UF ignored its community Oct. 10 when we demonstrated what may be one of the most remarkable protests in this campus’s history at Emerson Hall at the anti-democratic selection of then-U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse as the sole finalist to replace retiring President Kent Fuchs.
Student Government, particularly Student Body President Lauren Lemasters, ignored her constituents Oct. 27 when we delivered our demands that she represent us on the Board of Trustees by voting “no” on Ben Sasse’s selection.
And the Board of Trustees and Sasse himself ignored our pleas when all but one public commenter spoke adamantly against this appointment on Nov. 1 — in the face of grossly excessive police presence, no less — at the board meeting, in the same spot where three weeks earlier our frustration made national news.
This is a pattern of behavior. There’s not only a disregard for the voices of Gator Nation — there’s sheer antipathy toward it.
The legislature abused its authority to lock us out of this process.
The sham “forums” were meant to filter out any meaningful discourse. The Board's confirmation was guarded by more barriers than any state government function this writer has ever been to.
The message is clear: They didn’t want the Gator Nation involved.
On Feb. 6, there will be a demonstration outside Tigert Hall for all to make their voices heard in a way Sasse’s administration cannot ignore.
We urge all members of the UF community to attend. What we seek is simple — for all students, faculty and staff to be heard.
In his confirmation hearing, Sasse acknowledged he had “a hill of trust to climb.” On his first day in office, we’ll offer our new president a map on how to climb that hill.
If Sasse is reading this, we hope he understands that we would be eager to work with him, if given the chance, to move our campus forward together.
Among our demands will be market equity raises for staff, defense of academic freedom, non-compliance with targeted list-making, maintenance of UF’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion programs as well as sustainability initiatives and protection of tenure for faculty.
These are not radical or unreasonable — these demands merely keep us up to the standard of every other elite public university in America.
Sasse, know you face a choice. You can become a Gator. You can become a leader in our community by vowing to hear our voices, to empower our students and workers, and to defend us from those who would encroach on our beloved Swamp.
Or, you can choose to be an agent of a system that binds and gags what you call “the most interesting institution in the country.”
We sincerely hope you will choose the former. Feb. 6 can be the last time we protest your administration, but only if you remain committed to climbing the hill of trust.
Until safety, integrity and freedom is secured, we won’t back down.
Andrew Taramykin is a 20-year-old UF political science and history junior.