Adding to the list of Student Government officials who have spoken out against Student Body President Lauren Lemasters, Student Body Vice President Daniel Badell and Treasurer Sierra Kantamneni condemned Lemasters for voting in favor of Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, to become UF’s 13th president.
Badell respects and considers Lemasters a close friend, he said in the statement released Wednesday evening on Instagram. But he couldn’t support her in her vote for Sasse, which he felt contradicted the wants of the student body, he said.
“We have a responsibility as elected student representatives to represent the wants and needs of the student body,” he said. “This vote did the opposite.”
Kantamneni respects Lemasters’ ability to make her own decisions, she wrote in the statement Thursday morning on Instagram, but nonetheless disagrees with that decision on account of Sasse’s history of anti-LGBTQ statements.
“While I held low expectations for the Board of Trustees, Student Body President Lemasters’ vote shocked and disappointed me more than words can express,” she wrote.
In a statement to The Alligator Thursday morning, Lemasters said she understood Badell’s point of view.
“I appreciate Vice President Badell’s statement and expression on the vote,” Lemasters wrote in an email. “This decision was not an easy one and I genuinely weighed the opinions shared throughout this process.”
During the meeting Tuesday where Sasse’s candidacy was discussed, Lemasters said Sasse reclaiming the trust of the student body would be an uphill battle.
“There is this hill of trust that is going to have to be climbed by you with many of our students,” Lemasters said at the meeting. “But I look forward to — throughout my experience — seeing you, ready to sit down and listen.”
Lemasters is the only student representative on the Board of Trustees and held one of 13 votes to approve Sasse. She was previously asked by students at her office hours and by the Student Senate to vote no on Sasse. The trustees unanimously approved Sasse Tuesday.
Badell also cited Sasse’s anti-LGBTQ statements as a reason not to support him. As the first openly gay elected member of the Student Government executive branch, Badell felt a responsibility to speak out against Sasse, he said.
During his confirmation interview, Sasse said he would take a vow of “political celibacy” to remain impartial during his presidency. He’s also willing to speak with members of the LGBTQ community and meet with the existing LGBTQ presidential advisory committee, he said.
“While I do not agree politically with Dr. Sasse’s views on gay marriage, I take him at his word that he will support our LGBTQ+ community,” Lemasters wrote in an email. “I take him at his word that he will continue to make this a safe and welcoming space for every student and future student and will hold him accountable for that throughout my term.”
But for Badell and other students, Lemasters’ sign of approval still signals a lack of consideration of students’ opinions.
“This is 2022, not 1922,” Badell said in the statement, addressing Sasse. “Being homophobic is not a ‘political opinion,’ it is discrimination and bigotry. Although you may now have a desire for ‘political celibacy,’ the truth is that words matter and are not irrelevant to your role as president.”
Contact Alissa Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlissaGary1.
Alissa Gary is a second-year journalism major who's covering K-12 education for The Alligator. She has previously reported on student government and university administration. Aside from writing, she likes to take care of her plants and play (and usually win) the New York Times sudoku puzzle.