Saturday night, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University student Robert Champion died after marching in the Florida Classic in Orlando. Allegedly, Champion exited a University bus, collapsed to the ground, and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. A drum major in the infamous “Marching 100,” allegations of hazing have emerged as the cause of death, and by Tuesday, it was officially confirmed. In the Orange County police report, officers credited hazing for Champion’s death and planned to conduct more medical tests and autopsies.

President of FAMU Dr. James Ammons announced that an “independent task force” would investigate the “unauthorized and questionable activities” within the 375-member marching band, and offered condolences to the Champion family. He also made it clear that all Marching 100 activities are suspended out of respect for the investigation. Yet, in spite of the many hazing allegations associated with the marching band, seven official reports in the last decade, and over 20 students dismissed this year alone under allegations, there has been little to no discussion of the details of the evening leading up to Robert Champion’s death. It seems as though many students would rather unify in silence as opposed to rally for justice of one of their own.

Hazing, is nothing new, and often associated with Greek organizations and band culture at many HBCU campuses. FAMU is, unfortunately, the current example. The increase in deaths and lawsuits associated with the illegal practices should deter abusers from participating, but it hasn’t.

What is troubling is that students continuously adhere to traditions and abuse in silence in aspiration of acceptance, even till death. Involved parties that refuse to share the truth with authorities help shine a negative spotlight on a prestigious University, focusing on foolish and fatal accounts of what is otherwise an amazing organization.

Music programs and marching bands provide scholarship money, education and development to students. However, these programs may now be at risk for further scrutiny, reduced funds or even removal due to incidents such as this.

Why not deeply consider the future of these beloved organizations and University when choosing to cover up hazing? Hazing acts are perpetuated by silence, or the idea that the tradition isn’t up for discussion with any outsiders who have not gone through the experience, but when a young person’s life is a casualty, when does the collective quiet end?

“No snitching” seems like an ignorant and cowardly excuse, when death or serious prosecution (if hazers are identified) is a result. The Champion family is burying their son this Thanksgiving holiday, and all the condolences in the world won’t bring Robert Champion back.

When will enough be enough, and the cycle of abuse and covering up in the name of “tradition” cease? No one deserves to be hazed to death, and certainly without prosecution.

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  • So close to the holiday. They wont know anything for sure till they get the autopsy back, but I do find it strange that a Drum-major would be the victim of hazing.

    • SassyFrassy

      I thought it was strange also. But a friend of mine who knew him told me that he dropped his staff that night, and so it was less the traditional idea of hazing than a punishment, if you will. Very, very sad in any case.

      I grew up in HBCU campuses, so I adore the black college marching band, but not this part of it.

    • If thats the case your right it’s not hazing, it’s punishment either way it was uncalled for, what is disturbing about a lot of these organizations like bands, Frats and Soros seem to be prone to violence in their rituals. They seem incapable or unwilling to find other ways to get their point across.

    • SassyFrassy

      I don’t think they’re incapable of it. In fact, they prove otherwise all the time. However, I think the prevalence of it and the fact that it became “tradition” is a direct link back to the slave mentality. That’s not an attempt to rationalize, just to contextualize it. It needs to stop, post haste, whatever its cause is though.

  • TheBlackBelle

    I really don’t think some of these commenters went to college. Drum majors are leaders of the band. They are usually the center of attention, especially in the south, where bands are popular and part of culture. Hazing is just as prevalent in bands as well because bands do have fraternities/sororities within themselves. Ever heard of Kappa Kappa Psi? Tau Beta Sigma?
    My condolences go out to this young man’s family.

    • JK

      TheBlackBelle, Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma have nothing to do with this incident….. Individuals crab and cross their section…that’s certain individuals and sections… nothing to do with Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma. If KKPsiTBSigma were involved then their national headquarters would have been notified and both would have been suspended immediately,especially being at a HBCU….the Delta Iota chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi is currently active so they did not have anything to do with this incident-as a whole. The Marching 100, the sections, and Kappa Kappa Psi are 3 different entities that work together for one goal: uplifting the band and make them “better” . just so you know……

  • yannii

    I go to FSU which is literally right down the street and have heard a lot more than this article implies. In addition to dropping his mace on the field, he was also “crossing bus c” so everybody that’s saying he was a drum-major, a leader, that doesn’t matter. The hazing that goes on in the band is never ending. You get hazed to be in the 100, to be apart of your section, to be a section leader, to be a drum major, and YES to sit on a certain bus.

    Hazing is RIDICULOUS at FAMU. Modeling troupes and dance groups there have paddles and “line” jackets. It’s really sad the lengths someone will allow themselves to go through to be apart of something. What’s even more sad is that, the kappas at FAMU have been off the yard since 06 and those guilty are in prison, and that same year somebody from the band reported hazing when his kidney collapsed from it and was awarded $1.8 million. Have they not learned from any of this? Apparently not.

    • Ash

      When you say Kappas, do you mean KKPsi or KAPsi?

    • TheBlackBelle


  • TheBlackBelle

    I totally agree @yannii. I have several close friends down there and it’s like a big thirsty party of “who-can-take-worst-hazing” or something! Do you want to be “somebody” that bad? Yes, everyone once to feel accepted to some degree, but this is way out of hand. Most college kids don’t truly know themselves until maybe junior/senior yr, so the weaker ones are almost up for anything.Know when to say stop!I think the school in itself is excellent, but like you said, they ain’t learned since the Kappas and that made MAJOR national news! I will say, the modeling and dance troupes are incorporated as well so sometimes they feel they need to “prove” something because they are not NPH organizations.Not all, but some. I still must support my sister troupe FACES!

  • BlackataPWI

    What people fail to realize though is that hazing is just as bad if not worse at white schools. The students at my school haze in public, during the day, at night, in front of administrators, during class and no one says anything! There have been several incidents where students have been rushed to the hospital and almost died but their fraternities and sororities get no punishment. But then the AKAs on my campus did one little thing where no one was seriously hurt at night, got caught and were kicked off the yard for three years. Why do the Black students get more of the heat for this when it’s happening everywhere!