Ending days of limbo for its band director, Southern University on Tuesday fired Nathan Haymer, bringing his leadership of the famed Human Jukebox to an abrupt end.
Haymer broke the news in a statement issued about 4 p.m, and a university spokeswoman soon confirmed it. Haymer’s departure comes after an internal investigation prompted by a recent lawsuit accusing him of requesting a kickback in order for the band to appear at an event for public school children.
“It was my goal to uphold the prestigious legacy of the Human Jukebox by taking the band to greater heights of unprecedented success,” Haymer said in his statement. “I always took pride in being an ambassador for Southern University and at no time did I ever act in a nefarious manner by accepting ‘kickbacks’ as falsely reported by the media.
“Needless to say, I remain disappointed with the University’s decision and will weigh my legal options for further appeal. But at the end of the day, I will always and forever be a Jaguar!”
Members of Southern University's famed Human Jukebox crowded into the Southern Board of Supervisors meeting Friday, pleading the case for thei…
Haymer’s brother and attorney, Niles Haymer, said his brother received his termination notice about 4 p.m. Tuesday.
A few minutes later, Southern University President Ray Belton sent out his own letter addressed to the “Southern University Community.” He did not say why the university is firing Haymer. Belton allowed that “you may hear varying conversations of the matter," but said Southern will keep focusing on “upholding standards of accountability and transparency.”
“This departure is not an easy one, as Mr. Haymer has been a great asset to our students, band program and overall community,” Belton said.
Belton said former Band Director Lawrence Jackson, who retired in 2014 and was succeeded by Haymer, is returning to help in the interim, though he won't serve as director, while Southern conducts a search for Haymer’s replacement.
The controversy burst into the public eye Friday morning when members of the band crowded into Southern’s Board of Supervisors meeting, pleading the case for their band director to keep his job.
Haymer aroused their concerns the night before when spoke at a band banquet. There, according to those in attendance, the director indicated he had been asked to resign in lieu of potentially being fired and that he couldn’t hand out awards because they were in his office, and he’d been locked out of the room.
In the lawsuit against Haymer and Southern University that prompted the university investigation, Maranda White, the owner of Baton Rouge-based Octagon Media, alleges the band director reneged on band appearances after she refused to fulfill a "kickback" request, which she later brought to the attention of Southern officials.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in January, White had reached an agreement in 2015 with Haymer for the Human Jukebox and the Dancing Dolls to be the main attraction at an event for various public schools.
But 10 days before an event in November, Haymer requested via text message that a check be written to him that would be hidden from the business, the lawsuit alleges.
Haymer, a 2001 graduate of Southern, first marched with the Human Jukebox as a student. He returned in 2006 to serve as assistant director. In 2014, he took over the top job.
“Being the director of bands at Southern has indeed been the honor of my life and I will always treasure the experience,” Haymer said in his statement. “I leave our Human Jukebox in a better place today in terms of funding, equipment and popularity than ever before.”
Soon after the news broke Tuesday, Niles Haymer returned to his brother’s defense on Facebook, posting: “I'll march for Nathan B. Haymer until the end. But this isn't the end, it's just the beginning! #BrotherlyLove”
Band supporter Jonathan Dearbone, who spoke in support of Nathan Haymer on Friday to the Board of Supervisors, said he’s not sure what to make of Haymer’s firing. He urged the university to provide a "clear accounting of what happened.”
“I don’t condone a wrong, but there’s so many ways to look at a situation,” Dearbone said.
Dearbone said he’d already urged the students in the band to be measured in response to what might happen, but he worries that emotions will boil over.
“I know these kids and I know the love they have for him and this staff,” Dearbone said.
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