11/20/2012 04:02 pm ET

FAMU Hazing Death Memorial Marks Anniversary Of Robert Champion's Beating


Florida A&M University marked one year since drum major Robert Champion was beaten to death by fellow members of the university's famed Marching 100 band with a memorial event Monday.

Band president Brandon Cunningham addressed a small group of FAMU students Monday night, according to

“It’s important for all students to remember everything that happened a year ago so we never have to go through this ever again,” he said. “We’re also here remembering the type of individual that we lost.”

Champion's death shook FAMU to its core and inspired universities across the country to reexamine their hazing policies in the new light of a horrific worst-case scenario.

The Marching 100 -- with performances often the most anticipated part of FAMU's fall semester -- remains suspended. Before Champion's death, the band had played to students at halftime shows across the country and was featured at two Super Bowls and President Obama's inauguration.

But Florida brought charges against 13 band members in what experts call the largest criminal action based on a hazing death in history. The band's director was suspended, and FAMU President James Ammons resigned on the same day Champion's family filed suit against the university.

The Champion family is suing the university, the bus company that operates the vehicle where Champion was killed and the bus's driver in wrongful death lawsuits. The university initially rejected blame, saying Champion was responsible for his own death by electing to participate in the band's ritual. The university then offered the Champions a $300,000 settlement -- the most allowed without special approval from the state's legislature. The Champions refused.

Since July, interim university President Larry Robinson has managed the complicated task of reforming the school's hazing incident reporting policies. Before students return from winter break in 2013, each must sign an anti-hazing pledge.

Robinson addressed students at the memorial Monday. “If anyone thinks we can afford to not take these matters seriously they haven’t been paying attention to what has happened the last year," he said. "You have to provide the appropriate forum for reporting incidents and then you have to take decisive actions.”



Robert Champion FAMU Hazing Funeral Photos