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Monday, September 26, 2022

Student Government considers third censure of the Summer

The UF SG Senate Rules and Ethics Committee will complete two censure hearings Friday against Judiciary Chairman John Brinkman and Senator Jonathan C. Stephens

The UF Student Government Senate Rules and Ethics Committee will complete two censure hearings into legislative body members Friday.

Separate censure petitions were filed against Senator Jonathan C. Stephens and Judiciary Chairman John Brinkman. They alleged Stephens acted disrespectfully and Brinkman actively abused his power.

A potential censure into Senator Jonathan C. Stephens concerns his behavior during Senate meetings. Majority Party Leader Emily Pecora alleged Stephens made motions mocking disabled people during the May 24 Senate meeting and made sexist and personal remarks about Senate President Elizabeth Hartzog during the July 5 meeting, according to the petition. Stephens received two warnings from Hartzog July 5 for disrupting Senate business.

“Senator Stephens’s actions have repeatedly disrupted the regular business of Senate and are subject to disciplinary action,” Pecora wrote in the censure petition. “Furthermore his inappropriate actions represent conduct that is unbecoming of a University of Florida Student Senator and are deserving of a formal reprimand.”

Stephens said he didn’t remember making any offensive motion during the May 24 meeting; he acknowledged his tendency toward loud and dramatic physical motions but said it was never meant to degrade any community. He said the claim was unfounded based on his outward advocacy for equal rights for women and those with intellectual and physical disabilities.

His alleged attack on Hartzog was also untrue, he said. He said he tried to lighten the mood at the end of the tense July 5 meeting by touching on an inside joke between members of the Senate. His statement, he said, was not made with ill intent and was not meant to offend Hartzog.

Stephens said moving forward he would be more careful with his comments.

“These allegations are very shocking because, looking at my record,” Stephens said, “this is just not something I stand for.”

A second censure petition alleged Judiciary Chairman John Brinkman actively abuses power by allowing his committee to avoid citing the five criteria — constitutionality, implication, legality, format and clarity — in which it reviews legislation, incorrectly applying the criteria and not informing an author on which criteria his or her bills failed. 

Brinkman’s censure is in response to the committee’s postponement and subsequent failure of Senator Oscar Santiago Perez’s legislation, which would have reimbursed students for 50% of contraceptives costs, emergency contraceptives, abortions, travel costs for abortion care in- and out-of-state and post-abortion counseling. Brinkman ruled it illegal and unconstitutional.

"Once again, we see a situation where when Change Party does not get their way politically, they result to starting a scene, going on a baseless witch hunt, and abusing the Senate procedures for partisan political gain,” Brinkman wrote on his political censure in an email to The Alligator July 3. “Their claims here are once again entirely without merit.” 

Senator Mason Solomon serves as a member of the Rules and Ethics Committee and the vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He serves as an unbiased member in both committees, he said, and did not believe there was a conflict of interest which would constitute recusal. As Brinkman’s vice chairman, Solomon makes most of the motions to postpone legislation indefinitely. 

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Rules and Ethics Chairwoman Tanner Thompson said Sunday she would check the student body codes to see if there were rules concerning Solomon’s potential recusal. 

The hearings are set back-to-back Friday at the Reitz Union starting at 1 p.m.

The next Senate meeting will be held in the Reitz Union Senate Chambers 7 p.m. Tuesday. 

Contact Sandra McDonald at smcdonald@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @sn_mcdonald.

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Sandra McDonald

Sandra McDonald is a third-year journalism major and the Student Government reporter for the University Desk. This is her first semester at the Alligator. When she's not reporting, she's probably reading fantasy novels and listening to Taylor Swift.


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