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Florida A&M hazing persists despite probe

MIAMI -- Two decades ago, the now-ousted director of the Florida A&M band warned in a letter about the dangers of hazing among the famed "Marching 100" ensemble, saying "it would be very difficult for the university and the band should someone become killed or hurt."

In the following years, hazing seemed to become a bigger -- if not more public -- problem. Police investigated several serious cases and students were arrested. Anti-hazing workshops were held. Dozens of band members were suspended.

University officials and the marching band community were keenly aware of the persistent hazing, yet it continued and is believed to have played a role in the death this month of 26-year-old drum major Robert Champion.

Champion's death started a blame game of sorts, with the historically black college in Tallahassee firing its band director, Julian White, accusing him of "misconduct and/or incompetence." In turn, White released more than 150 pages of documents showing he had warned for years about what was going on.

The chairman of the Board of Governors, which oversees Florida's public universities, wrote a letter to FAMU trustees yesterday, saying they would investigate whether the university took appropriate action to address White's concerns.

A former drum major, Timothy Barber, told The Associated Press yesterday that White looked for ways to eradicate a culture of hazing that existed in many instrument sections of the band. White invited band members to report hazing anonymously and even had police come along on some away games, Barber told AP.

White approached Barber for help in getting rid of hazing. Barber, who was in the band from 1996 to 2002, said he was never hazed, nor did he participate in it.

Barber went back to FAMU this year and practiced with Champion and the other drum majors. White told him Champion could become the head drum major. Barber also noticed demeaning nicknames on a white wall were painted over.

"We need to do more," Barber said.

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