FAMU head keeps job during hazing death probe

Updated:

Loading

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.,None - Florida A&M University's president will keep his job while authorities investigate the hazing death of a band member. The university's board of trustees on Monday rejected a call by Gov. Rick Scott that James Ammons be suspended.

None of the trustees on the Monday morning conference call even suggested the board  act on Scott's recommendation to suspend Ammons.

"We will stand firm against outside influence, regardless of how well intended," FAMU board chairman Solomon Badger said.

The decision comes three days after the state medical examiner ruled that 26-year-old Robert Champion's Nov. 19 death was a homicide, with Champion beaten to death as part of an alleged hazing ritual.

Sources said Champion was forced to run up and down the aisle of a charter bus after the Florida Classic in Orlando while taking blows that led to bruising in his arms, shoulder and back. Officials said he was beaten so severely that he bled internally and went into shock. He died within an hour.

"It's clearly a cruel and hateful thing to have anybody go through," Champion's mother said.

Champion's parents said they want someone to pay for killing their son. It's clear  they're still in mourning, but  they are reserving judgement about the university's president until the investigation is finished.

Ammons and other university leaders have been criticized for not doing enough to stop a culture of hazing within the university's famed "Marching 100" band. Band director Julian White has been placed on temporary leave and the board had already publicly reprimanded Ammons.

Less than two weeks before Champion's death, band member Bria Hunter was hospitalized with a broken leg and blood clots in what authorities say was another act of hazing. Three band members have been charged in the beating.

And two days before Champion died, White sent a letter to alumni, urging them not to "return and perpetuate the myth of various sectional names."

"You should not return and look down on people who follow university regulations by not participating in sub-organizations," White wrote, urging alumni to help him eliminate "all vestiges of hazing" in the band.

"What I would like to do is see what kind of things they're going to put in place to make sure this thing doesn't happen again," Champion's father said.

Ammons suspended the band after Champion's death, dismissed White and expelled four students in connection with the hazing. White was later placed on temporary leave and the students were allowed to attend class after state authorities urged the university not to take disciplinary action before the investigation was complete.

In a statement released on Monday by Scott, he said, "For the sake of appearances, and to assure the public that these investigations are clearly independent, I believe it would have been in the best interest of Florida A&M University for President Ammons to step aside until all of these investigations are completed. However, we have a process in Florida for the administration of the State University System, and that process has been followed.  Like all other Floridians, I will abide by the decision made by the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees."

The FAMU board of trustees voted Monday to meet weekly for the next 60 days. The sheriff's office is still investigating who -- if anyone -- will be charged.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.