FAMU Lifts Suspension of Marching Band - Higher Education
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FAMU Lifts Suspension of Marching Band

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by Brendan Farrington, Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida A&M University’s interim president said Thursday he was lifting the suspension of its famous Marching 100 band about a year and a half after a drum major’s death that led to the departure of school leaders and reforms trying to crack down on brutal hazing in the band.

Interim President Larry Robinson announced the end of the suspension Thursday. The hazing scandal led to the retirement of band director Julian White and contributed to the resignation of former President James Ammons.

Prosecutors say drum major Robert Champion from Decatur, Ga., collapsed and died after walking down a gantlet of other band members who beat him with fists and instruments on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel following a football game in November 2011.

Robinson said the university has taking many steps to prevent and investigate hazing, including a revision to the anti-hazing and student conduct polices, student forums on hazing an anti-hazing website, committing money to researching hazing prevention and creating two new positions to address hazing.

“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 toward hazing,” he said.

Last month, the university hired Sylvester Young to rebuild the band. Young is a FAMU alumnus and one-time director of the Ohio University marching band. Robinson said he tapped Young because he had the experience and strong discipline to help the school decide when it was right time for the Marching 100 to return to the field.

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Young said he was already holding rehearsals, and he hoped, but didn’t guarantee, that the band would be ready to take the field when the football season starts. The Rattlers first away game is against Mississippi Valley State in the MEAC/SWAC challenge in Orlando on Sept. 1. Their first home game is Sept. 7 hosting Tennessee State.

“We’ve been working toward that for the past month,” Young said. “We’ll see. We’re moving in the right direction.”

About 14 band members have been charged criminally in the beating and several have pleaded no contest or guilty to reduced charges to avoid manslaughter convictions.

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