[mpoverlay]Faces and names will soon be aligned with the tragic hazing death of Robert Champion. Maybe we’ll see students being led off in handcuffs, maybe there will be mugshots lined up on newspapers and nightly telecasts. Maybe the charges filed against 13 individuals alleged to have murdered the FAMU drum major will reopen the gaping emotional wound for Famuans and again injure the Rattler community.
But this time, a proper healing can begin for that community, free of the questions and judgements that rocked so many who were nowhere near the bus on that November evening following the Florida Classic.
The absence of charges – justice in the eyes of Champion’s parents and their supporters – gave everyone in America wide open space to find a target for blame. That target soon became Florida A&M and its leadership, quickly turning from a tide of mourning and shock to a faulty-system-seeking missile fueled by a 24-hour news cycle and political posturing from Florida Governor Rick Scott.
We soon discovered that all levels of FAMU administration were, at the least, aware of hazing and willing to stop it, illuminated by email trails from parents to administrators, faculty to administrators and administrators responding to everyone. Many people were kicked out, many recommendations were made.
None of it could have or would have saved Robert Champion’s life.
And now the people directly responsible for the murder have been or will soon be charged for Champion’s death. Their implication turns the focus from what FAMU didn’t do to prevent them from beating Champion to death, and squarely onto proving that they did so that evening in Orlando. The questions, the vitriol and the voice of response now belongs to those defendants and their attorneys, and not those of Florida A&M University.
The thousands of alumni who have insulated the university from global coverage and scrutiny now get to relax their emotional energy in defending the school. They no longer have to feel compelled to defend FAMU’s academic rigor, social and cultural tradition, or the impact it had in their personal lives. They don’t have to make the failing effort to ask the world to look beyond one of the most scrutinized hazing incidents in American history to find the real FAMU.
They can now ask the world to look at the 13 people directly responsible for ending a life and damaging an institution to its core.
By no means is FAMU cleared of wrongdoing or responsibility in this case. More details will emerge about who knew what, more faculty and staff will be sued and/or fired, and the Marching 100 as an organization will remain silent for the near future. And even when the 100 members return to perform, they will long carry the stigma of the incident, and the paranoia that it only takes two musicians – a willing attacker and a willing participant – to spiral everything back into institutional chaos.
But for now, the new faces of this tragedy are more than just those of Robert Champion and the FAMU shield. Now there are 13, and maybe more. Those 13 now allow thousands to begin a long awaited and deserved healing process.[/mpoverlay]