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Tallahassee.com covers FAMU event

Florida A&M officials are hoping — and expecting — a standing-room-only audience Thursday afternoon when the university hosts its first town hall on hazing this semester.

The 2-4 p.m. event at the 9,980-seat Lawson Center is mandatory for FAMU students, who outnumber the facility’s capacity by more than 2,000. And that’s before faculty, staff and the public begin taking seats.

Hazing has been in the spotlight at FAMU since last November, when Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion died after a hazing ritual on a band bus in Orlando. Starting next semester, FAMU students will be required to sign an anti-hazing pledge before registering for classes.

The interactive town hall will feature a half-dozen national experts in a panel discussion format followed by a question-and-answer session. James Bland, a Los Angeles-based 2008 FAMU graduate who in December 2009 created the website FAMU United for alumni to post their positive memories of the university and combat a torrent of negative attention for FAMU, will serve as moderator.

The panel includes two members of the university’s original national anti-hazing task force, Na’im Akbar and Elizabeth Allan. That task force was created earlier this year but it essentially disintegrated before holding its first in-person meeting. FAMU Interim President Larry Robinson, however, said he hopes to revive it.

In the meantime, Robinson is eager for a resounding turnout for Thursday’s event. The university has stressed its zero-tolerance rules for hazing while meeting with student groups, and has suspended one dance club indefinitely while it investigates allegations of hazing during the Labor Day weekend, but this marks the first forum this fall focused solely on hazing.

“One of my concerns is that you can never rest on your laurels,” Robinson said. “You can do a lot of good work, but you have to continue to look for opportunities to create awareness. I don’t think you can ever stop working on this issue.”

The other four scheduled panelists are attorney Rasheed-Ali Cromwell, Victor Gaines, founder and president of the Marching 100 Band Association, hazing researcher and author Hank Nuwer and FAMU student body president Marissa West, a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

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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