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Author Topic: Another Take on the FAMU Hazing incident and the BOTs Handling of that situation  (Read 788 times)

Offline Cholly

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A friend of mine sent me this:

 
FAMU BOT should be applauded

Against The Grain

By Roosevelt Wilson
 
Though their work was clouded by the tragic death of a drum major at Florida A&M University, FAMU’s Board of Trustees should be applauded for being able to cut through all of the smoke and say no to Gov. Rick Scott’s recommendation that FAMU President James H. Ammons be suspended while the matter is being investigated.  That decision was critical not only for FAMU, but for the other members of the state university system as well.
 
Drum major Robert Champion, 26, died tragically Nov. 19, allegedly as a result of a beating that was part of a hazing ritual following the band’s performance at the Florida Classic, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.  That not only is a shame and a tragedy, but it is also a crime.  FAMU, the state university system and the State of Florida should use all available resources to identify and appropriately punish those responsible for such a senseless death and such a criminal act.
 
I understand the outrage as well as the sorrow of the parents of the drum major, and I can understand their desire for something to be done – even their desire to get rid of Ammons.  But that’s emotion, understandable emotion, and the Champion family has every right to express these emotions.
 
However, these emotions cannot be used, and Champion’s death cannot be used, as a reason to confuse the issue and carry out other agendas that have nothing to do with the tragedy that happened to this young man.
 
Scott appropriately asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to assist the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in investigating the suspected hazing death.  FDLE asked FAMU, the Board of Governors and others to avoid taking any punitive action against anyone until the investigation was complete.  That makes sense to me and it should make sense to everyone.  Subsequently, however, in apparent disregard for FDLE’s request, the governor recommended that FAMU’s BOT suspend Ammons until the investigations are over.
 
That doesn’t make sense.  He is either implying that Ammons’ mere presence will interfere with the investigation or that the president deliberately will try to sabotage it. Or that, in some way, Ammons is guilty of something and he must not be around as the investigation goes on.  There’s no evidence of that.  The FDLE and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department are investigating the crime.  The Board of Governors, per the request of FDLE, is holding off its investigation into whether FAMU handled the issue of hazing properly.  So that will come following the investigation of FDLE and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
 
We must believe that our law enforcement officials have the expertise and know how to conduct an investigation and not let it be interfered with by a single individual.  We also must understand that Ammons would not be so stupid as to try to interfere with that investigation.
 
What Scott did was inject politics into an arena that is supposed to be free of politics based on the Constitution of the State of Florida that requires the state university system to have a Board of Governors for overall supervision, and for each university to have a board of trustees to make decisions about hiring and firing a president and other policy matters that occur on the respective campuses.
 
To compound matters, Rufus Montgomery, a Scott appointee to FAMU’s board of trustees, had also called earlier for the board to suspend Ammons.  The board rejected that request and reprimanded Ammons instead.  Perhaps more troubling than the call for Ammons’ suspension was the attitude and tone with which Montgomery addressed Ammons following the hazing incident.  Montgomery was arrogant and disrespectful to both the president and the presidency. If he has such little regard for the university and his role as a trustee, perhaps he should resign.
 
When FAMU’s board of trustees rejected Scott’s request, it was a proud moment for the state university system as a whole, because once that political door is opened, it would be terribly difficult to close again.
 
In fairness to the governor, he said he would abide by the decision of the FAMU Trustees.  Let us hope there will be no back-door backlash.
 
What is also troubling is that although the investigation is not completed, a number of other people have decided on some form of punishment for Ammons.
 
Yes, he initially fired band director Dr. Julian White,(later reversed by the FAMU BOT who placed White on paid administrative leave instead) suspended some students and suspended marching band activities when he felt he had enough information to do so.  Some say that was a very rash and very quick action to take and White has even retained attorneys to get fully reinstated.  That’s a legal issue that I will defer to the courts.  But I must say this: Though there may be questions about what Ammons did and how he did it, the worse he could have done in a case with such tragic consequences would have been to do nothing.  In fact, he probably would have been justifiably ridden out of town had he done nothing after this young man, entrusted to him through the university, died and he did nothing to address it.
 
The courts and trustees will determine whether he used the proper procedure, but again I applaud Dr. Ammons for doing something.  He had to do something.  Any president would have had to do something.  He didn’t have all the facts. In fact, FDLE doesn’t have all the facts yet, but he couldn’t sit back and do nothing. Removing the band director, the person who is responsible by assignment and job description for the band, was something that Ammons obviously felt at the time was an appropriate thing to do.
 
That’s not my call to make and we’ll see what the courts say about that, but I would have been highly disappointed and many others would have been disappointed if Ammons had done nothing.
 
Alexander Pope once said, “A little learning is a dangerous thing…” It appears that many of us, according to our comments in restaurants and the newspapers and social media, know just enough to be dangerous.  We have a lot of people walking around with very little knowledge about the facts of this case, but who are stating consequences, results and their opinions as if they had all the facts before them.  That is dangerous and I think what all of us should do is to stand back, take a deep breath, and let law enforcement do its job.
 
Another thing is, we must realize that hazing, by nature, is a very complex issue because in most cases virtually all participants are willing participants and they go to extreme measures to keep the hazing secret.  Some have called it a culture of secrecy at FAMU.  It’s not just at FAMU.  The nature of hazing in itself is a secret. It’s a ritual and it’s done among members of a group or those who want to become members of a group and they go to extremes to keep it hidden from those who want to do something about it.  So when we hear of a case of hazing, and it usually doesn’t surface until someone is severely injured or unfortunately, in the case of Robert Champion, someone dies as a result of it, then we want to become judge, jury and executioner, with virtually no facts in hand.  And those with a little knowledge, just enough knowledge to be dangerous, look at that one institution or that one instance and try to apply it universally.  They call FAMU a school with a culture of hazing, a culture of secrecy.  That is wrong.
 
As one FAMU student said the night they marched to the governor’s mansion to protest Scott’s call for Ammon’s suspension: “Hazing is not synonymous with FAMU.  Fraud is not synonymous with FAMU.” (FDLE is also looking into alleged fraud regarding FAMU band finances.)
 
These things happened at FAMU but they are not FAMU and these are things that have to be rooted out and dealt with.  But they can’t be rooted out until they are discovered.
 
There are a lot of other questions that have to be answered and we must take care, at this early stage, not to make the band bigger or more important than the university; not to make our love for the band override common sense and the authority of the university to deal with the band.
 
As for the allegations of fraud dealing with the band’s finances, we don’t know anything about that.  We can’t condemn FAMU just because there are allegations of fraud.  Let FDLE find out what the fraud is and who’s responsible.  They’ll follow the money.  Once that is discovered, once we get the information, once we get the facts, then that would be the appropriate time for the proper authorities to act.
 
I love what FAMU Trustees Chairman Dr. Solomon Badger said in rejecting the governor’s call to suspend Dr. Ammons in that until we get facts, facts that perhaps indicate otherwise, the president’s status remains unchanged.  We will have plenty of time to disagree or agree with the actions taken as a result of the facts that are revealed.  But let’s not put the cart before the horse.  Let’s not mete out the punishment before we know what the crime is.  Let us not punish the criminal until we know who the criminal is, and let us not use this unfortunate tragedy to vent our displeasure at the university administration.
 
The board has not stated publicly why it moved up Ammons annual evaluation, but let us hope that the evaluation does not preempt the ongoing investigations.
 
Let us be calm.  Let it work its way out.  And let us thank the FAMU Board of Trustees for having the courage to look down the road and say, “We await the facts.”  The judge doesn’t give the case to the jury until all the facts are in, the prosecution doesn’t present the case until all the facts are in.  We the lay jury should not render a verdict before we even hear the case presented.  We owe everyone involved at least that.  And certainly we owe the university and its long time prospects at least that.
 
And I hope we can remember that if decisions at the university were made on a day to day basis the way decisions have been made by the public in this tragic case, FAMU would have been gone a long time ago.
 
Some have criticized the students for marching on the governor’s mansion after he called for the temporary removal of Dr. Ammons.  That is grossly unfair, and such criticism can come only from those who don’t know the history of Florida A&M University and how long and how many times it has been threatened with merger with Florida State University.
 
At the same time the criticism is unfair because it implies that students can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.  Of course they were upset at the death of Mr. Champion.  They expressed that.  In fact, on television they expressed anger that something like that should happen to a fellow student.  But that does not prevent them from, at the same time, being vigilant and making sure that ugly politics don’t rise up and threaten the future of FAMU and use this Champion case as an excuse.  Many of these students are multi-generation FAMUans, and they’ve heard stories from their parents who’ve fought some of the same battles they are fighting now.  Though FAMU was established in 1887, the first institution of higher education in Tallahassee, it is often treated as an appendage. And the reason its growth is what it is now is because it has not received equal funding through the years, while at the same time receiving what appeared to be unfair scrutiny.
 
That is not to say FAMU should be beyond scrutiny, it shouldn’t.  No institution should.  Every dime and every action should have to adhere to established rules, practices and statutes.  But at the same time, FAMU should not be singled out, as some are doing now, wittingly or unwittingly, and pointing a finger and wrapping everything that has happened, everything that is happening and everything that may ever happen, into the unfortunate death of Mr. Champion.
 
That’s ugly, it’s sad and it’s unfair and it must stop.

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Roosevelt Wilson is a former Journalism professor at Florida A&M University, who also served as Sports Information Director, Director of Publications and Director of Athletics at FAMU. He is a graduate of Bethune Cookman College.

He is the longtime former publisher of the award-winning Capital Outlook in Tallahassee, where his columns "Against The Grain" became lauded for their uncompromising stance on politicial and social issues.

http://thegrainonline.com/grain/


^^^SPEAKS FOR ITSELF!!!

Offline SkegeeFAMU

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A level headed commentary!! :nod:
Tuskegee University- Continuing the Relentless Pursuit of Excellence!!

Offline Cholly

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I agree...  :nod:


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Offline ToUgh1881

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Offline y04185

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What a crock.  The BOT blew it big time.  None of them should be reappointed. 
Fayetteville State by choice. Bronco by the Grace of GOD.

Offline Thinkingaboutit

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A level headed commentary!! :nod:
Thanks for an intelligent reply to this tragic happening.  The President need not be thrown under the train so someone can use this to get elected or ink. Thank God. Dr Ammons did something in  light of all the negativity, talk and innuendos repleting the air waves and printed media.  He was presidential and what else could he have done?.  It just a no win situation for all involved in satisfying a hungry "rumor hungry public"
« Last Edit: January 05, 2012, 05:59:22 PM by Thinkingaboutit »

 

 

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