Bruno calm in fight for SGA bid
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Alicia Garland didn’t know when she was telling her son, Justin Bruno, as a child to always do the right thing that she would one day see him do just that in a Tallahassee courtroom.
Bruno and his running mate Devin Harrison, candidates for the office of president and vice president of FAMU’s Student Government Association, had to appeal to a Leon County court for a temporary injunction to stop the university from ordering a campus-wide re-election. Judge John Cooper ruled in their favor late last week, assuring Bruno and Harrison that the only re-election will take place at FAMU’s College of Law campus in Orlando.
Earlier in the day while Bruno’s attorney Mutaqee Akbar filed the appeal, Garland was at her son’s side stating why she felt he would get some reprieve from the court.
“I’ve raised him to do things in an orderly and honest manner and things have been done that way,” Garland said, insisting that FAMU’s administrators were wrong for ordering an entirely new election.
The Law School election was scheduled for Tuesday. In the first election on Feb. 16, Bruno and Harrison won over the team of Victor Chrispin Jr. and Pernell Mitchell, 1,213 to 1,210 on campus. They had a landslide win in Orlando, 153 to 7.
However, several irregularities were cited after the election, including polls being unsupervised and ballots not being signed. Chrispin Jr. and Mitchell appealed to a SGA Supreme Court, which said the election has to be thrown.
The university agreed, prompting the court action by Bruno and Harrison. Should they win in Orlando again, they are expected to be installed in office on April 30.
Throughout the ordeal, Bruno was calm. He even appeared humble, but confident in what seemed to be a frustrating situation.
But it wasn’t his fight alone, Bruno insisted.
“I simply was fighting for my rights and my fellow students,” he said. “I simply want to serve my students. That is what I set out to do.”
But he wasn’t sure at first. Even after being a SGA senator in his first year and eventually becoming vice president to Tonnette Graham, Bruno said he had to turn to a higher power to decide for him.
He admittedly doesn’t have a desire to be a politician. Earning a computer engineering degree was his focus, he said.
He didn’t even have an interest in student government when he attended Jones High School in Orlando. The closest he came to that was to compete for a “Mr. Jones” title.
He finished second in a competition that left him feeling he’d do better being in a position to take a stand for other students. FAMU turned out to be the right setting in his freshman year.
He soon discovered that issues such as financial aid and other pertinent matters regarding campus life were too much for him to ignore. In part, he said, that’s the reason that he took his case to court.
Akbar praised Bruno’s tenacity in what appeared to be a David vs. Goliath match-up when he took on the university.
“If you look at the university as a corporation, this was a student going up against the administration (and) everybody telling him no,” Akbar said. “I think that was his faith and the fact that he knew he was on the right side of the argument.
“I think that shows the type of leader that he is. He didn’t back down just because the university told him he should back down. He continued to fight.”
FAMU offered a terse comment on the case before the ruling, saying that it’s abiding by SGA rules. But in court, the university was represented by three attorneys.
Bruno didn’t flinch. His fight was about what’s wrong and what’s right, he said.
“What I hope this can be for current and future students is that you don’t have to turn a blind eye to the things that are done wrong to you,” he said. “You can actually seek justice in a situation like this. If you are the righteous party in a situation, then you have to fight for your rights.”
If he wins in Orlando again, Bruno said he will concentrate on developing leadership for SGA, something he said has been lacking from the administration. He has the right partner in Harrison to accomplish that and more, Bruno said.
They’ve been friends since his freshman year. It didn’t take them long to realize they have similar philosophical views regarding student life on campus and their rights.
“It was something affecting him,” Bruno said. “He would probably act in the same way.”
When he brought the issue public, Bruno claimed that President Elmira Mangum and vice president William Hudson Jr. were unwilling to hear his appeal. Bruno went as far as to accuse Mangum of seeking an ally in the Chrispin Jr. and Mitchell ticket.
He said Mangum showed an obvious interest in Chrispin Jr. and Mitchell because some of her staffers were involved in their campaign. He pointed to the fact that whoever is elected SGA president will automatically be on the Board of Trustees.
The BOT unsuccessfully attempted to remove Mangum last year, but she was saved by the SGA vote. Mangum has been on the hot seat again recently, with her contract due for renewal this spring.
Bruno said he wouldn’t have an axe to grind with the administration should he win the law school to seal a victory as SGA president, though.
“I don’t have time to satisfy some personal vendetta against somebody for trying to infringe upon my rights,” he said. “That is wrong but it’s also something I shouldn’t be worried about.
“From a standpoint of spirituality I’m not qualified to worry about the things that somebody does to me because it’s already been handled by somebody that’s greater than me; the person I’m on this earth to serve.”