Thursday, September 13, 2012

FAMU attorney reveals text of Champion’s signed anti-hazing agreement

FAMU attorney Rick Mitchell, a member of the GrayRobinson law firm, included the abridged text of deceased drum major Robert Champion’s signed “Hazing and Harassment Agreement” in court documents filed earlier this week.

When Champion put his signature on the agreement, he stated he fully understood that hazing is physically dangerous, illegal, and a violation of FAMU’s rules. He also stated that he knew he was not supposed to seek membership in any unauthorized “sub-organization within a [band] section.”

ESPN, FOX 5 Atlanta, and the Florida Times-Union have all reported that Champion was a member of the Red Dawg Order, an unauthorized sub-organization with a reputation for hazing. An ESPN news story said that Champion joined the Red Dawgs during his freshman year.

Champion entered FAMU in 2004. He was a FAMU student when Florida’s Chad Meredith anti-hazing law went into effect on July 1, 2005. He was also at FAMU in 2006 when five members of FAMU’s Alpha Xi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi became the first individuals to be arrested on felony hazing charges under the Meredith law. FAMU suspended the chapter until 2013.

But despite FAMU’s previous disciplinary actions against the Kappas and numerous band members who had been accused of engaging in hazing activities after 2004, an investigation by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office found that Champion “willingly participated” in the hazing ritual that took his life on Nov. 19, 2011.

Willing participation in any hazing act would violate Champion’s signed “Hazing and Harassment Agreement.” The text, as printed in FAMU’s motion to dismiss the Champion family’s lawsuit, is available below.

On August 15, 2011, Mr. Champion executed and provided FAMU with the following written “Hazing and Harassment Agreement”:

The Florida A&M University Marching Band operates under the State of Florida Statutes, Section 1006.63, with strict consequences against all individuals found guilty.

Section 1006.63(1) Hazing Prohibited

As used in this section, “hazing” means any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for purposes including, but not limited to, initiation or admission into or affiliation with any organization operating under the sanction of a postsecondary institution.

Hazing includes, but is not limited to . . . any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, . . . or other forced physical activity that could adversely affect the physical health or safety of the student . . . Hazing does not include customary athletic events or other similar contest or competitions or any activity or conduct that furthers a legal and legitimate objective.

I, Robert D. Champion, have read and fully understand Section 1006.63, Florida Statutes, a copy of which is attached, that prohibits persons from participating in hazing and harassment in any manner.

I further realize that my failure to comply with this Statute by participating as a hazer or hazee will immediately terminate my membership in the Band.

Furthermore, I understand affiliation or membership with any sub-organization within a section is strictly prohibited by the University Band Staff and will result in my termination from the Band.

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