FAMU Band Director Steps Down
May 11, 2012 | WMFE - The director of the Florida A & M University Marching 100 band is retiring. The news is the latest development in the fallout from the hazing death of one of the band's drum majors.
After more than 40 years as director of bands at FAMU, Dr. Julian White is stepping down. University President Dr. James Ammons initially fired White shortly after the hazing death of Drum Major Robert Champion. In the termination letter, Ammons cited White’s “alleged misconduct and/ or incompetence” in handling hazing incidents within the band. But the university was forced reverse the move and place Dr. White on administrative leave after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement requested all actions be suspended until it completed its investigation.
Through his attorney Chuck Hobbs, White had been pushing to be fully reinstated at the university. And Hobbs says the battle over whether to reinstate the director had largely been about his retirement money.
“I have strongly suspected that with two investigations ongoing, the University would be a disadvantage to negotiate anything.” Hobbs said. “It is dollars and cents, and it’s also about process. At the time of his termination, he was also a member of United Faculty of Florida. And there were certain protocols that were not adhered to in that situation. As a tenured faculty member he had certain rights that were usurped that we believe he would have prevailed upon.”
Robert Champion's death brought attention to a history of hazing within the band program and spurred investigations into the band's finances. A letter to the FAMU Board of Trustees by University President James Ammons says that, at the time of Champion’s death, 101 members of the band were either not academically eligible or not enrolled in the marching band class, which White oversaw.
During his time as band director, White kept numerous files on students he had suspended from the band for hazing. He has said he did everything in his power to stop it.
But in a newspaper interview in December, he admitted that some of the students he suspended from the band for hazing, he also let back in.
“Sometimes, I have made an exception.” White said. “I believe in the character of the student and I allow the student to come back.
98 percent of those students given a second chance, did well. A very small percentage, the second-chance didn’t help.”
13 people are facing hazing charges in the Champion case. Three of them were not enrolled at the university at the time of his death. Four were Champion’s fellow drum majors. The FAMU board of trustees has scheduled a meeting for Monday to discuss the band program.