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Saturday, May 18, 2024

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, returned to UF campus Tuesday to be interviewed by the Board of Trustees. If selected, Sasse will succeed President Kent Fuchs as UF’s 13th president. 

This winter, UF will test whether corn can grow in The Swamp.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse’s nearly monthlong public candidacy to become the next UF president was marred with controversy and national headlines, and culminated with his unanimous confirmation by the Board of Trustees. 

In the coming months, Sasse is expected to be confirmed by the Florida Board of Governors, resign from his seat in the Senate and become officially installed as UF’s 13th president. Sasse was unanimously confirmed by the Board of Trustees Nov. 1, including a controversial vote by Student Body President Lauren Lemasters that has led to an impeachment resolution filed against her in the Student Senate. 

During the Nov. 1 meeting, Sasse said he wouldn’t engage with partisan politics during his time as UF President.

“The loudest folks among us tend to be focused heavily on partisan politics and culture-war issues,” Sasse said. “And yet those issues have almost nothing to do with most of the riddles that we need to navigate in our time.”

UF is aiming for Sasse to officially take office as president in early 2023 after he squares away his duties in the Senate, UF spokesperson Cynthia Roldan said.

Sasse will likely officially resign his Senate seat in late November or early December, the Nebraska Examiner reported. Sasse’s successor will be appointed by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and will stand for election 2024.

The Board of Governors is expected to confirm Sasse at their Thursday meeting at USF. The meeting will include a presentation from UF Board of Trustees chair Mori Hosseini, Sasse’s curriculum vitae and the finalization of the senator’s employment agreement.

Sasse’s compensation range, which is expected to be confirmed Thursday, shouldn’t exceed $1.6 million at the recommendation of an outside firm, as said in the Nov. 1 meeting. Compensation includes salary and benefits.

Thirteen members on the board were installed during Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration. Hosseini is a well-known DeSantis supporter who often contributes donations to his campaign.

For the UF student activists who vocally opposed Sasse’s presidency, next steps aren’t entirely clear. 

Oscar Santiago Perez, a 20-year-old UF political science and criminology junior, is a Change Caucus senator and a member of the UF ​​Presidential LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee — a group whom Sasse has repeatedly said he’d like to meet with.

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“We want to approach this with the possibility that we will have to work with Dr. Sasse and ensure that we can maintain a line of communication,” Santiago Perez said.

They’d like to see if Sasse can listen to their counsel and implement their recommended initiatives and policy changes, they said. Sasse will have a long road ahead of him to not only gain the trust of UF’s LGBTQ community, but to maintain it in the future, they added.

“I think that it's important to maintain pressure on the administration to ensure that the policy initiatives that have occurred over the past few years that benefit our communities aren't paralyzed or that they are rolled back,” Santiago Perez said.

Ian Dinkla, a 21-year-old UF political science senior and administrator on meme account @uf_dormbrewers, said Sasse’s policy positions proved he wasn’t a fit for UF’s campus, and he was surprised by the unanimous vote given opposition from UF faculty and students.

Dinkla doesn’t understand why Sasse believes being university president isn’t a political position, he said.

“That's absolutely ridiculous,” Dinkla said. “It is such a large entity. Of course it's political.”

The UF Young Democratic Socialists of America group was a part of the coalition of progressive groups that formed a united front against Sasse’s presidency, with planned demonstrations throughout October. Allan Frasheri, the group’s vice chair, said they’re in a holding pattern for now.

“We haven't had an open discussion yet,” Frasheri said. “But in the past, we have agreed that we will try to continue actions going on into his administration.”

The protest at Emerson Hall Nov. 1 had a turnout of around 50 people, a significant decrease from the protest to Sasse’s Q&A forum Oct.10.

In the meantime, Frasheri said the group will keep a close eye on Sasse in the months leading up to his presidency.

“I'm just keeping my eyes open for literally everything [Sasse] does,” Frasheri said.

Vivienne Lewis, a UF 19-year-old psychology sophomore, said while she can respect Sasse’s aim to achieve political celibacy, she doesn’t believe he’s capable of it given his background.

“I believe in compromise and I believe there could have been a better candidate without a background in politics,” she said. “We are all aware of where he stands and it’s hard to believe he would create an environment that supports all students.”

Many students were indifferent to the prospect of Sasse’s presidency; however, or approached his confirmation with cautious optimism.

Miranda Torres-Garcia, an 18-year-old UF biomedical engineering freshman, said although she disagrees with Sasse’s conservative views, she wants to keep an open mind.

“Don’t make UF fall in the rankings,” she said.

Dinalo Chakma, a 30-year-old UF second-year PhD student, said he found out about Sasse on the day of his confirmation.

Chakma was unaware of the selection process, he said. But Chakma said his ideal candidate would put an emphasis on research and funding issues.

“My primary concern is to be able to focus on my research,” he said. “I’m not able to do that much because of many other issues like funding, and I have to teach a lot.”

Yangelis Bastidas, a UF sociology senior, vehemently opposed Sasse’s confirmation, saying his ideologies don’t match those of the university. 

“It’d be difficult for students to want to come to the university,” Bastidas said, adding she fears diversity initiatives could suffer under Sasse.

Contact Christian at Follow him on Twitter @vanityhack. Contact Peyton at Follow her on Twitter @peytonlharris.

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Christian Casale

Christian Casale is a history senior and the university desk editor for The Alligator. In his spare time, he loves writing his bio for the website and watching movies alone in the dark.

Peyton Harris

Peyton Harris is a first-year English major and the News Assistant for The Alligator. She is also a member of Zeta Tau Alpha and spends her free time re-listening to Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers and binging Criminal Minds.

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