Ever since Ben Sasse, a former Republican U.S. senator from Nebraska, took office, there’s been a president-sized hole left in much of the UF community.
For eight years, he dealt with national political reporters as a senator in the Beltway. Dr. Sasse, we promise we are far more humble than the D.C. press corps.
Whatever the president’s agenda, we can’t report on it clearly if he won’t talk to us. We tried emailing him, we tried calling him, we tried leaving him hand-written notes and we tried saying his name three times in the bathroom with the lights off. None of it worked.
The university is also behind on giving us Sasse’s schedule — despite our incessant weekly public records requests trying to locate his whereabouts.
We’ve all been ghosted, we’ve all felt crazy after not getting a response back, but we shouldn’t get that treatment from the university’s president.
Just two months into Sasse’s tenure, UF is primed for big moves ahead. The university is moving forward with a new graduate campus in Jacksonville. It will be looking for a new provost to replace Joe Glover as the chief academic officer.
Aside from attending some minor speaking engagements and baseball games and a surprise appearance at a Faculty Senate meeting, Sasse hasn’t been a visible leader on campus.
We aren’t blind — we understand why Sasse may be hesitant to interact with either the media or the student body at large. If hundreds of people piled into an auditorium to show us how much they hated our hiring, we would also be cautious.
On his first day, Sasse was met with a tamer protest than that of Oct. 10. Since then, the section of the UF community that opposed his appointment has begun to accept his role and move forward. We believe Sasse should extend a similar courtesy and build inroads with UF’s institutions.
But The Alligator is still firm in its request that it made Nov. 7 — it’s high time that Sasse sits down with UF and Gainesville’s student-run, independent newspaper.
President Kent Fuchs did. During his first semester, Spring 2015, he stopped by The Alligator’s office and posted his first tweet: a selfie with the editorial board. He knew it was important to build rapport with the newspaper that would be covering his presidency with a critical eye.
Eight years later, we’re still here, but Sasse hasn’t even given us the courtesy of declining interview requests.
The Alligator would like to report on Sasse. We would like to be able to report on his events, his initiatives for the university and his interactions with students, faculty, administration and staff. We would like to hear the new UF president’s perspective on matters important to our coverage and community.
Last semester, Sasse couldn’t escape our paper’s front page. But now, it’s difficult to incorporate Sasse into our coverage when he and his office refuses to communicate with us in any way. This makes it difficult to report on the university as accurately as our readers expect.
But Sasse likely hasn’t spent as much time talking to the student body as we have. We can report the silent majority range from apathy to open-mindedness. The best way for the student body to get to know its new president is if he’s willing to speak to the campus newspaper.
Alas, the problem isn’t unique to The Alligator: Sasse hasn’t granted an interview to any of the dozens of outlets that want to speak with him. But as UF’s oldest and most trusted news source, we urge him to reconsider his silence.
Come on over, Dr. Sasse. We may be Gators, but we promise we won’t bite.
The Editorial Board consists of Editor-in-Chief Alan Halaly, Engagement Managing Editor Veronica Nocera, Digital Managing Editor Aurora Martínez, University Editor Christian Casale and Opinions Editor Selin Ciltas.