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Saturday, December 02, 2023

I protested Ben Sasse’s visit to UF. Here’s why you should join us for the next one

Opinions generic
Opinions generic

The room echoed with chants. Listening to protesters yell “hey hey, ho ho, Ben Sasse has got to go,” I was in awe of how passionate each person was to have their voice heard. 

The protest that occurred at Emerson Hall was the first one I had ever attended, and it showed me how important it is for everyone to speak up for the things they believe in. I went into the protest believing we would all be able to speak to Ben Sasse directly, explaining to him why he is unfit for the job of UF president. But this wasn’t the case.

Staff members blocked the door. As protesteors, our rights to express our concerns about having Sasse as our university’s president were taken away from us, in order to conceal the opposition the student body has toward him. Not granting students the basic right to voice their opinions directly toward Sasse is unacceptable.

While the protest had over 300 participants, I considered its turnout too low considering the size of UF’s population. Even as a student who doesn’t align themself with the groups Sasse’s comments have targeted, I believe that members of UF’s student body have the responsibility to show up. 

Sasse could have the power to defund organizations on campus that support large numbers of students, staff and faculty. With that being said, if more students attended the protest, they would’ve sent a bigger message that Sasse’s beliefs are not welcomed at UF. 

These students should feel obligated to attend the next protest on Nov. 1 to support those who will be greatly affected by Sasse’s potential position.

As there were two medics on standby, I didn’t feel scared of the mass of people surrounding me at the protest, and thought it was well organized. I remember UF Young Democratic Socialists of America speaking of their five demands, mainly asking for Sasse to decline the presidential job offer. 

As they stated these demands, the crowd yelled in agreement, and I could not help but think that without being able to speak to Sasse directly, these demands might not be met. Sasse was too scared to face his opposition, in my belief, due to being unable to have a discussion with a diverse student body with passionate ideals. 

It’s unfair to the UF’s student body to have someone like Sasse be a reflection of the university, as he disagrees with a vast majority of its students’ identities. As a UF student, I’m frustrated that UF doesn’t allow its students to vote for its president or have access to the profiles of other finalists — a direct result of Senate Bill 520. Sasse will inevitably hurt the everyday lives of students, staff and faculty more than he will improve them.

The staircase to the third floor of Emerson Hall was blocked off by police officers to ensure protesters would not be able to speak with Sasse directly. I was confused as to why police officers were called since the protest remained peaceful the entire time. 

The protesting will not stop, and if Sasse becomes UF’s next president, expect outrage from students, staff, and faculty will occur. On Nov. 1, the Board of Trustees will interview Sasse to be the next president, and I am hoping more than 300 people will participate. 

If Sasse does become UF’s president, he should expect to become the most hated man on campus. 

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Stephanie Deleon is a UF finance freshman.

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