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Huffington Post writer scolds FAMU on its legal approach

Moderator: This is one of the harshest indictments against a school written by anyone that I’ve seen in my decades of writing on this issue.

Excerpt from William K. Black Huffington Post op-ed: I’ve represented defendants and plaintiffs in tort actions. I understand fully why FAMU’s lawyers designed the forms the band members signed to protect FAMU from liability and I understand the defenses FAMU’s lawyers have raised in their pleading. I understand how desperate public university finances are and that the liability FAMU faces in the wrongful death action could be extraordinary. But as FAMU’s legal counsel I would have counseled it not to make any of these arguments. Fiscal bankruptcy for a university is a terrible thing. Moral bankruptcy is fatal. FAMU’s claim that it bears no legal responsibility to stop assaults on its students that are a de facto requirement for participating in university activities demonstrates that FAMU is a place where accountability goes to die. FAMU has disgraced itself with this motion. Parents should not entrust their children to senior university officials whose priority is avoiding liability rather than preventing vicious assaults on their students. FAMU’s leadership should consult with its ethicists rather than its lawyers and should act in accordance with the university’s mission.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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