FAMU Denies Fault in Marching Band Member's Hazing Death

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com September 11 2012 6:15 PM ET

Representatives for Florida A&M University say the school is not to blame for a rash of hazing that led to the death of drum major Robert Champion.

The school's attorneys filed documents Monday in a lawsuit regarding Champion's death. The member of the Marching 100 died in a parked bus in Orlando following a football game in 2011. The university said Champion, 26, who was gay, was an adult and therefore was legally responsible for his own death, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“No public university or college has a legal duty to protect an adult student from the result of their own decision to participate in a dangerous activity while off-campus and after retiring from university-sponsored events,” states the document, prepared by attorney Richard E. Mitchell. Furthermore, the document states that Champion, as a leader of the band, should have refused to take part in the hazing ritual. The document also states that he had witnessed others being hazed but did not say anything.

According to the Associated Press, the document is the first formal response that the university has given regarding Champion's death.

As a result of the hazing incident, 12 members of the Marching 100 have been charged with felonies related to the case. The band's director was also forced to retire and FAMU's president stepped down.

Since Champion's death, the university now limits membership of the Marching 100 to FAMU students, and starting next year, students will be required to sign an antihazing pledge before being allowed to register for classes.