Florida A&M University

LHatter / WFSU

It’s been nearly two years since the sound of Florida A&M University’s band was last heard. Now the ensemble is back, and  band and university leaders say it’s going to take a lot of work to prove to the world that times have changed.

This time around, FAMU’s Marching 100 band is closer to its official name—with a current roster of 198 musicians. That’s about half the size the band that, in 2011, was placed on suspension following the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion. Also new is the terminology.  there are no more “drum majors” in the Marching 100.

FAMU Lifts 'Marching 100' Suspension

Jun 27, 2013
LHatter / WFSU

Update 1:32 p.m.

Florida A&M University is lifting the suspension of its famous Marching 100 band. The hazing death of drum major Robert Champion in 2011 led to the band's suspension, along with  the resignations of the university’s former President and band director. But, many say the school is now on the path to recovery.

Florida A & M University’s Marching 100 band is still under an indefinite suspension due to the hazing death of a drum major in 2011. FAMU’s interim president is  still mum on when or if, the band’s suspension will be lifted.

The Fall football season is approaching and FAMU is facing the possibility of a second year without its main halftime attraction. But Interim Florida A & M University President Larry Robinson he’s still evaluating whether  the “right conditions” are in place for the band to return:

The board overseeing Florida’s public universities has okayed a work plan submitted by Florida A&M University. The approval of FAMU’s plan comes a year after the same board scolded the school for its low graduation rates and high student debt.

LHatter / WFSU

In the halls of Florida A&M University’s band room, a lone baritone burbles along. It’s a sound that hasn’t been heard much in the year since FAMU’s Marching band was placed on suspension as a result of the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion. Today, the band room is in a state of disarray. Bookshelves, boxes, piano’s parts of instruments and garment bags are strewn about. Equipment manager Donald Beckwith says the department is doing a bit of Spring cleaning.

Florida A&M University is holding off on some fee increases, for now. Trustees voted against bumping up costs for students as Governor Rick Scott is amping up pressure on schools to keep costs down.

University trustees debated for almost two hours on four different fee increases. Hikes for athletics, student activities, capital improvements and a student-green fee were all on the table. But in the end, the board dropped two of them: rejecting a dollar increase for athletics and a 56-cent increase for activities and services.

TampaBay.com and FAMU Athletics

Athletics directors at both Florida A & M and Florida State are out.

FAMU did not renew its contract with Derek Horne, largely because of the continued budget deficit in the athletics program. Horne has been placed on administrative leave with pay until his contract expires at the start of September.

FAMU’s athletics department has been plagued by a $7 million dollar deficit, incurred over several years.

Governor Rick Scott is urging Florida’s public university presidents to hold off on increasing tuition. Scott vetoed an overall 3-percent tuition hike as part of the budget, but there are questions as to whether universities can implement a smaller cost-of-living increase mandated in state law.


FAMU attorney and interim Title III Compliance Officer Rosalind Fuse-Hall has a new job. President of Bennett College, a private, all-women's school in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The college announced Monday that Fuse-Hall will become the school’s 17th president July 1.

 A graduate of  UNC-Chapel Hill, Fuse-Hall earned her law degree at Rutgers University. She has also worked in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s New York office.

LHatter / WFSU

Florida A & M University has tapped a former Ohio band director to lead the school’s “Marching 100” band. FAMU, even as the organizations remain under suspension.

Dr. Sylvester Young says it took friends and colleagues calling constantly to get him to apply for the job. The 66-year-old Young had been retired since stepping down from a 25-year stint as Band Director at Ohio University, but says he viewed the FAMU position as the opportunity of a lifetime.

FAMU College of Law

There’s some good news at Florida A&M University.

For the first time since its College of law was re-established in 2000, the the first-time pass rate for Florida Bar exam test takers exceeded the state average.  Twenty-three students took the test in February and 19 passed. At 82.6 percent, the FAMU College of Law beat the state average of 80.2 percent. It also came out ahead of five other law schools in the state.

Florida A&M University will delay its search for a permanent leader until next year. The university board agreed Thursday to resume the search for a new president in January 2014.

The decision means Interim FAMU President Larry Robinson will stay on the job for another school year.

