Mr. Champion died from trauma he suffered in a hazing beating in November on a bus following a football game. It is significant that 13 people have been charged in his death, 11 of them on felony hazing counts, because it implies that at least that many were involved in some way in the incident. But what about others?
The Associated Press has reported that its review of university records revealed that repeated warnings were made about brutal hazing at FAMU but no serious actions were taken. AP said also that police have investigated nearly two dozen incidents involving the marching band, fraternities and other student groups since 2007.
So while it is entirely appropriate and expected that those who beat Mr. Champion are held accountable in a court of law, what about those who are culpable by not paying enough attention to the violence which evidently had been a hallmark of some aspects of student life at FAMU?
It is not known at this time whether the police inquiry into the hazing death is broad enough to cover university officials. Nor is it known whether FAMU is conducting an internal probe into whether any staffers should be held accountable and appropriate action taken.
What is known is that not much movement has been made in FAMU’s efforts to have a thorough investigation of hazing on campus with a goal of developing a blueprint for the future. The university announced months ago that it appointed a blue ribbon panel for that purpose. However, that group has been paralyzed by a dispute among members as to whether they should meet in private or within the ambit of Florida’s Sunshine Law.
So six months after a marching band member was killed during a hazing ritual, it does not appear that FAMU is any nearer to responding institutionally to this ugly chapter in its existence. The apparent paralysis seems a reflection of the evident failure to deal promptly and effectively with the numerous reports that hazing had become a serious problem.
Leaving this issue solely to law enforcement seems suspiciously like passing the buck. There should be two tracks to this investigation. One track is clearly ongoing: the police investigation. The other track should be a much more substantial institutional response from FAMU. There is no reason to believe it is happening to a degree that matches the seriousness of this challenge to the university’s future.