Still reeling from the death of a Marching 100 drum major more than four months ago, Florida A&M University is pushing ahead with efforts that officials contend will finally end hazing at the college.
One such move came Thursday when university trustees adopted a new regulation requiring those attending, visiting or working at the school to tell police within 24 hours about any hazing incidents.
The rule would not only apply to students or faculty members, but visitors, and even those vendors that do business with the university. FAMU's general counsel said that vendors could find themselves losing out on future contracts if it turns out their employees ignored evidence of hazing. Students and faculty or professors could both face sanctions under the new regulation, including the possibility in extreme cases of being expelled or fired.
The regulation is set to take effect later this year.
FAMU President James Ammons called it just one of a series of aggressive steps the university has taken in the wake of the death of Robert Champion, which has been called a homicide by police. No arrests have been made, though authorities turned over the results of their investigation last month to the state attorney's office.
"FAMU is doing everything within its power to eradicate hazing from this campus," he said.
The new rules come just one week after two professors were put on paid administrative leave following allegations that they were present while band fraternity pledges were hazed back in 2010. Tallahassee police said they could not pursue the case — which they did not learn about until earlier this year — because the incident may have occurred outside the two-year statute of limitations.
The new regulation is not retroactive and would not apply to any previous incident.
Hundreds of pages of records reviewed by The Associated Press and the Tallahassee Democrat showed years of repeated warnings about brutal hazing passed without any serious response from the school's leadership until Champion died. Police files show that since 2007, nearly two dozen hazing incidents involving the band, fraternities and other student groups have been investigated.
Just this week Gov. Rick Scott told a newspaper editorial board that FAMU's future could be in jeopardy if hazing was not eliminated. He said "if they don't fix this, students are not going to show up, so they're going to have to fix it. The pressure is going to become greater."
Ammons, however, said the university is fixing the problem.
"This administration and board has taken very aggressive steps to put in place the kind of policies and procedures that will bring about the change we want in our students," Ammons said.
Since Champion's death the Marching 100 was suspended, student clubs were halted from recruiting new members and an anti-hazing task force was assembled. Ammons and other top FAMU officials say the Marching 100 will not return until investigations surrounding Champion's death have been concluded.
Ammons told trustees that in late December he ordered the police department to tell him any time there are allegations of hazing, battery, sexual assault or molestation. Ammons and other top FAMU officials are also getting a daily crime report and meeting once a week with the university police chief.
Ammons has also said he wants to be notified anytime FAMU police hand over any case to other law-enforcement agencies or when FAMU employees and students are involved in any off-campus crimes.
Champion's death was the latest chapter of violent hazing involving the Marching 100. In 1998, Ivery Luckey, a clarinet player from Ocala, was hospitalized with kidney damage after being paddled in the initiation to join a group known as "The Clones." Three years later, band member Marcus Parker was hospitalized with kidney damage after being paddled.
A few weeks before Champion's death, band member Bria Hunter was hospitalized with a broken leg and blood clots in what authorities say was another act of hazing. Three band members have been charged. In September, more aspiring "Clones" members were punched and paddled, leading to charges in January against four band members.