On Monday, student leaders of the Florida A&M University Student Government Association convened a press conference to announce their grievances with the university administration regarding recent SGA election proceedings.
Student Senate President Brandon Johnson, along with Student Body Vice President Paris Ellis, Student Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Nelson, Attorney General Jeremiah Carter and Student Senate President Pro Tempore Kenidee Webster assembled the conference, which took place in the SGA senate chambers.
“Today I am here to speak about the lack of due process that students have faced regarding their right in participating in the democratic process in choosing who they want to represent them,” said Johnson in his opening statement.
Student leaders claim that the university administration overstepped key student procedures when swearing in students Justin Bruno and Devin Harrison as Student Body President and Vice-President respectively on Jan. 13. The student Electoral Commission named them winners of a special student body election by default when their opposing ticket was found to be ineligible.
“The Electoral Commission overstepped its boundaries in not carrying forward with the election as prescribed by law,” Carter said. “According to the statues, an election should have proceeded with ‘None of The Above’ as the opposing ticket.”
SGA reported that they have been sending correspondence to university administration to rectify the matter, however they have not received a response to date. Vice President Paris Ellis states that she has not been made officially aware of the change in leadership and wishes university administration would communicate effectively with the student body.
Johnson stated that it is not the intent of SGA to keep Bruno and Harrison from taking office legally. “If our documents and procedures are followed correctly and Bruno-Harrison are installed properly, then the senate will do its best to facilitate a smooth transition of power,” Johnson said. “But we cannot allow administration to bully the will of the students illegally.”
Ellis claimed that she and Student Body President Jaylen Smith have also been robbed of their due process as they were sworn into the positions permanently. “As the Student body Vice President, I have not received any correspondence from anyone in administration or the Electoral Commission,” Ellis said. “I have not been removed from my seat by any legal terms, nor have any been made party to any goings on with these proceedings.”
SGA submitted an official investigation request to the University Division of Audit and Compliance Office to look into the actions of the administration. Pro Tempore Webster also stated her intent to hire outside counsel for SGA after she claimed that the University General Counsel has been of little help to the student leadership.
“We have made several attempts to ask General Counsel for guidance in this matter and have gotten no where,” said Webster. “I am writing an allocation to hire outside counsel to advise us on the law and our options as it pertains to our case.”
An administrative panel was held Tuesday evening in the Hansel Tookes Student Recreation Center to discuss a resolution and options for both the student body and university administration. Members of the Division of Student Affairs, Electoral Commission and Student Government Association were in attendance.