The Florida A&M University board of trustees firmly rejected a call from Gov. Rick Scott to suspend school president James Ammons pending ongoing investigations into the suspected hazing death of a student.

The board, in a statement, did not refer to Scott’s call but made it clear that it knew the scope of its powers and “will not be influenced by pressure from political or other outside forces.”

The board said it is “closely monitoring all ongoing investigations,” adding, “Until information and results from the ongoing investigations are made available to the board, enabling it to effectively conduct a fact based deliberation on the role of the administration and the President in these matters, the board is deciding to leave the status of the president unchanged.”

“The board is committed to convene and act promptly, as soon as information from the investigating agencies becomes available,” the statement said.

The Associated Press reported that the state medical examiner’s office ruled that the death of drum major Robert Champion, 26, was a homicide and that he was severely beaten in a hazing incident and died within an hour.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement saying it planned to work with the State Attorney’s office “to identify the charges that are applicable” in Champion’s death on Nov. 19. The office said no additional information will be released until charges are announced.

News of the autopsy came soon after Scott met privately with Ammons to discuss whether he should step down. Ammons was reprimanded by the school’s board of trustees but the governor has said Ammons should be suspended until multiple investigations are complete.

FAMU’s president does not report directly to the governor but the governor is responsible for selecting some of the trustees.The governor also appoints most of the people who sit on the board of governors that oversees the State University System.

The state’s top black lawmaker meanwhile called on the trustees to stand firm in rejecting outside interference in the affairs of the university.

“Gov. Rick Scott is our state’s chief executive officer and while he is certainly entitled to an opinion, his actions or influences on the management and governing of the university could jeopardize FAMU’s accreditation under the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools,” said state Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, chairwoman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus.

Champion’s name was repeatedly invoked during FAMU’s winter graduation
ceremony Friday by Narayan Persaud, a faculty and board member. He called on graduates to be “Champion Rattlers” and to help ensure that hazing never happens again.

Larry Robinson, who recently stepped down as assistant secretary of commerce in the Obama administration, acknowledged Champion in his commencement speech. He said there were “dark clouds in our midst” but he predicted the university would overcome the tragedy.

“The world is watching. Let them see, let them hear the real FAMU. Let them know we have been here 124 years and we plan to be here another and yet another,” he said