Florida A&M University president James Ammons is under intense scrutiny after the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion in November 2011. Last week, eight of the 12 sitting members on the board of trustees supported a no-confidence vote against Ammons. According to USA Today, the board members expressed their belief that Ammons was not fit to handle the position, especially after the revelation that 101 of the members in the school’s marching band at the time of Champion’s death were in no affiliated with the school.
The no-confidence vote was the second time the board expressed their dissatisfaction with the president. An annual evaluation for Ammons is also underway, though it will likely not be finished until the fall.
Despite negative responses, the president has pledged that he will carry the university through a tumultuous period.
Earlier this month, Ammons announced the harsh punishments the school would impose on hazing policy violators, stating that he had requested the creation of an “anti-hazing special assistant to the president.” He also promised to tighten up the eligibility requirements for joining the school’s marching band -- members of which are allegedly responsible for the death of Champion -- including a new 2.5 grade point average minimum requirement for incoming students.
Ammons suspended the marching band after Champion’s death, and last month announced that the suspension will extend into the coming school year.
"I am deeply concerned about the culture at Florida A&M University," Ammons said. "I am deeply concerned about the image of our university...I know we have ahead of us a big task of restoring the trust and confidence in this university to provide a safe environment for our students."
Champion was beaten to death during a hazing ritual on a bus outside a hotel in Orlando, Fla. The ensuing scandal exposed the prevalence of hazing on FAMU’s campus -- this time not in the sororities or fraternities that it is commonly associated with but in the school’s well-respected marching band.
A trial to charge the 11 marching band members allegedly involved in Champion’s death is set for October. However, given that there are potentially 85 witnesses for the trial, many suspect it will not begin until next year.