Who's to blame?: Florida A&M University officials are shifting blame for the hazing death of one of its students, not surprising given the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Robert Champion's parents. But the school's legal team may have a hard time convincing a jury that Champion bears responsibility for his own death, as legal briefs filed this week suggest. Champion, a member of the school's well-known marching band, died in November after being beaten by his fellow bandmates in a hazing ritual. He was 26 years old. The band's driver found his body on a bus, after the rest of the band members got off, leaving Champion to die alone.
Champion's parents claim school officials knew about the longtime tradition of hazing in the Marching 100 and should have done more to prevent it. But in its response to the suit filed by Pam and Robert Champion Sr., the school said no public university or college has a duty to protect an adult student from what happens as a result of that person's own decisions to participate in dangerous activities off campus and outside of university-sponsored events. After the Champions spoke out condemning the school's attempt to blame their son for his own death, the school's legal team amended its filing to remove a statement saying that taxpayers should not be liable for "the ultimate result of [Champion's] own imprudent, avoidable and tragic decision and death." But FAMU's lawyers also added evidence to the filing that showed Champion attended a band leadership retreat during which school officials made it clear that hazing would not be tolerated.
Bowing to pressure: Administrators at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) have decided to replace the traditional prayers that led off football games with a moment of silence. The switch came after national group Freedom from Religion and the school's Secular Student Alliance wrote letters demanding the pre-game prayers stop. According to reports in The Chattanoogan, the student group said a moment of silence offered a secular alternative to a markedly Christian practice. Since 2010, a Fellowship of Christian Athletes staff member offered most of the pre-game prayers, at the school's request. A spokesman for the Secular Student Alliance encouraged other schools facing similar challenges to follow UTC's example.
Scuttled sale: In other news out of Tennessee, Nashville-based LifeWay Christian Resources seems likely to end negotiations with Olivet University over the sale of the company's Nevada retreat center. Plans to sell the Glorieta Conference Center to the school faltered after opponents raised questions about the school's founder. Critics say Rev. David Jang's followers believe that he will be transformed into Christ at the second coming. Jang and his supporters have denied the claims. LifeWay asked the National Association of Evangelicals to investigate the allegations. Jang has faced similar scrutiny for heresy before. Although Jang is no longer directly affiliated with Olivet, based in San Francisco, the controversy may be too much for LifeWay, with belongs to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Investments paying off: Many of the nation's colleges and universities took a financial hit in 2008 when stock market losses deflated their endowment funds. But according to a report this week in USA Today, most of them have recovered, and nicely. Biola University saw the biggest increase among Christian schools, growing its endowment from $55.3 million in 2008 to $74.5 million in 2011. Indiana Wesleyan University saw the next largest increase among Christian schools, from $53.3 million to $68.6 million. Harvard University maintains the largest endowment of any American school--$31.7 billion. But the school's funds remain 13.2 percent below their 2008 maximum. The University of Texas System maintains the largest endowment of any public institution--$17.1 billion, a 6 percent increase over 2008.