TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida A&M University's dean of students wanted to suspend the school's Marching 100 band for hazing practices three days before drum major Robert Champion's death, according to notes obtained in a public records request.
Dean Henry Kirby urged university administrators to shut down the famed band similar to the manner it did with a fraternity in 2006. The school suspended the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity chapter on campus after five members were charged with using wooden canes to beat a pledge during an initiation ritual. Its charter was revoked in 2007.
Kirby's notes were in materials obtained through public records request by various media. And while the professor has not discussed his notes, they suggest he sought a long-term suspension to put an end to hazing practices within the band.
"It would effectively stop all this hazing," he wrote.
Channel 4 spoke with former FAMU band member, Larry Ashley Friday night, who said it's information like this that makes Champion's death even harder to deal with.
"If the band never went he would still be here. So I think that would have made a big difference," said Ashley.
And it wasn't the first time Kirby has recommended the band and band director be suspended for failing to eradicate hazing.
"My comments were not well received and that administrators, in the past, in my opinion, did not take a firm stand on suspending the band," Kirby wrote.
Former FAMU police chief Calvin Ross, who retired earlier this year, asked administrators to keep the band home from the Nov. 19 game because of the hazing issues. It was after that game when Champion died following a beating he received during a hazing ritual aboard one of the buses that carried the band to Orlando.
If the suggestions by Kirby and Ross during the Nov. 16 meeting of top school administrators had been followed, the band would have been suspended and not in Orlando. There is no evidence that FAMU President James Ammons was aware of the discussions that day. He has said he was unaware of any hazing issues within the band.
Florida A&M is on a four-day work week summer schedule and no one was immediately available to comment on the latest report.
Kelly Layman, spokeswoman for the Board of Governors that oversees Florida's public universities, said they could not comment on the latest development because the BOG's inspector general has an ongoing investigation into the school's institutional controls.
A judge has set an October trial date for 11 marching band members charged with felony hazing in Champion's death.
Although Ammons suspended the band for the 2012-13 school year, he has hired a new band director despite a caution months ago by State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan.
"It is our strong belief that a reinstatement of the band should not be considered at this time," Brogan wrote Ammons on May 10, noting several outstanding issues including his own department's investigation into the school. "Reinstating the band prior to these issues being resolved would side-step efforts under way, which could impact the band's long-term survival."
Friday FAMU President Dr. James Ammons issued this statement:
"Prior to the Florida Classic weekend, the former provost, vice president for student affairs, former chief of police, dean of students and former department chair/band director met as a group and decided on the proper course of action in light of the recent band member suspensions, and the group's decision was for the chief of police, dean of students and band director to call together the entire band to underscore their written Anti-Hazing Agreements and the fact that hazing is against FAMU policies and a felony crime under Florida law. No one told me before the Florida Classic that they disagreed with the group's ultimate decision and course of action."
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