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News Clips 01/24/2013
FAMU responds to BOG report
Source: Tallahassee Democrat, 01/24/13
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By Doug Blackburn
Florida A&M University focused on the many steps it has taken to address hazing in its response to a highly critical Board of Governors investigation.
The university’s 27-page response to the Dec. 28 BOG report was submitted Wednesday evening. BOG Inspector General Derry Harper is expected to compile a final report that includes FAMU’s response.
FAMU officials said that Harper’s report did not contain an expert opinion on hazing, and the university stressed that a few facts in Harper’s report were inaccurate.
But for the most part the university did not contest the findings of Harper’s probe, which focused on hazing at the university from 2007 through the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion in November 2011.
FAMU officials cited comprehensive studies on hazing at colleges and universities that showed there is no way to completely prevent hazing from occurring. They also noted that, according to the study, there have been 188 deaths reported on America’s campuses as a result of hazing since 1838, including seven since the Champion tragedy.
Harper determined that FAMU did not have the institutional controls in place to address hazing during the time he reviewed hazing allegations at the university.
In its response to the BOG report, deemed a preliminary report until the FAMU response and Harper’s subsequent final draft, FAMU went step-by-step to explain each measure it has taken to attempt to eradicate hazing on its campus.
Two new positions have been created, including a special anti-hazing assistant to the president. Bryan Smith was named last week to fill that position, and is scheduled to start Feb. 1.
Interim President Larry Robinson said he is close to naming a compliance officer for the music department, a person who will report directly to Smith.
FAMU also has conducted several town halls and forums to explain to students, staff and faculty the university’s policies on hazing. In the report, FAMU noted that it has a zero-tolerance approach to hazing, identical to Florida law and policies endorsed by the Board of Governors.
The final BOG report did not conclude any violation of law had occurred, nor are any criminal charges forthcoming. But the report and response are likely to be addressed at the next BOG meeting, scheduled for March and set to be held at FAMU, and could include findings of shortcomings.
When the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools notified FAMU last month that it was placing the university on probation for one year, one of the areas the accrediting agency cited was an unsafe environment for students.