Oct 12, 2022 - News

Senator sparks opposition as University of Florida's likely new president

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) speaks on his cell phone as he walks through the U.S. Capitol Building on September 28, 2022 i

Sen. Ben Sasse at the U.S. Capitol last month. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A group of University of Florida students made it loud and clear that they don't want U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse as their next university president — although he is the only finalist after a secretive hiring process.

State of play: Many students and faculty members are angry about the Nebraska Republican's position against same-sex marriage and the fact that he ended tenure when he served as president of Midland University in eastern Nebraska.

  • Tampa Bay Times reporter Divya Kumar captured the scene as around 200 student protesters interrupting Sasse's public forum earlier this week, waving signs with messages like "700 candidates & U pick a homophobe?" while chanting: "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Ben Sasse has got to go."

The other side: Sasse, who's been a senator since 2015, said at the forum that tenure was a necessity for UF as a large research university, and that he would be a "zealous defender of tenure" in Florida.

Catch up quick: UF's current president, Kent Fuchs, announced earlier this year that he would be stepping down by the start of 2023 once a new president was appointed. He plans to transition to a role as a professor instead.

Between the lines: The UF board of trustees has so far withheld the names of the other 12 candidates interviewed for the presidency, as allowed by a new state law.

  • When asked by faculty and students on Monday about how he would protect LGBTQ individuals as the school's president, he responded, per the Tampa Bay Times, "I believe deeply in the immeasurable worth and universal dignity of every single person," adding that "the community is a place for respect and inclusion for all Gators."

The protesters demanded that Sasse decline the job and UF commit to picking a person who has demonstrated "consistent advocacy and respect for people of all sexual orientations, genders and races."

  • They also called on the board to release the names of the other candidates and adopt a more transparent selection process.

What's next: The board will vote on whether to appoint Sasse at a meeting next month.


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