PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The University of Florida is extremely close to having a new president and not everyone is happy about it. On Tuesday the Board of Trustees voted to hire U.S. Senator Benjamin Sasse.
Nebraska’s Republican U.S. Senator Benjamin Sasse has one more hurdle between him and the University of Florida’s President’s office.
Sasse is the unanimous choice of the University’s Board of Trustees to replace outgoing UF President Kent Fuchs, who will step down at the end of the year.
Before Tuesday’s trustee’s meeting, dozens of students and faculty protested Sasse’s appointment, calling his nomination politically motivated. They were banned from attending the trustee’s meeting.
“He is anti-choice, he’s not a fit for this university, that’s essentially why we are protesting here today,” UF junior student Dayanna Peek said. “We’re protesting his stances that are not aligned with the university.”
Peek is not alone in opposing Sasse’s presidency.
“The message from the university community is quite clear, we as a whole, do not want Dr. Sasse as the next president of our institution,” Graduate Student Council President Paul Wassel said. “If Dr. Sasse is confirmed, it will be an uphill battle to win over the university community.”
Sasse said if he does occupy the president’s office he’ll leave politics in Washington D.C. and focus on expanding the university.
“I would have no activity in partisan politics in any way, as I arrived at the University of Florida,” Sasse said. “I wouldn’t speak at political events, I wouldn’t make partisan political contributions, and I wouldn’t surrogate for or assist any candidates.”
Others feel like Florida’s new law, exempting the college and university presidents’ selection process from public records laws, allows for cronyism and a lack of transparency.
Last week the faculty senate held a vote of “No Confidence” on the process that named Sasse as the sole finalist.
“I do not understand how you all know that this is the man who should be leading our university forward, so many groups, student government, and the faculty senate have shown that we do not want this presidency moving forward,” UF Freshman Nathaniel Pelton said.
“We are fortunate to be in a position to have a sitting U.S. Senator, with the academic background that Dr. Sasse has, who has a lot of options he can do with his time and his career,” UF Board of Trustees Daniel O’Keefe said. “The fact that he is excited about the opportunity at the University of Florida, I think that is exciting for us.”
Sasse does have credentials in higher education. He was a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and was the president of a small private Nebraska school called Midland University for 5-years, he has a Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard and a Doctorate Degree from Yale.
“Let’s build on what’s great, and let’s expand upon it,” Sasse said. “I want every student to have better in-classroom experiences, better out-of-classroom experiences, and better beyond UF experiences. That’s true of all 57,000 of our students.”
The Florida Board of Governors still needs to approve Sasse as president when they meet later this month.