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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Gator Party called on a Change Party candidate to withdraw from his race in the upcoming Fall Student Government election Wednesday.

In a statement on Instagram, UF’s Gator Party, the majority party in Student Senate, condemned the alleged actions of Jonathan C. Stephens. They include screaming at another senator, making sexist remarks to Senate President Elizabeth Hartzog and disrupting Senate procedures.

Following a Sept. 13 meeting, the statement claimed the senator who was screamed at by Stephens was forced to leave the Senate Chamber. 

“Every Gator deserves to feel safe on this campus, just as every senator deserves to feel safe within the chamber,” the party’s statement read. “We are calling on Change Party to uphold their promise to remove him from their slate of candidates and publicly condemn this behavior.”

Gator Party didn’t respond to multiple attempts for comment on the situation by The Alligator at the time of publication.  

Stephens, previously a Summer replacement senator, is now running for a District D Senate position.

In a response by Change Party, the party alleged Stephens was the subject of microaggressions and discriminatory remarks based on his identity as the only openly Black queer man in the Student Senate.

“After months of torment, Stephens revisited the chamber as a member of the student body — not as a Senator,” the statement read. “He was directly referenced in a Gator Party Senator’s public comment; the narrative used in this public comment is one that Jonathan has seen for months as a Senator.” 

Change Party further suggested the incident in question occurred when Stephens tried to civilly speak to a senator before growing louder as the senator ignored him.

“Jonathan has been reduced to a caricature in the eyes of the majority party in a cheap attempt to gain political capital,” the statement read. “This is not acceptable behavior from any member of the student body, much less from a student official, and especially not from a group that prides itself on ‘professionalism.’”

Change Party concluded the statement by declining further comment in the case of potential investigations or legal action.

The recent Gator Party statement is part of a larger pattern of stereotypes Stephens has’s experienced in Senate, he said. He alleged he had experienced microaggressions and jokes at his expense throughout his term.

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“I just felt like I was being used as a caricature of the angry Black man or and all these other caricatures that we seen against Black people and queer people,” Stephens said. “I was exhausted.” 

While waking up to the news this morning wasn’t fun, Stephens said, he described his intentions as nothing but seeking to make a change, despite struggling with the alleged mistreatment during his previous turn. He will continue his candidacy for District D Senator, he said.

“I really enjoyed being a senator,” Stephens said. “I try my best to be very cordial and understanding and try to work with the majority party and everyone in the Senate chamber to just try to try to make a difference.”

Contact Peyton Harris and Alissa Gary at  pharris@alligator and Follow them on Twitter @peytonlharris and @AlissaGary1.

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Alissa Gary

Alissa is a sophomore journalism major and University Editor at The Alligator. She has previously covered student government, university administration and K-12 education. In her free time, she enjoys showing photos of her cats to strangers.

Peyton Harris

Peyton Harris is a first-year English major and the News Assistant for The Alligator. She is also a member of Zeta Tau Alpha and spends her free time re-listening to Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers and binging Criminal Minds.

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