TRANSCRIPT: FAMU President James Ammons Speaks With ABC News' Matt Gutman

The president spoke with ABC News on Nov. 24, 2011.

ByABC News
November 27, 2011, 9:38 PM

Nov. 28, 2011 — -- The following is a transcript from ABC News correspondent Matt Gutman's interview with Florida A&M University president James Ammons on Nov. 23, 2011.

Matt Gutman: Thank you for doing this… I wonder if you can tell me what happened on Saturday.

James Ammons: I don't know what happened. This is of course one of the reasons that the Orange County Sheriff Department is conducting this investigation into the activities that went on on Saturday night. But I'm encouraging this campus, anyone on this campus who may have any information regarding these activities regarding Robert Champion's death to fully cooperate with the investigation and to assure them that there will be no retaliation for anyone who cooperates fully but there will be consequences for those who try to impede this investigation.

Matt Gutman: I understand. Will there be consequences for those who allowed this alleged hazing to happen?

James Ammons: We are looking into all of the details around hazing, and there will be consequences for anyone. It is illegal in the state of Florida. We have been working extremely hard here at FAMU to eradicate hazing from this campus. And there will be both university action taken and certainly if people are convicted of hazing, there will be legal actions taken.

Matt Gutman: Were you aware of this alleged hazing?

James Ammons: I was made aware of the alleged hazing during the investigation and with the confirmation of Sheriff Demmings on yesterday that there was in fact hazing taking place.

Matt Gutman: So until you spoke with the sheriff, you were unaware that there was hazing taking place, despite the fact that parents have been sending band director Julian White emails for months and years indicating that their children were being hazed?

James Ammons: Well, there have been throughout the years allegations of hazing and also confirmed instances of hazing. We have worked extremely hard, and the important thing is here that we're going to get to the bottom of this. We have suspended the band's operations; we have put in place a task force that's being headed by the former attorney general of the state of Florida, Bob Butterworth, and Walt McNeil, who is the chair of the international police chiefs association. We have taken all of the steps necessary to put this in the past at FL A&M University. And I think that's really the important thing that everyone needs to know, that we are not going to tolerate hazing on this campus and we have a lot of help now to get to the root cause of it and end it once and for all.

Matt Gutman: But sir, it seems like you've been tolerating for over a decade, since Marcus Parker was so badly paddled that he lost function of his kidneys.

James Ammons: I have, um, been, uh, with the university since 2007, and it has been the policy of this administration, and of the university, and the state of Florida that hazing is not something that would take place on this campus.

Matt Gutman: But parents were warning you repeatedly via emails to the band director saying that hazing was going on -- this year.

James Ammons: In those instances where hazing was confirmed, there were actions taken, both in the university and from the legal community.

Matt Gutman: Has action been taken this year against band members?

James Ammons: The investigations are ongoing for those instances where hazing has been alleged, and so those investigations are in the process right now.

Matt Gutman: One mother wrote "Students are being humiliated and terrorized daily." This was back in August, in September. How do you answer these parents?

James Ammons: Well, as I have said to you, we are taking all of the steps necessary to eradicate hazing from Florida A&M University. In instances where hazing was alleged, the university police department and the student affairs division conducted investigations and those investigations are ongoing as we speak.Matt Gutman: Who is ultimately responsible, if hazing did occur on campus?

James Ammons: The university is ultimately responsible. Let me tell you, our first priority is the health, safety and security of our students and our staff here at the university. This is something that we take very seriously and this is the reason that we are working so diligently now to get to the root cause of this issue on this campus and put it to an end. No one is more hurt and disappointed than all of us here at the university that we are here today in 2011 having to deal with an issue like this.

Matt Gutman: Let me ask you the question again. Were you not aware that there was hazing going on on campus?

James Ammons: I am aware that there have been allegations and investigations of hazing going on on this campus. In fact, I have been notified that those investigations are in process as we speak. We have a process here on campus that involves the student affairs division, as well as the police department here at the university, and all of the steps are being taken, and have been taken, when there are instances or allegations of hazing. And as I said before, when those allegations have been found to be true, actions, appropriate actions have been taken both by the university and by the legal system.

Matt Gutman: Can you promise me that from now on hazing will be eradicated on campus?

James Ammons: I can tell you that right now, we are doing everything that we can to insure that hazing does not take place. And I will guarantee you that anyone who is engaged in hazing and that information is brought to the university as it has been in the past, those students are going to be taken through the process of being suspended from the university and turned over to the judicial or the legal system here in the state of Florida.

Matt Gutman: Prior to Saturday, was enough being done to stop hazing?

James Ammons: I think that here at FAMU, we have in place all of the policies and procedures dealing with hazing and the relationship with the student affairs division, police department here on campus, and law enforcement here in the city of Tallahassee, Leon County and the state of Florida. The university had abided by those policies and procedures and in every instance where there has been a confirmation that hazing has taken place, by using those processes that we have, appropriate actions have been taken. And again, as I have said to you before, we have put in place a task force, to impose the people who have been engaged in law enforcement, with criminal acts, who I think will give us the opportunity to review the total operations of the university, the policies and procedures and put in place a process and system that will eradicate hazing from this university

Matt Gutman: OK, but was enough done to stop this instance in which a man was killed?

James Ammons: Well, first of all.

Matt Gutman: It seems like the answer is pretty simple.James Ammons: I haven't seen any evidence that there ties hazing to his death.

Matt Gutman: There are emails that I'm holding in my hand in which parents are warning you about hazing in which children are terrorized and humiliated. That's pretty clear this was happening on campus and in the band.

James Ammons: When we had those instances, those allegations, we have taken action. And again, we have taken all the measures necessary from an administrative standpoint to educate students about the illegal act of hazing, when those acts or allegations have been confirmed, appropriate actions have been taken both by the university and by the legal system.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events