by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Some are speculating as to whether or not Florida A&M University is in danger of losing its accreditation over recent hazing incidents that have taken place on the school’s campus. The involvement of Governor Rick Scott has been a red flag for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the body that grants accreditation for universities in the state of Florida.
Scott recommended that the FAMU Board of Trustees suspend university president James Ammons until pending investigations are concluded. The association providing accreditation says that making such a decision after being influenced by the governor is a violation of their requirement that university decisions be made without influence by politics or religion.
The death of Robert Champion has been a thorn in the side of FAMU’s previously stellar reputation. The university’s band is known world-wide, and the college garners a tremendous amount of respect. While FAMU continues to be one of the top universities in the nation, the death of Champion highlights a very serious problem in the campus culture that the university has failed to address.
Robert Champion died on November 19 after being hazed by other band members. There were additional arrests weeks later for similar incidents on campus. For reasons that remain unknown, the university has been unable or unwilling to do what it takes to protect it’s students from those who wish to turn the college experience into one that involves bullying, violence, alcoholism and even death.
As the parent of college students myself, I am quite disturbed by the university’s inability to control this problem. Beyond that, most of us remain disappointed that a young child sent away to learn is at risk of being thrust into an environment where others are enticed to act more like prison inmates than educated young people. This behavior is entirely unacceptable, and I am hopeful that old school folks will realize that we cannot continue to allow our young people to be put into harm’s way.
One can only pray that the financial liability and significant embarrassment being caused by this incident will push FAMU administrators to get their act together. Young people should be protected when they go to college, and it’s up to all of us to put an end to hazing in any way, shape or form. The tremendous discipline and talent it takes to create one of the greatest marching bands in the world will remain even if we aren’t pushing students to the brink of death in order to get there.
Additionally, students must remember the slogan used by the NYPD: “If you see something, say something.” All of us must police one another to stomp out hazing where it stands. You might not win many friends by speaking up, but you may end up saving a life in the process. In fact, if one of the students on that bus with Robert that night had been instilled with the courage to report what they were seeing, an educated black man would still be walking on the earth today. Everyone who could have prevented this incident is going to have to live with this truth until the day they die.