Archive for March, 2012

Following the Champion tragedy, why was FAMUPD so slow to follow through on a new hazing report?

March 29, 2012

By Peter McKay | FAMU ’97 | Email

The latest news from Tallahassee — that two FAMU faculty members were investigated in connection with a hazing incident in 2010 — is a true bombshell. USA Today reports:

A Tallahassee Police Department investigative report, released Wednesday, tells of 14 Kappa Kappa Psi band fraternity pledges who gathered at the off-campus home of a faculty member and were subjected to paddling and punishment related to initiation rituals…

An unnamed student, who made the original complaint two days after Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion was killed in November in an incident being investigated as a hazing-related homicide, described events from the spring of 2010.

“He further stated that he remembers receiving anywhere from 20-25 ‘licks’ across his buttocks with the paddle,” the police report said.

The police incident report lists Diron Holloway and Anthony Simons — both employed by Florida A&M, according to the police report — as suspects in the hazing investigation.

The full TPD report, which is definitely worth a read, goes on to state that no charges will be filed in the case, in large part because the two-year statute of limitations may have passed since the events in question. But the report hardly represents a great vindication of FAMU on the questions of whether anything happened in the first place, whether the faculty members were indeed involved in some way, and how the organization responded.

After the report was released on Wednesday, FAMU announced that it is putting the two profs mentioned therein on administrative leave.

The alleged complicity of faculty in hazing has grabbed most of the headlines in news coverage of the TPD report so far, which makes sense. But I think there are a few other details hiding between the lines that we shouldn’t overlook.

Chief among them is TPD’s not-so-implicit criticism of FAMU campus police for being slow to pass along the incident. According to the report, these particular hazing allegations came to FAMUPD’s attention on Nov. 21 — just a few days after Robert Champion’s death. FAMUPD determined they would have to pass them along to TPD because the alleged incident took place off-campus.

But then they never did. TPD says it never heard about the incident until Jan. 20, when it learned of the allegations from the media. Then TPD called FAMUPD — not the other way around — to ask about it.

Then one of the key witnesses says he never got a call from FAMUPD until a few days after that, when the department got wind that the Tallahassee Democrat was working on a story about hazing at FAMU.

What’s really breathtaking about all this lollygagging is that it took place after Robert Champion died, when everyone on campus should’ve been on extra high alert about the risks of hazing. Especially the police.


By the way, one final thought: If you’re one of those Rattlers who’s been huffy about media coverage of hazing at FAMU, this is great evidence why you should chill out. Media coverage sometimes has a way of getting necessary things done when you’re dealing with intransigent and/or plainly dumb-as-bricks bureaucrats. If it weren’t for media coverage, that original hazing report would probably still be collecting dust on someone’s desk at FAMUPD, and the faculty members wouldn’t be under any scrutiny at all, even though certain of their students and colleagues had accused them of hazing.


ESPN: Champion faced uphill battle for respect as a gay band member

March 26, 2012

ESPN did one of their in-depth “Outside the Lines” reports on the Robert Champion tragedy on Sunday. In the piece, fellow drum major Keon Hollis, who was Champion’s roommate on band road trips, tells the network that Champion’s homosexuality “definitely played a factor” in the lack of respect he got from some band members on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, there’s a little bit of an audio problem at the end of the clip linked above so some of Hollis’s final comments, as well as a few other things in the last 30 seconds, are blanked out. The good news is that ESPN also releases audio podcasts of its OTL stories here. The queue hasn’t been updated to include the FAMU story yet, but it will soon, at which point we should be able to literally fill in some more blanks.

[UPDATE: Full audio podcast of the latest OTL episode, including the FAMU story, is now available on ESPN’s site.]

Where is the Trayvon-like outrage over Robert Champion’s death?

March 25, 2012

By Peter McKay | FAMU ’97 | Email

Someone writing under the simple alias “Mom” just left the following thought-provoking comment on another post on the site. I think it’s worth reprinting in a more prominent way:

I’m so glad to see all the positive comments and ideas. There is one thing that is confusing me I thought you could help.

Due to the recent killing of the young man in Sanford, Fl there has been all of this protesting with Rev. Al Sharpton which is fine but when the student died from FAMU there was not all of this Black Panther and protesting going on. Both deaths were wrong but one death was caused by another African American and another was caused by a Caucasian man.

It looks like that the only time something is majorly outrageous is when a white person kills a black person but when a black person kills a black person it is not as bad. What do you think?

I replied:

Thanks for your comment! These are great points you raise.

I totally agree with what you’re saying, and I’ve really been thinking some of the same things recently. At the same time, I’ve had a difficult time putting it into words, not wanting to appear to make light of the loss of Trayvon. It’s a fine line to walk.

Ultimately, it just shows you’re a better messenger for these ideas than I am. I think what you’re saying has more power coming from someone who’s a parent herself. (Assuming here based on your commenting handle as “Mom.”)

I’d add that the one true Trayvon-like moment of community outrage in the Robert Champion situation was when Gov. Rick Scott had the audacity to suggest that James Ammons, who’s obviously been inept at combating hazing at FAMU, step aside following the death of one of his students. But even then, the outrage was directed at an “outsider” to the FAMU community (Scott), not “our own” people who killed Champion and have soft-pedaled the hazing issue over the years.

And by the way, like the Trayvon case, there’s been no arrest yet in the Champion case, even after four months since his death. Where’s the outrage at that?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to rank the value of Trayvon Martin’s life itself relative to that of Robert Champion. Both young men’s lives were of equal value, and the losses are equally tragic.

But the point here isn’t ultimately about them. It’s about us, how we deal with one another as survivors, which I think is what the commenter was getting at. Yeah, it is a lot easier to get angry at the “other” than to look in the mirror. That’s a big part of our problem in dealing with hazing.


March 7, 2012

We’ll admit, we’ve fallen a little behind on posting to the blog lately. Sorry about that. We’re working on some improvements to the site that we’re really excited about. Expecting to push them out over the next few weeks, so please do stay tuned (C: