The Florida A&M University board of trustees began wrestling Wednesday with how to contain the fallout of the death of a band member last year, considering a wide-ranging plan to combat a culture of hazing in the Marching 100 band and taking a look at the costs.
Headlining the recommendations is a plan to hire a special assistant to President James Ammons and a compliance officer for the historically black university’s music department.
Both positions would be aimed at ensuring that hazing doesn’t again take hold in the band, which has been suspended through the 2012-13 school year, and that band members meet existing and new eligibility standards.
“You have my commitment to stay focused on this issue and put Florida A&M University in a leadership position nationally to deal with this issue, and once and for all eradicating this culture, this campus culture, at Florida A&M University of hazing,” Ammons told the board.
Hazing at A&M burst onto the scene when drum major Robert Champion, 26, was allegedly beaten to death in a ritual hazing on board a charter bus during a band trip to Orlando in November.
Thirteen people have been charged in connection with the hazing, with 11 of them facing felony charges.
The plan discussed Wednesday would impose new requirements on band members, including ensuring that only full-time FAMU students are in the Marching 100 and other musical ensembles; allowing students only four years of eligibility and five years to use them, much like college football players; and strengthening the academic standards for remaining in the band and receiving a scholarship.
Ammons conceded that the changes could mean that, at least initially, the size of the band would shrink.
“I think it’s going to be smaller,” Ammons said. “But higher quality. ... Because I have looked at the academic record of current band members, and many of them wouldn’t be in the band.”
Trustees seemed largely receptive to the plan, which is expected to be voted on today. But they also mulled over the price tag, including a combined $196,000 expected to be paid to the special assistant and the compliance officer.
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