Florida A&M University’s now infamous Marching 100 Band is free to march again.

Interim President Larry Robinson announced June 27 that the school is lifting a suspension imposed in the wake of the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion, according to Tallahassee, Fla. ABC affiliate WXTL.

Champion, 26, was found dead in a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game on Nov. 19, 2011.

The drum major’s torso was covered in bruises, which investigators said were inflicted by bandmates who brutally pummeled him with fists, feet, straps and sticks, which contributed to his collapse. The death was ruled a homicide.

Thirteen band members were charged in Champion’s death; two have already been sentenced to probation.

The band, known for performing at presidential inaugurations and Super Bowls, has been barred from performing since the death. The incident also resulted in the retirement of band director Julian White and contributed to the resignation of university president James Ammons.

The university recently hired Sylvester Young—a FAMU alumnus and former director of the Ohio University marching band—as the Marching 100’s new leader.

During the press conference, Robinson also detailed changes the school had made to combat hazing including new academic standards for band members, new procedures for reporting and investigating hazing allegations, a website called StopHazingFAMU.com, campus forums on hazing, a zero-tolerance policy and more.

“It has helped us to respond more swiftly and decisively to any allegations of hazing and any university group, emphasizing our board’s policy of zero tolerance towards hazing,” Robinson said, according to the Associated Press.

The band has already begun practicing, the president said, and they expect to make their official return when the football season opens in September, according to the AP.

“We are looking at the faculty who will be involved in the band under the new structure, the maximum and minimum sizes of musical units needed for standard of excellence we’ve grown accustom to. We are also assessing equipment, uniforms, pre-drill activities and other related processes to determine our readiness,” said Young, according to WXTL. “As soon as the assessment is completed, we will announce when the first public performance is scheduled.”

Champion’s parents decried the university’s decision, saying there is no evidence that the anti-hazing measures are working.

Pam Champion told the AP that there have been several other hazing incidents at FAMU since her son’s death.

“We have to look at what has been done and whether what has been done is effective enough. They don’t know. They’ve been forced to put something in place, but there is no proof that what they have in place … is effective,” she said. “I’d like to understand the rush to get that band back on the field. What is that real rush? What is your real priority here?”


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO