Former FAMU band member: Directors knew about hazing

6:36 AM, Nov 24, 2011   |    comments
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SMYRNA -- When Ivery Luckey heard that hazing may be to blame for Robert Champion's death, he wasn't surprised.

Thirteen years ago, as a sophomore clarinet player in FAMU's Marching 100, Luckey was beaten so badly he spent 11 days in the hospital.

"I had full renal failure," he said. "My organs were beginning to shut down and toxins were building in my body and I had to go into dialysis." 

Luckey joined Florida A&M University's famed band as a freshman in 1997. He later became friends with 26-year-old Robert Champion, the Southwest DeKalb High School grad and FAMU drum major who died last weekend after suspected hazing. 

In an exclusive interview with 11Alive's Blayne Alexander, Luckey described his own hazing ordeal. He said it began his sophomore year, when he wanted to secure his place on the field.

"Back then, you could be the best player on the field, but if you did not cross over in your section, there's no way you're marching at a game," he said.

Crossing over, or initiation, involved a rigorous hazing process. So Luckey started going to nighttime meetings at off-campus apartments.

"I was taken into a room, blindfolded and paddled with these wooden paddles," he remembered. "After the paddling stopped, it was actually physical blows, face slapping. Just all sorts of things to cause pain and suffering."

He said it lasted for hours. One night, he was hit with a paddle more than 300 times. As he drove home, he started to feel sick. His symptoms were similar to those Champion reportedly experienced before his death.

"I was nauseous," Luckey said. "I figured there's a huge problem when you start urinating blood."

A cousin insisted he go to the hospital, where they diagnosed him with temporary kidney failure. He remained hospitalized for 11 days. 

Luckey survived and spoke out. He filed a lawsuit against the Florida Board of Regents and reached a $50,000 settlement in 2004.

Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Julian White was fired from his position as FAMU band director. Dr. White was in his first year as head director during the time Luckey was hazed. Luckey believes directors are aware of hazing practices within the band.

"I'm sure that they do [know], yes," he said. "If they don't, I don't know how they couldn't. Since my experience, I know that parents have called and reported it to them. So yes, they knew."

He filed his lawsuit in hopes that it would serve as a wake-up call to the school and shed light on the practice.

"I would not have gone to the hospital had my cousin not driven me there," Luckey said. "If Robert were in the same situation, with him being in Orlando not even near home, not even near someone to reach out, you just kind of man up and tolerate it." 

Luckey acknowledged that being hazed is a choice, one students often make because they want to be accepted in the band.

Florida A&M University President Dr. James Ammons has organized a task force to investigate any "questionable and unauthorized" practices within the Marching 100. In a conference held Tuesday, he said hazing is illegal and will not be tolerated.

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