Candidates for SGA presidency suspend campaign following endorsement from white student who used N-word on social media

The statement from Parker Tussey and Brandon Brown announcing the suspension of their campaign.

Natalie Parks

Editor’s note: the second image in this article contains explicit language.

An endorsement from a student government director now outed for using the N-word on social media has led Parker Tussey and Brandon Brown, candidates for student body president and vice president, to suspend their election campaign.

According to sources, the Tussey/Brown campaign received an endorsement from UK student David Shockley, who goes by Seth.

In 2016, Shockley used the N-word in a tweet that has since resurfaced.

“TELL DEM [N-WORD]S THAT SETH GOT YA,” the tweet says.

The connection via Shockley’s endorsement led Tussey and Brown to suspend their campaign as of Wednesday, March 3.

Vice presidential candidate Brandon Brown chose not to continue with the campaign after Tussey shared the endorsement from Shockley  on social media without his permission.

“I cannot run with someone who cannot see how accepting an endorsement of that nature goes against everything that I am, what I believe in, what I stand for, and quite frankly what our campaign in our slogan of build a better normal stands for,” Brown said.

Tussey said he was not aware of Shockley’s tweet prior to its inclusion in this Kernel article.

Shockley confirmed that his endorsement of the ticket was posted on Instagram.

The endorsement has since been deleted, as have all the posts on the campaign’s Instagram aside from the suspension announcement.

Presidential candidate Parker Tussey said the incident ‘speaks volumes’ about one person.

“That person is Seth Shockley. The inflammatory language that he stated in his tweets should not be overlooked. There is no room for this type of speech anywhere in our society, let alone those who hold positions at the University of Kentucky,” Tussey said. 

Shockley had previously considered running for student body president this election cycle.

“I was made aware of the tweet and then I immediately said ‘I don’t think that I should be able to run.’ I want to take care of this and continue to educate myself before I put a position of leadership,” Shockley said. He said finding that he had tweeted the N-word was a surprise.

Shockley served as director of government relations for SGA this school year before resigning on Thursday, March 4, due to the exposed tweet. He held the same position in the 2018 – 2019 school year.

“I know Parker and Brandon didn’t have any SGA experience but I wanted to kind of be a resource for them and  let them know that I was there to help and I guess the endorsement kind of just naturally came,” Shockley said.

Brown said Tussey told him about Shockley’s tweet on Monday night. He said Tussey and Shockley claimed that the other campaign was using the N-word tweet as blackmail to prevent Shockley from running.

“I could not for a second even begin to believe that that was the case, and I told Parker I don’t believe that for a second,” Brown said. “The tweet however, I could believe, I would have to see it.”

Shockley said he did not remember the exact date that he was made aware of his tweet.

Brown said he was opposed to accepting the endorsement from Shockley, but woke up on Wednesday morning to find that Tussey had posted it on Instagram without his agreement.

“It was like a gut punch,” Brown said. 

Brown said that it did not matter to him that Shockley’s tweet was from 2016, and that accepting Shockley’s endorsement knowing he had used the N-word was a source of disagreement between him and Tussey.

“As a Black male, that’s a punch in the gut, and as your running mate a slap in the face. I told him the blatant lack of awareness as to why accepting an endorsement of that kind would not be acceptable speaks volumes on your character, and your intentions to listening to not only your VP, but your student body,” Brown said. “This one incident has derailed everything that we’ve worked so hard for, but it’s something that I cannot forgive nor overlook.”

In their election profile, Tussey and Brown had said diversity and inclusion was one of their main goals.

Tussey said he treasures the time he has been able to serve students.

“I am always going to support the University of Kentucky to be the best place that it can possibly be,” Tussey told the Kernel.

Shockley said that he takes full accountability for the tweet.

“It was extremely wrong for me and if I was to see that tweet from anyone else I would be ashamed and saddened,” Shockley said. He said is far removed from the person he was at that time.

“I was a young person at the time but that doesn’t excuse it,” Shockley told the Kernel. “I think that that shows more of who I was around and raised up then than my personal beliefs.”

Shockley said he will do more to educate himself.

“People of color on campus especially have a special place in my heart and I will always uplift them, and I will continue to educate myself because since then I have done a tremendous amount of educating,” Shockley said. He said he is truly sorry for anyone he has hurt and wants to be held accountable.

“SGA can do as they will with the information that they have, like I said as long as they’re open and honest about the process,” Brown said in reference to his previous statements on how the university should handle these scenarios.

According to a statement put out by UK SGA, Shockley is no longer a director.

“We do not doubt his ability to learn and grow from his past mistakes but – because his role in our organization contradicts the values we have fought to uphold – this personal development needs to take place outside of SGA leadership,” the statement reads.

This story has been updated from its original version to reflect responses from those involved.