Three Months On, Robert Champion’s Killers Walk Free

On Nov. 19th, gay drum major Robert Champion of Florida A&M University died from injuries sustained during what appears to have been a violent hazing ritual conducted as part of Champion's entrance into FAMU's famed marhcing band, the Marching 100. The ritual, it emerged, would have included something called "The Gauntlet of Fists." Champion collapsed on the band's tour bus; only a subsequent autopsy revealed he'd been beaten to death.

From the AP:

Witnesses have told Champion's parents the 26-year-old drum major may have been targeted for severe hazing because of his opposition to the marching band's culture of hazing, said [Chris] Chestnut, the lawyer for the suburban Atlanta family. Other witnesses have told them Champion being gay, and the fact that he was a candidate for chief drum major, also may have played roles, Chestnut said.

Three months later, Champion's parents are still waiting for arrests to be made. The AP offers possible reasons for the case's slow progress. The distance between the location of the crime (Orlando) and the location of FAMU (Tallahassee); the pressure of international scrutiny; the large number of witnesses and the time elapsed between the murder and its discovery as such:

Half a dozen detectives have interviewed or are in the process of interviewing 30 to 35 witnesses, said Ginette Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

"With this amount of people … three months really isn't a lot of time with an active caseload that these detectives are carrying," Rodriguez said. "We're going to send this over to the state, and of course, they're going to want to make sure that they're presenting a good case. That is basically all it is."

Incredibly, the ongoing investigation has apparently had little effect on the Marching 100's culture of sadism. Four FAMU students were arrested last month for "paddling and punching" band pledges. The month before that, three were arrested for beating a female pledge with sufficient vigor to break her thigh bone.

From the AP:

"It's very disheartening, discouraging and disappointing to see arrests made for hazing with [comparably] minor injuries but none for a murder," Chestnut said.


  1. says

    Jeeze, did no one see ‘There Will Be Blood’?
    Bullying isn’t merely the purview of children … it’s a positively American essence that lasts a life-time, much too sadly short for Mr. Champion.

  2. Johnson says

    If FAMU can’t get this under control, and apparently they can’t, then perhaps it should be disbanded before more kids die.

  3. johnny says

    Amazing that the powers that be allow this program to be accredited, allow the band to participate in college sporting events, allow them to exist as an organization, period.

    It should be disbanded for 2 years, all members should take mandatory courses on violence and human behavior and only after doing so should a new band begin with members who have gone through the training.

    What kind of idiots are running that school? It’s obvious there’s zero control over these people.

  4. Max says

    Anyone who has been through a program that includes a hazing ritual will understand how difficult it is to eradicate hazing practices. This is something over which lawmakers and school administrators have VERY little control: the shift requires a cultural shift from within the organization. The pressures from alumni and students for whom the hazing represents a very positive memory of gaining access to the group (I really mean that–a lot of people think it helps them grow) means that the people who really have the power to change these things often do not want to. A zero tolerance policy might work, but it also might eradicate the organization altogether. I have yet to see a college implement a truly effective policy about this issue.

  5. Justin in Oaklawn, Dallas, Texas says

    If this organization can’t be controlled, then it is de facto a criminal organization, no matter what the age or occupation of its members, and should be permanently disbanded before someone else dies.

  6. Mike says

    I don’t know Max. You fire the failed leadership of the Marching 100 who clearly has no leadership or control, possibly the President of the University who is not doing anything, disband the group, make arrests, press charges and make examples. I would agree with you for a little alcohol poisoning, or bruises, but you have a dead kid who was beaten to death; this is a bit more extremem than the typical hazing ritual.

  7. says

    FAMU has had a tough road the past few years. Presidential changes, a budget literally done by donkeys and horses, the Association of Southern Colleges and Schools literally threatening to yank its accreditation (which in the end they did not do)…the school is still reeling from all of THOSE events and can’t properly answer what’s 2 and 2, much less answer for these events.

    Personally I think the State University System of Florida should cut FAMU from its fold and make it continue as a private university.

  8. unruly says

    Standard punishment for college hazing rituals is disbanding the group (usually 4 years so all members are cycled out.) That teaches a lesson and deals with it. It’s not that hard; frats have had their charters revoked and students not allowed free association. This doesn’t even have to go through a legal system — it just needs to come from the University president or board.

  9. says


    You are quite right.
    “Consent” is not a defence to such criminal vicious assaults; arrest them all ; charge them and imprison all of them for a few years.

    I have never heard of “hazing ” in Europe….I have never heard it used, discussed or practised. It is not an issue; and would never be tolerated.

    Now what is the US psychosis which tolerates and encourages ritualised bullying and praises it as a rite of passage ?
    Is “bullying” an institutionalised characteristic of US culture ?
    It has been tolerated and discussed in US institutions for decades……why has there been no outrage ?
    Does US society use the culture of hazing/bullying as part of some macho jock approved image ?

  10. Max says


    I totally agree that following that list of actions would probably end the hazing. Have we seen that happen yet? Definitely not. I stand by the fact that we have not seen any colleges take a drastic enough stance to end hazing, and if they are not going to, the change is going to have to come from within the groups themselves (which is, as I said, quite difficult to imagine, though not impossible). Ending entrance rituals to any institution (and I include colleges themselves in that category) is not easy–those who have been rewarded with admission to any institution want to see those asking to enter pay the same price. Sickening, and self-enforcing.

  11. Dev says

    I do wonder what it is in United States culture that promotes violent hazing. In the UK, such a thing is hardly ever heard of, and never tolerated in any instance.

  12. Brian in Texas says

    @ DEV

    What about the violence and racism that permeates the football stands in the U.K.? That would never be tolerated in the U.S.

  13. Chicklets says

    @Michael…the USA is no different than any other nation….we are just BIGGER and open about our flaws. Where do you live? Mmm hmmm.

  14. Jrry6 says

    Cut the Cr@p Where were the Faculty Advisers that are supposed to be at EVERY meeting of EVERY organization at the School? The ADULT Advisers are the ones to charge and Jail. Not the Students.

  15. Tasha says

    We are not talking about children we are talking about adults who pay money to attend school. These events are not on school property and never will there be any supervision because this is underground activity. I am gay and in the band and I am sick of the people trying to make this into an agenda. There are hundreds of gay band memebers who achieve and do anything they want in the band. Please understand that whomever was involved acted on their own and only those people who chose to break the law and defy school policy are responsible. Punish them to the highest extent of the law and please stop trying to act like they are babies that should have been hand held because that will never happen at any university. They need to be held responsible not faculty and staff who do their job and follow the law.