TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The president of Florida A&M University received a no-confidence vote Thursday from school trustees for his handling of the hazing death of a drum major in its famed Marching 100 band, but he said afterward that he won’t resign.
The board voted 8 to 4 to approve the no-confidence measure against university president James Ammons.
Ammons signed a five-year contract extension last year. He said he plans to remain in his post and help the university stamp out what many call a culture of hazing surrounding the university and its nationally recognized band, which has played at Super Bowls and inaugurations.
“This is very serious for the future of this university,” Ammons said after Thursday’s vote. “You have my commitment to fix them and get this job done.”
The school has been reeling since the November death of drum major Robert Champion. Eleven members of the band have been charged with felony hazing for allegedly beating him to death. The death exposed a wide culture of hazing at the school. Critics say Ammons and other administrators ignored it.
Champion died after being beaten in a band bus outside an Orlando hotel after a football game. Ammons suspended The Marching 100 soon afterward and last month announced he was continuing the suspension for the coming year.
Ammons became president in 2007 following a budget scandal that threatened the school’s accreditation. He said recently that the current crisis triggered by Champion’s death marks the biggest challenge of his career.
Trustees who voted against Ammons not only cited problems with hazing and The Marching 100, but also the fact that a top auditor at the university resigned after it was revealed that false audit summaries were presented to the board of trustees. The university is also struggling with financial woes because of state budget cuts and a likely decline in enrollment this fall.
The school, meanwhile, wants to launch a major fundraising campaign in the coming year but its athletic program, now grappling with a deficit, must figure out how to fill football stands this fall even though the band has been suspended for the coming year.
“I do not have confidence in Dr. Ammons to lead us out of this crisis,” trustee Bill Jennings said.
Narayan Persaud, the faculty member on the board, said he had concluded that the university was “caught in a wilderness of errors.”
“How can we reclaim control of the dignity of this once prestigious university has been pulled backwards and backwards?” Persaud said.
Last month, university officials acknowledged 101 members on the 457-member marching band roster were not FAMU students. Earlier this week, Ammons proposed limiting the band to only full-time FAMU students and stiffening requirements for membership.