Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is the sole finalist for the presidency of the University of Florida. Sasse has been a vocal critic of Trump and Trumpism. Court evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress once called him a “disgrace to the Republican Party, a “turncoat,” and a “naysayer.” He voted to remove the former president from office during the second impeachment trial. He also voted with Trump 87% of the time. Sasse is a conservative, but he is not cut out of the same cloth as Donald Trump or Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
Sasse is no stranger to academia. He served as the president of Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska from 2009 to 2013. He also has a Ph.D in American history from Yale.
It’s probably a smart move for Sasse. I’m not sure he could win another GOP primary in conservative Nebraska.
On Monday, Sasse visited the University of Florida and was met by student protests. Here is CNN:
Students at the University of Florida protested the visit of Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska – the likely new president of the university – to the school Monday.
Students protested Sasse during an open forum on the university’s campus in Gainesville on Monday afternoon, according to the university’s newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator. Sasse plans to resign from the Senate by the end of the year to take a job as the president of the University of Florida, CNN reported last week
Sasse was scheduled to host three open forums Monday afternoon, according to the university’s website.
According to the Independent Florida Alligator, Sasse left a forum about 15 minutes early at which point about 300 protesters entered the ballroom where the event was taking place.
Protesters called Sasse homophobic and racist, The Independent Florida Alligator reported.
In one of the three forums held during the day, Sasse discused his stance on LGBTQ+ rights after he condemned the US Supreme Court decision that guaranteed same-sex marriage at the federal level in 2015. The Independent Florida Gator quoted him a saying that the decision was “the law of the land,” adding that it wasn’t going to change in the near future.
“Your question is: Do I support and affirm everybody in this community?” Sasse said in response to another question Monday, according to the student newspaper. “Absolutely.”
When asked about promoting diversity at the university, Sasse was quoted as saying, “I want us to figure it out by listening to our community and our conversation, who is not feeling included and how do we tackle those problems and reduce those barriers.”
Video obtained by CNN shows protesters chanting “Hey hey. Ho ho. Ben Sasse has got to go,” during Sasse’s visit.
Read the entire piece here.
I don’t think Sasse should be disqualified because of his political and social views, but in order to be successful at the University of Florida he must respect the diversity of the student body, celebrate intellectual freedom and pluralism, and uphold the university’s commitment to evidence-based inquiry. The University of Florida is not Nebraska. Running a major public research university is not an easy job for someone with Sasse’s conservative view of the world.
It appears that a lot of commentators believe Sasse will become a political pawn of DeSantis. For example, check out Nate Monroe’s piece at the Florida Times-Union. I still need to be convinced that Sasse’s presidency of the University of Florida is part of some right-wing takeover of the Sunshine State.