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Accrediting group puts FAMU on probation

By George Howell, CNN
December 12, 2012 -- Updated 0108 GMT (0908 HKT)
Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion died during a 2011 hazing incident. Champion's family is suing the university.
Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion died during a 2011 hazing incident. Champion's family is suing the university.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Florida A&M University put on probation for one year by accrediting agency
  • Agency looking at finances, policies; university expects more detail soon
  • Robert Champion, drum major in FAMU band, died in 2011 hazing incident

(CNN) -- Florida A&M University, under fire in the hazing death of a drum major and over its finances, was put on probation for one year by an accrediting agency, officials said Tuesday.

FAMU expects more details of the sanction within the next week, the Tallahassee institution said in a statement.

Administrators learned from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges that FAMU's accreditation is in jeopardy. The loss of accreditation would put thousands of students at risk of not being eligible for federal financial aid.

The regional accrediting agency has expressed concerns about academic policies, student rights, the control of finances and the institutional environment, according to FAMU. It asked the university to provide information about policies that protect students when they participate in university-sanctioned events.

Florida A&M launches anti-hazing effort

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement separately investigated alleged "financial irregularities" involving the marching band.

"It is important to emphasize that FAMU remains an accredited institution, even while under the probation sanction from SACSCOC," interim university President Larry Robinson in a statement. "We are committed to addressing the areas of concern, and ensuring that FAMU is compliant with all SACSCOC accreditation standards."

The probation comes as a Florida circuit court judge weighs whether to dismiss a civil lawsuit brought by the family of drum major Robert Champion Jr., 26.

Champion died in November 2011 after being beaten on a bus in Orlando, Florida, after a football game at which the school's famed marching band performed.

The hazing was part of a ritual known as crossing the bus, in which pledges attempt to run down the center aisle from the front door of the bus to the back while being punched, kicked and assaulted by senior members, band members have said.

In September, FAMU responded to the lawsuit by filing court documents saying that the institution was not responsible for Champion's death. The school asserted that Champion broke the law and school policies when he willingly took part in the hazing that killed him.

"My reaction is that the school did not take the responsibility to keep my son safe," Robert Champion Sr. said.

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