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Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Santa Fe College students, faculty weigh Ben Sasse’s impact on transfer decisions

UF historically admits more SFC students than any other state college

A cyclist passes by the new Santa Fe College Blount Hall building in downtown Gainesville on Friday, Jan. 28. It's located on the northeast corner of Southwest Sixth Street and West University Avenue.
A cyclist passes by the new Santa Fe College Blount Hall building in downtown Gainesville on Friday, Jan. 28. It's located on the northeast corner of Southwest Sixth Street and West University Avenue.

The presidential-finalist status of Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, hasn’t only made waves on UF campus — the implications of his potential appointment has also made its way to Santa Fe College. 

With more than 10,000 students, SFC is the second biggest college in Gainesville. Many students attend SFC with plans to transfer to UF, as the university admits more students from SFC than from any of the other 28 Florida state community colleges. From Summer 2021 to Spring 2022, 1,732 SFC students applied to UF and 65% were accepted, Julie Crosby, coordinator of UF at Santa Fe Center, said. 

Many of SFC’s transfer programs are also in direct partnership with UF.

Strong ties between the two educational institutions have left SFC staff and students to debate whether the announcement of the UF presidential candidate has any effect on their nearby campus. 

SFC President Paul Broadie II was selected to serve as an adviser to the search committee Chair Rahul Patel and the UF Board of Trustees Chair Mori Hosseini throughout the presidential

search process. As an advisor, Broadie offered consultation and advice to Hosseini and Patel. 

Other presidential search advisers included UF President Kent Fuchs, UF Provost Joseph Glover, UF Chief Diversity Officer Marsha McGriff and UF Athletic Director Scott Stricklin.

The college has enjoyed a productive relationship with UF and will continue to do so as university’s administration changes, SFC spokesperson Jay Anderson wrote in an email. 

“President Broadie has enjoyed collaborating with President Fuchs to the benefit of both institutions and expects that relationship to continue with UF’s next president,” Anderson wrote. 

Current SFC students’ reactions have been much more varied than that of the college’s president, ranging from concern to apathy. 

SFC Student Body President Conor Ruffin acknowledges there’s a level of separation between the two campuses, but he said he believes Sasse’s finalist status still impacts the SFC community. 

“Go talk to any student on this campus that is a person of color or a member of the LGBTQ [community],” Ruffin said. “They will say that this is not someone they want to represent them. It’s disheartening for students here.”

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Ruffin hopes to transfer to UF next spring but has reservations about what type of president Sasse will be, he said. 

“I think from any student perspective it’s bad,” Ruffin said. “But it’s a win for anyone on the UF Board of Trustees.”

Mikayla Stesney, a 18-year-old SFC health sciences freshman, plans to transfer to UF but said she’s now worried about Sasse’s possible presidency. Stesney identifies as bisexual and doesn’t align with Sasse’s political views, she said. 

“I’m worried about potential policies he may put in place that could make UF an unsafe place for minority groups,” Stesney said. 

She would never go to a school that she felt threatened by, she added.

However, many SFC students are either unaware of or unbothered by the presidential candidate announcement, as they have no involvement in UF or intent to transfer there. 

Nathan Baldwin, a 20-year-old SFC history sophomore, said he plans to stay four years at SFC because of its physical therapy assistant program. He wasn’t aware of the UF’s presidential finalist announcement, he said. 

“If I were to transfer to UF, keeping up to date with any campus related news or developments would be my prerogative,” Baldwin said. 

Aside from current students, the general consensus among previous SFC students is that their decision to transfer would’ve not been impacted by the announcement. 

Javier Abadia, a 20-year old UF industrial systems engineering junior, transferred from SFC to UF in Fall 2021. His end goal was always to transfer to UF and was inspired by his sister who also transferred from SFC, he said.

“I don’t think [the presidential finalist announcement] would’ve impacted my decision,” Abadia said. “I didn’t even know who the UF president was when I was at Santa Fe.” 

Louis Kelleher, a 20-year-old UF advertising junior, transferred to UF from SFC in Spring 2022. Kelleher comes from a family of UF alumni and said he always wanted to attend the university. 

“People are concerned about his view on things such as gay marriage,” Kelleher said. “But from my perspective it would have no effect on whether I would’ve wanted to transfer into UF.”

Andrea Evangelist, SFC director of academic advisement and career exploration centers, said she advises SFC students who are looking to transfer to other schools, especially to UF.

Evangelist meets with a variety of students, some of whom have always wanted to attend UF and others who are unsure of whether UF is the right university for them. 

“If UF is a top-ranked school, we'll get more students that way,” Evangelist said. “If they win a football game, we'll get students who are interested in sports who will come and say, ‘I want to go to UF’.”

Many students come having always wanted to be a Gator and recent events don’t necessarily change their minds, Evangelist said.

Some SFC students, such as Ruffin, expect to receive transfer admission notifications at the beginning of November — around the same time Sasse is expected to visit UF for a second time.

Contact Claire at cgrunewald@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @grunewaldclaire. 

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Claire Grunewald

Claire Grunewald is a fourth-year journalism major and the Spring 2024 Editor In Chief of The Alligator. In her free time, she likes to go to concerts and attempt to meet her Goodreads reading goal. 


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