The Florida A&M University band made a return appearance today after a nearly two year hiatus. FAMU banned the band from performing after the death of a band member following a hazing incident in November 2011.
Robert Champion collapsed and died after the incident on a bus, and 15 band members were charged with manslaughter and felony hazing. Seven accepted plea agreements ranging from probation to community service and the rest are either awaiting sentencing or trial.
FAMU interim president Larry Robinson believes now is the time to bring back the band, and according to the Associated Press had this to say about the band’s return:
“This band will be a model of excellence for other bands across this nation. It will actually focus on its founding principles of character, academics, leadership, marching and service,” Robinson said of the band’s return. “When you look at all these actions that we’ve taken in total, we are fairly confident that we are about to launch a new era and a new understanding and appreciation as to why hazing is not necessary to advance these principles.”
The family of Robert Champion is not convinced, and does not believe the culture at FAMU has changed enough to warrant a return of the famed band at this time.
“I do believe that it’s too soon,” Pam Champion, Robert’s mother said. “I don’t see anything that’s different to ensure the safety of those students. Everything that has been put in place is not something that was done voluntarily.”
The FAMU band made its return at halftime today of a game against Mississippi Valley State.