January 4, 2012 / 12:50 AM / 7 years ago

Florida college plan to stop hazing called a stunt

ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - A Florida college’s new plan to appoint a blue ribbon committee to decide how to stop hazing in its celebrated marching band is nothing but a publicity stunt, said a lawyer for the family of a drum major killed in a hazing incident last November.

“We’re disappointed and appalled at the lack of urgency and initiative by this administration,” Christopher Chestnut told Reuters Tuesday. “This is clearly a recommendation for public relations, a publicity stunt.”

Chestnut represents the family of Robert Champion, 26, whose hazing death after a Florida A & M University marching band performance in Orlando was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner.

FAMU’s trustees voted 9-1 on Monday to form a blue ribbon panel to determine best practices for managing a marching band, how other universities have handled hazing problems and ways to encourage students to resist hazing, according to Sharon Saunders, a spokeswoman for historically black college.

The plan also includes provisions for a campus memorial to Champion and a scholarship in Champion’s name, pending approval by his parents, Saunders said.

“We don’t need a statue. We need change,” Chestnut said.

Saunders said the sole dissenter in the trustees’ vote was Narayan Persaud, who also is president of the FAMU faculty senate. Saunders said Persaud rejected the plan as “too simplistic.” Persaud, and several other trustees, did not respond to emailed or phoned requests for comment.

Prior to Champion’s death, other band students reported serious injuries related to hazing, including a leg fracture, blood clots, kidney failure and an unspecified injury requiring surgery.

“This family, this institution, these students need immediate substantive changes to policies and procedures to protect the students and eradicate the culture,” Chestnut said.

Saunders said the trustees also scheduled a February 8 public employment evaluation for embattled FAMU president James Ammons. Florida Governor Rick Scott has called for Ammons’ suspension.

Editing by Greg McCune

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