FAMU Students React to Charges Filed in Death of Robert Champion

FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011 file photo, Robert Champion, a drum major in Florida A&M University's Marching 100 band, performs during halftime of a football game in Orlando, Fla. At least five people will face criminal charges in the hazing death Champion aboard a band bus in Orlando last fall, authorities said Tuesday, May 1, 2012. (AP Photo/The Tampa Tribune, Joseph Brown III, File)
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Tallahassee - May 3, 2012 - 12:21 am

Phil Johnson is a student at Florida A & M University. He says he understands why 13 people were charged in the death of Marching 100 drum major, Robert Champion, but says he can somewhat sympathize with them.

"We all know colleges across the country have a history of hazing," says Johnson.

Hazingstudy.org polled more than 11, 000 students at 53 universities and colleges nationwide. More than half say they've experienced hazing on some level.

"I heard that hazing is a felony in Florida, I just think that's ridiculous."
Johnson. Everybody makes the individual choice to keep joining these organizations even though there's hazing, " says Johnson.

It can be treated as a third degree felony, or in some cases a misdemeanor. Another study by the University of Connecticut shows since 1970 , there has been at least one hazing related death on a college campus every year.

But even with those numbers, students say there is a huge desire to be part of something bigger, like the Marching 100.

"They probably felt it was a tradition in hazing, that's something that goes on in many different organizations, they probably felt it was a right of passage," says Robert Cox, a student at FAMU.

A right of passage that investigators say, in this case, ended with the death of a drum major, and the lives of 13 now changed forever.

Some students say they're confident that the administration at FAMU is doing everything within its power to eliminate hazing at least among Rattlers.

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