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FAMU students confront Fla. gov. in band aftermathFAMU students rally at Fla. governor's home to protest call in aftermath of band death
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) ' Florida Gov. Rick Scott's call to suspend FAMU's president has triggered an uproar, prompting hundreds of students to march on the governor's mansion late Thursday night.
Scott called on FAMU President James Ammons to step aside amid multiple investigations into the death of a marching band member. Scott said he did not know if Ammons had done anything wrong, but he contended it would be in the best interest of the university for the president to go.
That opinion wasn't shared by students who staged an impromptu protest and marched more than two miles from the FAMU campus. Scott eventually came outside and talked to them, but he did not back off from his recommendation that Ammons be suspended.
Scott was scheduled to meet with Ammons in person later Friday.
WCTV in Tallahassee showed video of students telling the governor that he should rescind his recommendation and not get involved with FAMU's operations until the investigations were over.
The television station showed the governor, who was wearing a grey sweat suit, using a bullhorn to tell the students that he made the recommendation so that no one can question the outcome of the investigations.
Scott asked state law enforcement to assist in the investigation of the death of drum major Robert Champion. Champion died following a football game in an incident that police say involved hazing. Florida officials said this week that probe led to them discovering "financial irregularities" with the band's finances.
The governor returned to Florida on Thursday following a seven-day trip to Israel. He called the chairman of the FAMU board on Thursday and asked him to suspend Ammons effective immediately.
When asked by reporters if Ammons could hang onto his job, Scott said, "If he's not done anything wrong, sure, absolutely he should survive this."
FAMU's president does not report directly to the governor. But it is the governor who is responsible for selecting some of those who serve on the FAMU board of trustees. The governor also appoints most of the people who sit on the board of governors that oversees the State University System.
Solomon Badger, the chairman of the FAMU board, said the trustees would meet by phone on Monday to consider the governor's request.
Ammons put out a statement on Thursday evening defending his actions so far.
"I'm sure that this investigation will determine that under my leadership, the administration acted appropriately." Ammons said. "I serve at the pleasure of the FAMU Board of Trustees and I will abide by whatever decision the board reaches."
The board last week discussed suspending Ammons but instead voted to publicly reprimand him.
Ammons took over as president back in 2007 and was brought in to help clean the university's troubled finances and its loss of accreditation.
In the wake of Champion's death, he suspended the Marching 100 band and tried to fire band director Julian White and expel four students connected to the incident. But White responded by contending that he had warned university officials about chronic problems with hazing.
The expulsions and White's firing were rescinded at the urging of Florida authorities who said they did not want any disciplinary action taken while the criminal investigation was still pending.
But the State University System began its own internal investigation into whether FAMU officials ignored past warnings about hazing.
This week, police also arrested three band members accused of beating a female member so severely during hazing rituals that they broke her thigh. Tallahassee police said that in hazing ceremonies Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, the three struck Bria Shante Hunter's legs with their fists and with a metal ruler to initiate her into the "Red Dawg Order." It's a band clique for students from Georgia.
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