FAMU SGA VP Accuses Administration Of Meddling; Lawsuit Filed To Stop New Election
Update 3/24/16: A Leon County circuit judge has granted an injunction request made by Justin Bruno. The move means a new SGA Presidential election will apply only to FAMU's Law School in Orlando.
Original Story: Florida A&M University’s Student Government Vice President is accusing campus administrators of meddling in student elections. At stake in the fight is a seat on FAMU’s Board of Trustees, which will soon decide whether to renew President Elmira Mangum’s employment contract.
FAMU Student Body Vice President Justin Bruno says he won the election fair and square. And he doesn’t understand why his is the only race to be recalled. The fight centers on voting problems at FAMU’s Orlando Law School. The school’s precinct opened late, and no election supervisor was present. The vote process is overseen by students, who are elected by their peers. Bruno won the district 153 votes to 7. He says only 149 votes separated him from his challenger.
“There’s a re-election for our race only. But there are multiple races that have a responsibility to campaign at the law school," said Bruno. "So if there was a violation at the law school that affected every race that campaigned there, and was voted for there.”
He alleges administrators at FAMU are biased against him, and are wrong in upholding a ruling by the Student Body Supreme Court which favored his opponent, Victor Chrispin.
At stake is a seat on FAMU’s governing board. On or before June 30th, the FAMU Board of Trustees will have to decide whether to renew university President Elmira Mangum’s employment contract. Mangum narrowly survived two votes last year for termination. At the time, Bruno and current Student Body President Tonette Graham rallied for Mangum. Graham, who currently serves on FAMU’s BOT, voted against Mangum’s firing. Bruno led a march to the Capitol to support the president. But he says, he’s no ally. And he’s accusing the administration, and Mangum of meddling in the race in order to keep him off the board.
“She [Mangum] has a better sense of security about his [Chrispin's] assistance on the board of trustees than she has about mine, because I don’t have a personal relationship with her, I have a professional relationship with her," he said.
But the administration says it has nothing to do with the contested election.
“The responsibility and authority lies with student government. However, we do support students’ efforts in civic responsibility," said William Hudson Jr., Vice President of Student Affairs. Hudson says its the students' responsibility to govern themselves.
"Ultimately, the SGA defines its processes and procedures, and governs its processes and procedures among the three branches, including the student supreme court.”
Hudson says he can’t comment much on the case, due to the pending injunction request. But he points to regulations by the state university system governing board restricting university interference in student affairs, though it can make recommendations. Hudson declined to say whether the administration has done so in this case. It’s not the first time a student election at FAMU has been contested. And Hudson says it may be time for students to revamp their constitution.
“Students have a responsibility to govern the student body, and student government. Therefore, they must review their constitution annually and update it. We can’t do that. We can provide assistance, which is what we’ve been willing to do, but we can’t write it for them.”
Meanwhile, Bruno’s team has hired attorney Mutaquee Akbar to take his case to Leon County Circuit Court. Bruno wants an injunction to block another vote. If that fails, he says he won’t participate in a new election, which is set for March 29. Bruno says he doesn't want to validate what he believes is an attempt to force him out.
Read the Injunction Request Below: