FAU Student Body President, removed and replaced in 24 hours, might rejoin Student Government

Dylan Bouscher

Peter Amirato is sitting in the corner of the food court on the Boca campus, resting one hand on a black cane he’s sporting to help his dislocated kneecap. The former student body president was wrestling over winter break when he wrote a Jan. 1 Facebook status about the incident: “Dislocated my knee cap while wrestling and popped it back into back into place like a boss… 2014 you’re about to be my bitch!”

On a Monday afternoon two weeks later, the senior ocean engineering major was removekmd from office.

Amirato was brought before a committee of students, faculty, and staff who check eligibility for paid positions. They knew he failed two classes last fall — his first semester balancing the workload of a student body president and full-time undergraduate. And they knew that according to University Regulations, a student body president has to maintain a 2.7 semesterly and cumulative GPA. Because Amirato’s fell short of that, Student Government had no president when the meeting was over.

Less than 24 hours later, Patrick Callahan, the senior finance major who ran as Amirato’s vice president, shared the news of his promotion on Facebook:

“I am excited and proud to announce that I have just been sworn in officially as the new FAU Student Body President.”

As Amirato recalls his whirlwind of a removal, he’s not bitter.
“Patrick and I will always be close,” Amirato says before summarizing his presidency in one sentence: “I did great things and had an even greater time.”

Callahan shares Amirato’s sentiment.

“Peter is one of the most outstanding student leaders on this campus and has made a lasting impression on the FAU student body,” Callahan says, confirming his vision as president will include finishing what Amirato started. “Everything is going as scheduled.”

Carlo Fassi, the student body president of University of North Florida who defeated Amirato for the only student seat on the Board of Governors — the 17 appointed officials that run the Florida State University System — is equally fond of Amirato.

“Peter did an excellent job serving… I have nothing but good things to say about our time working together,” Fassi says. “[Amirato] challenged me for the chair position and was a formidable opponent.” UNF’s GPA requirement for student leaders is 2.25, according to Fassi, but he wouldn’t comment on Peter’s removal from office because he felt it wasn’t his place. “I have openly expressed my dissenting view on this requirement…any Activity and Service Fee paying student deserves an opportunity to serve their student body,” Carlo Fassi, student body president at the University of North Florida, says. “We are ostracizing some students and preventing them from participating in part of the democratic process.”

Amirato is more understanding of the GPA requirements for student leaders.

“I knew the terms when I signed up,” he says. “They should be there.”

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Amirato and Callahan weren’t favored for the job.

During the spring 2013 SG presidential election, the pair were disqualified from the race by Chief Justice Ryan Quinn, one of Amirato’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity brothers. This resulted from a complaint filed by another president/vice president pair about faulty campaign paperwork. But the official results couldn’t lie: Amirato and Callahan took the most votes. That didn’t mean anything yet.
The election ended Feb. 20. Amirato and Callahan were kicked out of the race on March 20. They fought the decision until their triumph was sealed on April 9, when their disqualification was overturned by Senior Vice President of Student Affairs Charles Brown, who reminded the candidates the Student Court couldn’t disqualify students from elections.

The UP reached out to Associate Dean of Students Terry Mena, who works under Brown and serves as an adviser to Student Government, to comment on Amirato’s time as President. As of publication time, Mena has not commented.

Two months after being sworn in, Amirato attended his first meeting as the only student on FAU’s Board of Trustees — the 13 appointed officials who vote to spend your tuition and fees and decide how much they are — and broke his campaign promise of “advocating against increases to housing rates.”

After former Student Body President Robert Huffman approved a recommendation to increase campus housing rates from two to five percent in April, Peter voted for the increase in June. “I wish housing hadn’t been increased,” Amirato, a resident in the Innovation Village Apartment dorms at the time, said after voting. “But that was something that was not discussed in my term, so it’s not exactly my place to comment on it.” He kept other promises though, like being the first student body president to prevent tuition and fee increases for the first time in five years by voting to waive a 1.7 percent increase last August. (See sidebar for Amirato’s Presidential Accomplishments.)
The UP reached out to the Trustees who worked with Amirato to comment on their time with him, but as of publication time, the Trustees have not commented.

“I never let anything influence my decisions, whether they were popular or not,” Amirato says. “That same attitude is what got me removed from President.”

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Amirato, a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity chapter, is approached by three of his “brothers,” who pound fists, greet him, and walk away in one fell swoop. “Always good to see you Peter,” one of them says as they’re leaving the food court.

Lifting his hand off the cane, Amirato rests it against his chair and rolls his shoulders as his lips crack a shift from ambivalence to a mischievous smile.

“What I learned the most is, you’re always going to have friends and enemies… haters gon’ hate,” Amirato says, adding, “You can’t replace learning how to handle the pressure and at the same time not succumbing to doing what’s expected and not letting the position be bigger than doing what’s right.”
Amirato’s advice to Callahan? “Don’t lose sight of why you’re there and why you do it.”

In fact, he might join Callahan’s administration. “I’m not going to stop doing what I’m passionate about. I’m thinking about applying to be [Student Government] Director of Governmental Relations.”