Three days before the hazing death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion, the university's dean of students urged top administrators to impose a long-term suspension of the school's famous marching band because of concerns about hazing.
The recommendation from Florida A&M University Dean Henry Kirby is outlined in notes he took about a critical meeting that was held on Nov. 16 specifically to discuss hazing within the band.
Those notes, requested by the Orlando Sentinel nearly a month ago, support former FAMU police chief Calvin Ross' recollection of the meeting of four university administrators and two FAMU police department employees.
Ross told the Sentinel several weeks ago that neither he nor Kirby wanted the band to travel to Orlando to perform at the Florida Classic football game on Nov. 19, when Champion was beaten to death by fellow band members.
While Kirby has refused to comment about the meeting, he wrote in his notes that he repeatedly recommended that FAMU "impose the 'KAPPA' effect" — or suspend the band long-term, as the university had done with the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity years earlier.
In 2006, FAMU suspended the university's chapter of the fraternity after five members were charged with using wooden canes to beat a pledge during an initiation ritual.
The chapter's charter was revoked in 2007, according to Kappa Alpha Psi's national office.
"I explained that if we suspend the band like we did the KAPPAS that it would effectively stop all of this hazing," Kirby wrote.
Kirby's notes also offer details about events that happened before and after the critical Nov. 16 meeting.
According to the dean's notes, police chief Ross had also recommended the band be suspended. As an alternative, Ross had suggested that the senior members of the band be suspended since it appeared that the freshmen were the targets of hazing.
Kirby mentions that longtime band director Julian White, who has since retired, had wondered during the meeting whether it would help to tell band members that his job might be in jeopardy.
William Hudson Jr., FAMU's vice president for student affairs, had suggested holding a mock arrest of White in front of the band "to show them that we are serious about stopping hazing."
Kirby's notes do not indicate that a decision was made at the meeting, which was held in the office of then-provost Cynthia Hughes Harris. He does write that he assumed his recommendation would be shared with university President James Ammons "in a timely manner."
Ross has said he expected one of the higher-level administrators who attended the meeting to tell Ammons about his recommendation prior to the Classic.
On Friday, however, university spokeswoman Sharon Saunders said Ammons did not learn of their recommendations until after the Classic.
It was not until January that Ammons received a "briefing" from four of the six people who had attended the Nov. 16 meeting, Saunders said.
"He learned that several options were discussed during the Nov. 16 meeting, but the general consensus was that they would call together the entire band to underscore their written Anti-Hazing Agreements and the fact that hazing is against FAMU policies and a felony crime under Florida law," said Saunders.
It was January 4, Ross told the Sentinel almost four weeks ago, that he and Kirby met with Ammons to express disappointment that he had not acted on their earlier recommendation to take harsher action against the band.
Eleven band members have been charged with felony hazing in Champion's death. Three other band members have been charged with misdemeanor hazing for their roles in the beating of three other FAMU students during the Classic weekend.
University trustees Torey Alston expressed frustration Friday about the information he and other trustees have received.
"I am troubled we are still getting conflicting information on who knew what and when and everyone is pointing at someone else," Alston said.
In his notes, Kirby also mentions that he had, years earlier, recommended that both the band and White be suspended. But it is not clear whether that recommendation also was made as a result of hazing activities.
Ammons did not know about that recommendation either, Saunders said.
"I also stated that my comments were not well received and that administrators, in the past, in my opinion, did not take a firm stand on suspending the band," wrote Kirby, who was appointed as FAMU's dean of students in 1989. In 1995, he was promoted to become the associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.
In his notes regarding the Nov. 16 meeting, Kirby wrote that White did not want to suspend the entire band before the Classic. Ross, too, had remembered that White opposed the idea of suspending the band.
But Brooke Hobbs, a spokeswoman for White's attorney, repeated Friday that White had agreed with the recommendation to keep the whole band from going to the Classic. Hobbs stressed that no one at the Nov. 16 meeting had the authority to suspend the band.
Immediately after that meeting, Ross and Kirby went to the practice field to speak to band members about hazing.
Kirby said in his notes that he used "very strong" language and even cursed during his lecture, perhaps to make sure band members took him seriously.
"I intended to be clear, to the point and did not pull any punches," he noted. "I strongly admonished them on the consequences of participating in hazing activities. Likewise, Chief Ross was very strong and firm with his message but absent the salty language that I used."
Alston expressed concern about Kirby's profanity, calling it "unprofessional and totally inappropriate by any university employee dealing with students."
"This entire situation just looks bad," Alston said.
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