TALLAHASSEE — The chairman and one other member of the seven-person team assembled by Florida A&M University to probe hazing at FAMU and come up with recommendations quit two days of each other.
Former federal judge Stephen C. Robinson resigned April 3 from the Anti-Hazing Committee (AHC) and distinguished psychologist Na’im Akbar quit April 4. Both complained that the conditions and time-frame for the panel’s work would not allow for the kind of results expected.
The committee wanted to be able to operate outside of Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law and so it sought to be designated a fact-finding team. Members also were unhappy with the requirement that they produce a report by the fall semester.
FAMU created the panel in the wake of the hazing death of band member Robert Champion last year. The other members are Elizabeth Allan and Mary Madden, professors at the University of Maine and co-directors of the National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention; Michael V. Bowie, executive director of the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers; David Brewer, former U.S. Navy vice admiral and superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District; and David Stearns, band director and music professor at Western Carolina University.
Robinson, who sent a strongly worded resignation letter to FAMU trustee chairman Solomon Badger, also rejected criticism of his stand that the panel should be able to communicate freely, especially because of the logistics involved in having members living in different parts of the country.
“When you couple the [trustee] board’s stated timelines and the restrictions on the AHC member’s ability to talk on the phone or exchange emails in a convenient way, I do not feel I can lead the AHC towards a final report that would be ‘best in class’ and withstand the kind of scrutiny it would inevitably engender,” Robinson wrote in his letter.
Akbar had similar concerns, stating in his resignation letter to FAMU trustee Belinda Reed Shannon that “the complexity of trying to fulfill the board’s assignment has proven to be much too cumbersome for my continued participation.”
“The restrictions of maximum beneficial interaction with this highly competent assembly of experts have proven much more difficult than I ever imagined it would be,” Akbar wrote.
“The vacillations and political meanderings inhibiting our free exchange of information with each other have proven to be as complex as the problem we were assigned to consider,” he said.
Shannon, in a statement issued by FAMU, said the trustees “understand their reasons for stepping down.” But she added, “The work of the Anti-Hazing Committee is too important so we must continue moving forward.”
Meanwhile, FAMU announced that campus police chief Calvin Ross has gone on pre-retirement leave and will retire effective May 1. The statement said Ross, a former Miami police chief, had planned to retire last January to assist his family with a new business venture but stayed on the job following Champion’s death.
“This caused me to offset my plans for leaving until such time that the investigation into this case reached a conclusion,” Ross said. “As of this date, I believe we have reached that conclusion.”
No further details were given but the statement said the Orange County Sheriff’s Office recently turned the case over to the State Attorney’s Office.
Photo: Na'im Akbar