GATORS GROWL: University of Florida students protest political pick for college prez

GATORS GROWL: University of Florida students protest political pick for prez

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) is the University of Florida’s likely next president after the search committee announced on Thursday that it was unanimously recommending him as the sole finalist. Sasse, one of the few Congressional Republicans who voted to convict Donald Trump at his second impeachment trial, is expected to resign his Senate seat once he’s confirmed to the position.

However, University of Florida students are outraged by the search committee’s choice of Sasse, who has caused controversy with his remarks against the LGBTQ community and abortion rights. Protestors gathered outside a forum where Sasse was meeting with students during a campus visit ahead of his confirmation to the university presidency.

The search committee had touted Sasse’s experience in higher education; a historian by training, he was formerly the president of Midland University in Nebraska, taught at the University of Texas, and has repeatedly discussed his vision for reforming American higher education. But there was very little anyone could do to convince the students outside the forum that Sasse’s political experience in the GOP would be a good thing for their campus.

Sasse would be assuming the role at a particularly fiery and political time for Florida’s flagship university, a period in which the school’s independence from Gov. Ron DeSantis has been repeatedly called into question.

Last year, professors sued UF after the school barred them from testifying as experts in lawsuits against the state. A faculty report then alleged that fear of upsetting Florida officials is pervasive within the university, to the point that race-related references were removed from course materials and researchers felt pressure to destroy COVID-19 data. A subsequent university investigation found the latter allegations about COVID-19 research had “no merit.”

Concerns over political influence on the selection of the next president ensued from the UF community as soon as Sasse was announced as a potential candidate, with the outrage exacerbated by a new Florida transparency law that largely kept the university’s search under wraps. Some community members felt their fears were validated by Sasse’s sole finalist status and only had to point to his past seven years in Congress as a Republican senator for backup.

“I thought this was a democracy. I thought America was supposed to be a democracy,” one protestor said. “So why don’t we have a choice?”

It’s understandable given all outlined above that the students at the University of Florida are upset about the appointment of what they perceive as a Nebraska right-wing carpetbagger to head up their institution of higher education. They already have enough to deal with since Ron DeSantis is their governor. No wonder they don’t want another Republican screwing up their education.

Tara Dublin is a woefully underappreciated and unrepresented writer currently shopping a super cool novel that has nothing to do with politics while also fighting fascism on the daily.

Follow her on Twitter @taradublinrocks.

Tara Dublin

Tara Dublin is a woefully unrepresented writer who thinks more people would read her cool rock & roll love story inspired by Dave Grohl than any ghostwritten GOP crapbook, agents & publishers. Follow Tara on Twitter @taradublinrocks