Four FAMU Students Dismissed Following Hazing Arrests

PHOTO: Brandon X. Benson, Anthony Mingo, Hakeem Birch, and Denise Lashawn Bailey were, Jan. 19, 2012, by the Florida A&M University Police Department and are facing hazing charges.
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Four students have been expelled from Florida A&M University today after being arrested and charged with hazing offenses.

The expulsions come two months after drum major Robert Champion died on a school bus following a football game. Police have said they believe hazing contributed to his death.

The four band members expelled in the latest hazing indicent were identified as Denise Bailey, 22, Brandon Benson, 23, Hakeem Birch, 21, and Anthony Mingo, 22. They were arrested on Thursday for allegedly attacking five clarinet players as part of a hazing ritual for a group of the school's famed marching band, the "Marching 100."

The school announced the dismissals during a FAMU board of trustees meeting today, according to the Associated Press.

The school would not confirm the dismissals, saying that the information was "protected by federal and state privacy laws," according to the Office of General Counsel.

Please attribute the following to Sharon P. Saunders, FAMU's chief communications officer.

"We encourage anyone who has been a victim of hazing to come forward. We will promptly and thoroughly investigate every complaint and seek prosecution for all cases to the fullest extent of the law," FAMU's chief communications officer Sharon P. Saunders said in a statement.

"We also do not tolerate retaliation and will take all necessary steps to ensure students coming forward with complaints or participating in an investigation into a complaint can do so without fear of retaliation," Saunders wrote. "We are committed to ending hazing at FAMU. We are taking decisive action to ensure the safety of all students and create a permanent culture change."

An arrest report said that "the hazing created a substantial risk of physical injury or death."

Four women and a male student were victims of the alleged hazing. They were identified as Elijah Brown, Riva Nance, La'Nesia Smith, Sychiquita Stokes and Shantivia Conley.

Five FAMU students and members band were identified in the arrest report as the victims of the hazing: Elijah Brown, Riva Nance, La'Nesia Smith, Sychiquita Stokes and Shantivia Conley.

The students were pledging to become members of the "Clones," a group within the clarinet section of the band. Three or four initiation meetings had been scheduled for the Clones, beginning around Sept. 1, 2011.

"During the scheduled initiation meetings, the pledges were forced to exercise, play music, and were either punched, prepped (slapped with both hands on back) or paddled," according to the arrest warrant.

After the meeting, the students discussed their experiences and showed each other their injuries. Conley took photos of her bruising and quit the pledge process after the first meeting.

The meetings were coordinated by Bailey or Benson, according to the warrant, and took place at the off-campus home of Birch and Benson.

The dismissed students will have a chance to appeal the board's decision before a student committee, according to the AP.

The FAMU Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Last week's arrests were the latest in a hazing scandal that has marred the school and its famous marching band.

Since Champion's death in November, the school has stepped up its efforts to stamp out hazing which has long been a surreptitious tradition within its band.

Champion, 26, was a member of the college's Marching 100 band when he collapsed and died Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game. His death was ruled a homicide, but no charges have been brought.

Four students dismissed by the university in Champion's case were reinstated while authorities continue to investigate.

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