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FAMU announces its own task force and $50,000 in hazing research grants

Florida A&M leaders announced faculty research grants totaling $50,000 and the selection of an advisory task force as part of the university's latest efforts to rid its campus of hazing rituals following a senior band member's November death.

Florida A&M professors who receive the grants will study "the nature and extent of hazing behaviors among campus organizations and groups," President James Ammons announced in a Thursday news release.  Professors will be asked to dive into the secretive and sometimes brutal nature of hazing rituals that occur within student organizations, unofficial band cliques and other "off-campus entities," among other topics.

Also on Thursday, FAMU trustees chose seven people to serve on a task force that will examine how administrators handle hazing cases at other universities, what works in persuading students not to submit to the rituals, and how to govern the famed Marching 100 band.

The announcements follow a Wednesday review of Ammons' job performance by school trustees. Ammons has been criticized for his handling of hazing complaints over the years, and especially last fall, by several parents, students and Julian White, the band director Ammons initially fired after Robert Champion died during a band trip Nov. 19.

But his review only covered the 2010-11 academic year, so several uncovered hazing incidents were not discussed. Trustees generally said he performed well but did not meet fundraising goals, the AP reported.

In other hazing-related news, University of Florida officials warned this week that a student was injured in a "serious physical hazing" incident last weekend. Details of the student's injuries were not disclosed.

The incident occurred only days after the university's new antihazing task force met for the first time to review its hazing policies, per the instruction of Gov. Rick Scott.

The FAMU task force includes the following professionals:

Stephen Craig Robinson (Chairman) – Former U.S. District Court Judge and current partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom;
Dr. Na’im Akbar – Clinical Psychologist and Former President, National Association of Black Psychologists;
Elizabeth Allan – Professor, University of Maine and Co-Director, The National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention;
Michael V. Bowie – Executive Director of Florida Fund for Minority Teachers & former national president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council;
David Brewer – Former Vice Admiral of the United States Navy and Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District;
Mary Madden – Professor, University of Maine & Co-Director, The National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention;
David Starnes – Band Director and Professor of Music at Western Carolina University.