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Sunday, June 16, 2024

In one of his first interactions with a campus group, UF President Ben Sasse discussed the LGBTQ community’s concerns at the university.

Sasse’s May 11 meeting with the UF LGBTQ+ Presidential Advisory Committee fulfilled his seven-month old promise made during his first visit to UF campus, where he acknowledged the committee’s value and said he would meet with them. 

The LGBTQ+ Presidential Advisory Committee is designed to assess the quality of LGBTQ life on campus and recommend revisions in university policies and procedures. In the past, they initiated proposals to amend UF non-discrimination policy to include gender identity and expression and to add gender-neutral bathrooms to UF campus.

Presidential committees exist to “aid in the performance of presidential duties,” according to the UF Constitution. Many presidential committees, including LPAC, directly advise the president on campus-related matters. 

However, many presidential advisory committees answer to other members of the UF administration. For example, the Institutional Biosafety Committee oversees genetic research to ensure its compliance with regulations and guidelines. 

Former UF President Kent Fuchs met yearly with LPAC during his tenure and helped the committee's initiatives by connecting them with the appropriate university departments. 

Clinical professor for the department of medicinal chemistry and LPAC co-chair Oliver Grundmann led the committee’s communications with the former university president. Communication between LPAC and Fuchs stalled after he announced his retirement from the role of president, he said. 

In a one-hour meeting, the committee briefed Sasse on their concerns about House Bill 1521 and Senate Bill 254

Five members of the committee were present during the meeting, including LPAC co-chairs Grundmann and materials science and engineering assistant professor Ryan Need, as well as Student Senate President Oscar Santiago Perez.

Sasse plans to meet with LPAC again at a later date, Grundmann said. 

Need thinks Sasse’s meeting with the committee is his first stop on the listening tour he promised to do at the beginning of his term.

During the meeting, Sasse asked Santiago Perez, the only student member of the committee, about the student perspective on the most pressing issues impacting the LGBTQ community. Santiago Perez voiced concerns about the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and legislative attacks on gender-affirming care.

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“I don’t think that this one meeting will be the end of it, but it’s more so that this set the groundwork,” Santiago Perez said. “From here we should be pushing forward to press him on issues and make sure that he remains committed to working with the LGBTQ community.”

Santiago Perez, who has previously spoken out against Sasse’s leadership, felt optimistic about the meeting, they said.

“I would say that I’m hopeful for what might come but obviously there is still much ground to cover,” Santiago Perez said.

Contact Garrett at Follow him on Twitter @garrettshanley.

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Garrett Shanley

Garrett Shanley is a fourth-year journalism major and the Summer 2024 university editor for The Alligator. Outside of the newsroom, you can find him watching Wong Kar-Wai movies and talking to his house plants.

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