of student organizations,” Ammons is quoted as saying.
“Before we enter into a new student intake process, we should have the benefit of the work coming from the committees and the investigations,” Ammons says in the statement, referring to ongoing law enforcement investigations by state and local police into events that led to the death last fall of 26-year-old Robert Champion, a school band drum major. Champion’s hazing-related death has been ruled a homicide.
The campus club ban, which was to take effect immediately and last through the summer, prohibits the more than 140 organizations registered at FAMU from “induction, enrollment, initiation, membership intake and recruitment” activities of any kind. The school also said it would “suspend” any organization violating the temporary suspension.
The decision, announced after a student forum Tuesday, covers sororities, fraternities, academic achievement and athletic clubs. The school did not say whether its student government association was included.
Breyon Love, president of the FAMU Student Government Association, was quoted as supporting Dr. Ammons’ move. He was quoted as saying the school needed to take “far-reaching” steps” … to make sure that all of our students are ready to seriously move in a direction that will result in a complete culture change … making sure we wipe out hazing on our campus.”
The FAMU statement said Ammons used much the same reasoning in deciding to cancel its popular one-week summer band camp. The event, which brings mostly high school band members to the FAMU campus, includes music instruction, on field marching and other activities. In past years it has drawn 200 to 500 students each year, according to a school spokesman.
“In no way have we terminated our curriculum in music,” Ammons was quoted as saying. “We have a group of talented music faculty who prepare students for great careers in music and other pursuits,” he is quoted as saying. “We will continue this very important academic program for the benefit of any current students or future students that might choose to pursue this degree. We have also continued our scholarship support of students who meet the appropriate criteria and will continue to do so, pending the availability of funds,” Ammons is quoted as saying.
The president did not address whether the school’s 400-plus-member marching band, known as The Marching 100, will be removed from suspension in time for the fall college football season. The entire band was suspended from the remainder of the current school year after Champion’s death. That incident shed light on numerous band hazing incidents at the school dating back to early 2011.
During football seasons, the Marching 100 is considered a key part of any football event in which the FAMU Rattlers football team participates. Several universities scheduled to face the Rattlers this fall have asked the university to clarify its intentions, as game attendance is boosted when FAMU’s band is scheduled to perform during half-time.