Update 5:25 pm:    Florida A&M University has suspended its search for a new president.  The chairman of the school’s board says it would be  “unfair” to bring in a new president as long as the school is dealing with accreditation problems.

Leon County Jail

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - An attorney for one of the defendants in the hazing death of a Florida A&M drum major says his client is going to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors.

FAMU Winning Race Toward Reproducing Sun's Energy

Mar 7, 2013
Thomas Andrew Gustafson

Florida A&M University’s Center for Plasma Science and Technology isn’t focused on collecting solar power but making it. In July 2012 the Center’s fusion reactor reached the first phase toward duplicating what happens on the surface of the sun.

Tony Levell

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Prosecutors are charging 12 former Florida A&M University band members with manslaughter in the 2011 hazing death of a drum major.
     Ten of the band members had been charged last May with felony hazing for the death of 26-year-old Robert Champion, but prosecutors said Monday they are raising the charges to manslaughter. They also have charged two additional defendants with manslaughter.

Steven Rodriguez / WFSU-FM

Harriet Tubman, best known for helping hundreds of slaves escape the South during the Civil War also played a role as a Union spy.  But she wasn’t an Underground Railroad “Conductor” with just a flash light and dream.  Two of Tubman’s tools for freedom and espionage are now on display at the Florida A and M University Black Archive.

The American Bar Association wants more information from Florida A&M University’s Orlando-based law school on its programs and policies after the Bar’s accreditation arm cited the school for admitting students who aren’t academically prepared. The report also cited FAMU Law for low passage rates on the Bar exam.

 “Consistent with that is a desire to look at the admissions process at the law school to make sure we are admitting students with a reasonable chance of success in law school and on the Bar exam," said FAMU Law School Dean LeRoy Purnell.

FAMU Names Hazing Czar

Jan 18, 2013
Florida A&M Univeristy

Florida A&M University has named a new hazing czar as part of continuing efforts to tamp down hazing in student organizations.

FAMU's  hazing czar will report directly to the university president and work with student groups and organizations on hazing issues on campus. University President Larry Robinson says the job is aimed at helping the university coordinate its anti-hazing efforts and track complaints.

The search for the next director of Florida A&M University’s marching band continues after contract negotiations for the candidate fell through Tuesday.

Florida A&M was all set to announce North Carolina Central band director Jorim Reid as the next director of marching and pep bands, but the deal fell through after the school and Reid failed to reach an agreement on the job requirements in the position. Interim University President Larry Robinson says he believes it’s best for the school to start the search process over again:

A press conference to announce a new band director for Florida A&M University didn’t happen as planned Tuesday. Minutes before the announcement, university officials said they weren’t ready to name a new director because of contract disputes.


It’s the second time in less than five years the school is facing a sanction. This time, the problems stem from the hazing death of a drum major and lax oversight of funds given to the school band for travel. It’s also due to incomplete and fraudulent audits done by the school’s former auditor. In speaking with concerned students, faculty and staff in a hastily called town hall meeting. Interim FAMU President Larry Robinson said the stakes couldn’t be any higher for the troubled school:

Florida A&M University has once again found itself in an uncomfortably familiar spot. The school has been hit with a probation sanction by its accrediting body for the second time in five years. Lynn Hatter reports Wednesday interim University President Larry Robinson met with concerned students, faculty and alumni.

Picture of marker on Florida A&M University's campus
Florida A&M University

Five years ago, Florida A&M found itself  on accreditation probation. The reason? Financial problems and a series of blistering state audits. Now, the university is in a similar place again. Call it a case of really bad déjà vu:

“There’s got to be message here. And the message I think SACS is attempting to send is, we’ve got to get the Florida A&M house in order, and not for the short term, for the long term," said Frank Brogan, Chancellor of the State University System.

R.Benk / WFSU-FM

Monday marked one year since the hazing death of a Florida A&M University drum major. Students and faculty gathered together on the FAMU campus to remember the life of Robert Champion.

About 50 friends, former band mates and university faculty attended the vigil. Student Brandon Cunningham, former president of the school’s Marching 100, recalled the night that former band director Julian White told them the news.