Responding to the Death of Robert Champion (Florida A&M)

The past few days have seen a couple of notable responses looking to address the hazing issues brought to light by the death of Robert Champion last fall.

The first effort comes from a coalition headed by Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., the Rev. Al Sharpton, the National Action Network, and others to produce several efforts to increase awareness and address the problem. It includes an investment in an advertising campaign, an Anti-Hazing Town Hall in August, and a National Anti-Hazing Day in September. This announcement also included proposed federal laws related to hazing from Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-FL, a former Regional Director for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

The second approach comes from a list of several actions being proposed by President James Ammons, and his staff, at Florida A&M. This plan was presented to the FAMU Board of Trustees. It’s implementation will likely come with the adoption of the institution’s new budget for the coming year. Dr. Ammons approach calls for the hiring of a “Hazing Czar” in his office, a compliance office within the music department, and new staff members to deal with an expected increase in student judicial matters.

I have two concerns when reading about Dr. Ammons plan. First, the proposal calls for hiring five new staff members, but the amount budgeted for those positions does not appear to be enough to attract the level of experience and skill needed for these positions, particularly in the transition phase. My second concern is related to the first, as his plan calls for the “Hazing Czar” to report to the President’s office. Dr. Ammons credibility has been called into question throughout the investigation, and follow-up, to this issue. He would be best served if this new position had full autonomy from the institution (perhaps paid for by FAMU, and reporting to the state law enforcement division or Higher Education Commission). This new “Hazing Czar” must have the ability to investigate all levels of the institution, up to, and including, the President and Board of Trustees. It will be interesting to read the job description for this position. The pool of qualified candidates is likely to be small.

The Coalition is a National effort, and Dr. Ammons is focused (rightfully so) on Florida A&M. I hope that both of these efforts will recognize that this is not just an HBCU & NPHC problem. While there are some differences, the ability to make significant impact in this area will come from discussions involving a wide-variety of participants. Perhaps the August 11 Town Hall Meeting can make that happen. I wonder who will be there.

AS it has from the beginning, the Orlando Sentinal is the best source for more information.


About deanharwood

Interested in talking about current events in the fraternity/sorority world.
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