Student Senate Meeting Clears Air; SGA President Graham Retains Position

Courtesy of Tallahassee Democrat

Tonnette Graham, Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) student body president, has retained her position despite efforts to remove her from office.

FAMU President Elmira Mangum overruled an impeachment effort by the Student Government Association’s Student Senate on Friday, saying proper procedures were not followed in the effort to remove Graham.

Marvin Green, director of student activities, read a notice during Monday’s Student Senate meeting in the Grand Ballroom, explaining why Graham is keeping her position, despite allegations that university funds were mishandled.

“In any actions by the Student Electoral Commission that reports to remove Ms. Graham from office is not in action authorized by the BOG regulations, FAMU regulations, the Student Body Constitution or the FAMU Student Body staff,” Green said. “On Oct. 9, 2015 the Office of the President found that Ms. Tonnette Graham was denied due process in the case of 45th Student Senate v. Tonnette Graham, and thereafter issued an order remanding the case to the Student Supreme Court.”

According to Florida A&M University’s Budget Office’s policies and procedures, the university’s Legislative Budget Requests (LBR) is “developed based upon the Board of Governors (BOG) policy guidelines, the Board of Trustees’ priorities and the strategic priorities established by the president and cabinet.”

Graham said Monday that the Senate passes the SGA budget to her, giving Graham the opportunity to enact vetoes. The budget then goes back to the Senate and sent to the university’s Board of Trustees.

“The budget that they actually sent didn’t include the six percent operating fee, which comes off the top, which made the budget unbalanced about $94,000,” Graham said. “The budget office notified Mrs. Watkins, who is the budget manager in (Vice President of Student Affairs) Dr. (William) Hudson’s office in Student Affairs. She notified my OFC chair. Since I still had my veto days, I made the adjustments.”

Fliers were posted on cars and posts around campus on Monday calling Graham a “thief,” claiming “she gave herself a $2,000 raise” along with giving members of her cabinet raises. The people responsible for those fliers have not been identified.

Graham said she took the last five budgets that were passed and compared the mandatory fees.

“What has happened in the past is about $300,000 of the OSA budget covered the mandatory fees,” Graham said. “With the President’s Dining Room being renovated, I found out that through the auxiliaries account I can do a memorandum to the president and ask that they pay a percentage of that.”

To ensure the money was equally spread to all the university’s clubs and organizations in the budget, Graham said she took the liberty of taking $100,000 from the OSA budget and spreaded it out.

“I didn’t steal anything. I did everything in the best interest of the student body,” Graham said. “Those employees [cabinet members] have been working for free. I’ve been working with the bookstore to get them book vouchers to compensate for the money.”

Vice President of Student Affairs, Will Hudson, said there needs to be an honest dialogue between students and SGA, concerning the mistrust FAMU students have with them.

President Mangum said the processes and procedures were not Graham’s fault.

“The processes and procedures that broke down were not her fault,” Mangum said. “It was the administration’s fault. Everyone ‘skirted’ around and asked her to adjust the budget and she did it.”