Apr 022012
Authors: The Orlando Sentinel Denise-Marie Balona

ORLANDO, Fla._Three days before Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion died after a hazing attack in Orlando on Nov. 19, a campus administrator received a complaint about possible hazing involving members of the Marching 100 band at a house near the school.

A neighbor called the dean of students, Henry Kirby, on Nov. 16 and said someone “could have received serious injuries” if she had not interrupted the 2 a.m. commotion, university records show.

The complaint prompted Kirby to email band director Julian White, advising him to have a “strong conversation” with the band. At the time, White already had suspended about 30 band members after an investigation into complaints of hazing within the clarinet and trombone sections of the band.

The Kirby email offers further evidence that FAMU officials were aware that band members were hazing one other just before the Florida Classic in Orlando, where Champion was killed after being hazed on a bus.

The final outcome of the complaint is not clear from the document.

It is among a string of complaints and allegations about hazing at the university turned over to The Orlando Sentinel after repeated public records requests since Champion’s death.

On Wednesday, Tallahassee police made public a report accusing two FAMU music professors _ Diron Holloway and Anthony Simons _ of being present during a hazing at one of the professor’s homes in 2010.

Holloway also is accused of participating in the hazing, although no charges were filed because prosecutors could not prove that the incident occurred within the two-year statute of limitations on misdemeanor hazing charges.

Holloway and Simons were suspended with pay Wednesday pending an administrative and legal review.

University trustees reacted strongly to the allegations involving Holloway and Simons. They want an investigation by FAMU president James Ammons’ administration into whether faculty are failing to report hazing or have been encouraging or participating in the ritual.

“I know several trustees have asked the administration to truly examine this because these recent allegations are troubling,” said Torey Alston, a trustee and former class president at FAMU. “We will have a very spirited discussion at next week’s in-person meeting.”

Friday, trustees will meet to discuss changes to an expert committee formed to help FAMU battle hazing in the wake of Champion’s death.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Board of Governors, which oversees state universities, sent letters this week urging trustees to reverse their recent decision to let the committee meet in private _ a move designed to help the expert group work more quickly but which also allows it to skirt Florida’s broad open-government laws.

Meanwhile, the Board of Governors expressed concern about the time it took for FAMU to turn the 2010 hazing case over to Tallahassee police, who handle off-campus crime. FAMU received the complaint Nov. 21 and transferred it on Jan. 20 _ but only after Tallahassee police requested details from FAMU after speaking with the news media.

FAMU Chief Calvin Ross has said his office had planned to transfer the case after completing a preliminary investigation, and that it was working on the case in conjunction with other hazing cases.

“The two-month time period … is a serious issue …,” said Kelly Layman, a Board of Governors spokeswoman, who added that the reporting time frame could become part of the board’s ongoing investigation into whether FAMU did enough to stop hazing before Champion’s death.

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