FAMU band members' GPAs raise more questions about Marching 100
Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012
Updated: Saturday, October 6, 2012 14:10
ORLANDO, Fla.-- Nearly 50 members of Florida A&M University's famed marching band had GPAs last fall that were below a 2.0 -- the minimum grade-point average required to participate in student organizations on campus.
Twelve had cumulative grade-point averages of 1.0 or below, with some as low as a 0.14, according to public records obtained Friday by the Orlando Sentinel.
The records raise additional questions about university oversight of the band in the months leading up to the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion in Orlando on Nov. 19. A dozen former band members have been charged with felony hazing in connection with Champion's beating after the Florida Classic football game.
FAMU has acknowledged that band administrators were not always vigilant about monitoring members' qualifications. Several months ago, the Sentinel reported that 101 of the estimated 350 people on the band's fall roster _ including three of those charged in Champion's death -- were not enrolled at FAMU or the two other Tallahassee schools where students had an option to participate in the FAMU band.
While last year's band handbook has no mention of a GPA requirement for members, university policy required students to have at least a 2.0 to participate in student organizations.
Public universities in Florida generally consider students to be at risk of failing when they drop below a 2.0, prompting schools to issue students a warning or place them on academic probation. If students continue to get poor grades, they can be dismissed.
The records indicate the band fell short of its own goal of being a "role model of excellence" in academics and other areas.
The average cumulative GPA of the 230 band members whose GPAs were released to the Sentinel was a 2.48 -- a C average.
Eric Rombach-Kendall, president of the College Band Directors National Association, said eligibility standards for marching bands vary from institution to institution, but a high number of band members with GPAs below a "C" indicates a problem.
"It suggests there's a culture there that needs to change," he said. "It suggests they're really not serious about school."
Rombach-Kendall, director of bands at the University of New Mexico, said the cumulative GPA of his 140-member band is well above a 3.0 _ a B average.
He described a cumulative 2.48 as "academic mediocrity."
Castell Bryant, who was interim president at FAMU from 2005 to 2007, expressed disappointment in band members' low grades. She also questioned whether FAMU should have allowed students with GPAs of less than 2.0 to travel and perform with the band.
"If a student has a 1.0 or less, now that is ridiculous," she said.
Bill Jennings of Orlando, the longest-serving member of FAMU's board of trustees, echoed Bryant's concern about students with GPAs below 2.0 participating in FAMU's high-stepping show band.
He said Friday that he planned to press the administration for more details and expected FAMU's interim president, Larry Robinson, to take a closer look at the issue.
"I just need to understand how it happened, and make sure we put in place steps so it doesn't happen again," Jennings said.
He stressed that the university's decision several months ago to hire a "compliance officer" for the music department will help control who joins the ensemble, which has been suspended indefinitely since shortly after Champion's death.
This past summer, FAMU unveiled a list of other changes designed to make it harder to get into the band and stay in.
Before former President James Ammons resigned in July amid the growing scandal over hazing and other problems at the school, he established a minimum GPA of 2.5 for incoming band members.
Almost half of last fall's band members had GPAs lower than 2.5.
Robinson said Friday that "we have addressed GPA concerns and other issues, and have put new measures in place."
"We are in the process of hiring a compliance officer in the music department who will monitor academic eligibility requirements, travel procedures and the collection of fees,"
Robinson, who was traveling out of state on Friday, told the Sentinel in an e-mail.
"When the marching band returns, FAMU will require participants to be full-time students, limit their practice hours to 20 per week and limit their participation in the band to their first four years at FAMU. We believe we have addressed the issues raised by these (GPA) figures."