Julian White, director of embattled FAMU marching band, retires
(CBS/AP) TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Julian White, the director of Florida A&M University's marching band announced his retirement Thursday in a statement from his attorney.
While the statement made no mention of the controversy surrounding the band, the famed Marching 100 has been under intense scrutiny since the death of drum major Robert Champion in November 2011. Eleven FAMU band members currently face felony hazing charges in the death, and two others face misdemeanor charges.
White, 71, was briefly suspended from his position following Champion's death, but returned to it in early December.
Champion died aboard a bus outside an Orlando hotel following a FAMU football game. His death led to revelations about a culture of hazing within the band. The band and White were suspended after Champion's death. White was reinstated about two weeks later, but the band's future is still uncertain.
Some band members did not make the trip to Orlando in November. Twenty-six band members had been suspended prior to the football game because they were alleged to have been involved in other hazing activities before Champion's death.
According to information the university turned over to its board this week, three of those charged with Champion's death weren't FAMU students at the time.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that the chairman of the university's board of trustees has called a meeting of the board for Friday or Monday and plans to discuss the band's future with university president James Ammons.
In a May 8 letter, Ammons explained that he is having the university "internal crisis management team" speak to faculty, students, as well as boosters and alumni about what conditions should be met before the Marching 100 can return.
Pam Champion, the mother of Robert Champion, has said that the band should be disbanded so the university can "clean house." She and the family's attorney contend there is a vast effort among students and others to cover up who is responsible for her son's death.
There is also an ongoing criminal investigation into the finances of the band, as well as a probe by the state university system into whether top officials at the university ignored past warnings about hazing.
The Champion family has already told FAMU it plans to sue the university. FAMU itself set up a task force to look at hazing, although the panel has not met since a flare-up over whether it should follow the state's open meetings laws. Several members have since resigned.
Hundreds of pages of records reviewed earlier this year by The Associated Press showed years of repeated warnings about brutal hazing passed without any serious response from the school's leadership until Champion's death. Police files show that since 2007, nearly two dozen incidents involving the band, fraternities and other student groups had been investigated.
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