Monday, June 10, 2013

FAMU shouldn’t revisit expulsions executed in response to Champion hazing

Last week, two former FAMU drum majors who participated in the hazing of deceased band member Robert Champion were sentenced. Rikki Wills received 12 months of house arrest and five years of probation. Shawn Turner will spend 18 months on house arrest and three years on probation.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, “Wills was expelled from FAMU three classes shy of earning a degree in criminal justice.” Federal law prevents FAMU from confirming the names of students it dismisses, but The FAMUan reported that the university also expelled Turner.

Wills and Turner have admitted that they assisted Champion as he attempted to “Cross Bus C.” The hazing ritual required him to run through a gauntlet of blows aboard a parked bus and touch the back of the vehicle. They said they tried to keep the attackers away from him in order to help him finish the process.

William Hancock, an attorney for Wills, believes that FAMU should bear more blame than the students who took part in the illegal hazing ritual.

“I really think the blame falls greater on the institution that perpetuated the hazing than the participants, but he certainly owned up to his personal responsibility,” Hancock said in a quote published by ABC News.

Wills has pointed his finger at ex-band director Julian White. He said White didn’t do enough to stop hazing.

“Well, honestly, I mean, we went to Dr. White [about hazing] and told Dr. White things before. ... It was always just a slap on the wrist or, ‘OK, I'll take care of it,’ and it basically just turned into a speech — one of those speeches they give the band [about hazing] that nobody pays attention to,” Wills said.

Even if Wills’ claims about White are true, they are no excuse. Wills and Turner should have immediately called the police as soon as they learned that Champion was heading into an illegal activity. By refusing to report the planned beating beforehand and attempting to help Champion complete the ritual, they knowingly supported a senseless hazing tradition.  

This is all the more reason for FAMU to refuse to revisit any of the expulsions it executed against those who were involved in Champion’s hazing. “Zero tolerance” means that students are either for the anti-hazing rules or against the anti-hazing rules. Any student who tries to “help” a student break an anti-hazing rule is part of the problem and should receive no mercy in the disciplinary process.

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