UF President Ben Sasse was formally inaugurated as UF’s 13th president at 3 p.m. Thursday in the University Auditorium.
The ceremony included Sasse’s inaugural address, remarks from dignitaries, the presentation of UF’s ceremonial symbols, UF’s ROTC Color Guard and music performed by UF School of Music students, according to UF’s website.
The event was live streamed here.
Sasse, a former U.S. Senator from Nebraska, was announced as UF’s lone finalist last year. On Oct. 10, 2022 he came to UF where he spoke on topics such as tenure, academic freedom and LGBTQ+ rights. A protest broke out in Emerson Hall leading to Sasse leaving the forum 15 minutes early.
No protests were scheduled or seen during Sasse's inauguration as of its conclusion.
The rest of the article has remained unchanged as of 5:20 p.m. Thursday.
Thursday, 3 p.m.
Scott Angle, UF’s interim provost introduced a line of key speakers including Ray Rodrigues, chancellor of the State University System; Mori Hosseini, chair of the UF Board of Trustees; Bernie Machen, the 11th former UF president; Kent Fuchs, the 12th former UF president and Jason Kelly, the CEO of Gingko Bioworks, a Boston-centered synthetic bioworks company.
UF’s ROTC Color Guard then performed the National Anthem, accompanied by the Faculty Brass Quintet.
Gerard Duncan, a senior pastor at Prayers by Faith Family Ministries gave the ceremony’s invocation, while Kevin Thorpe, a pastor at Faith Ministry Baptist Church provided benediction.
Thursday, 3:15 p.m.
Chancellor Ray Rodrigues touted UF’s ranking as the No. 1 public university in the Wall Street Journal.
“You’re in the heart of Gator Nation, at the best public institution in the entire country,” he said.
Sasse’s mix of academic and private experience, Rodrigues said, will allow UF to smoothly navigate future challenges it may face.“Disruption is coming to the sector of higher education,” Rodrigues said. “I predict that president Sasse’s private sector experience will prove to be a blessing to the University of Florida in meeting this challenge.”
UF Board of Trustees Cahir Mori Hosseini spoke next about the university.
“Tremendous investments from our state come with tremendous responsibility,” Hosseini said. “We will continue to be the model for our state university system and the entire nation.”
UF’s continuous goal was to stay ahead of all universities, regardless of funding, he said.
“We will set the standard for every university in America: public or private,” Hosseini said.
Hosseini said UF’s 13th president had to be “outside the box” to accelerate the speed of change.
“We found that and we stole him from the United States Senate,” Hosseini said.
Amid growing skepticism of higher education, Hosseini said UF remains influential among students and the country both.
“We change lives, we educate the next generation of leaders, innovators and explorers,” he said. “We make this state and this nation a better place. Florida is well-positioned to lead, that’s why we chose President Sasse.”
Thursday, 3:27 p.m.
Thomasenia Lott Adams, a UF professor of mathematics education and associate dean of research and faculty development, delivered a piercing address to the audience, encouraging the university to keep accepting “one more, ten more, a thousand more, a million more until the Gator Nation blankets the world.”
“President Sasse, welcome to our home, your home, the University of Florida,” she said.
Thursday, 3:37 p.m.
UF’s Mundo Flamenco Ensembles performed an instrumental cover of Gainesville native Tom Petty’s song “I Won’t Back Down”
Thursday, 3:38 p.m.
Jason Kelly, the co-founder and CEO of Grinkgo Bioworks, first met Sasse when he was briefing the Senate Intelligence Committee on synthetic biology, which is involved in areas from medicine, agriculture and more.
The personal initiative Sasse took to directly ask Kelly and learn more about the field, thoroughly impressed Kelly, he said.“That curiosity, coupled to a strong sense of mission, is why I’m so excited to see what Ben will bring to the role of president at the University of Florida,” Kelly said.
Sasse’s focus on “audacious” new ideas fits him perfectly with the risk-taking students and residents across Florida, he said.
“He wants to see our public sector institutions be better, faster and more impactful than the private sector,” Kelly said.
Thursday, 3:42 p.m.
Hosseini thanked the School of Music for their contributions for the ceremony and called upon former UF presidents Kent Fuchs and Bernie Machen to adorn Sasse with presidential regalia.
Before accepting the presidential regalia, Sasse parted his gown to reveal a T-shirt that read: “Beat Arkansas Razor Back”
Hosseini adorned Sasse with the “symbolic chain of office” and shared an embrace after.
Thursday, 3:48 p.m.
Sasse acknowledged the Board of Trustees, Board of Governors, UF faculty and staff, state officials and his family.
“Today is not about me,” Sasse said. “Today is about the University of Florida’s last decade and our coming decades, together.”
Sasse described his appointment to the presidency as “glorious serendipity.” He wasn’t seeking out a university presidency, he said, but was persuaded by Hosseini and Board of Trustees Chair Rahul Patel, who led the presidential search committee.
In brief, Sasse expressed his reason for joining UF: his belief that the digital revolution will upend higher education in the next decade, and how most working in higher education don’t understand “the pace of what’s coming.”
“I truly believe that there is no single institution in the nation better positioned to simultaneously question the old with humility and embrace the new with an entrepreneurial zest about partnering more and faster,” he said.
It is a fascinating moment to be in the teaching and learning business, Sasse said.
“This shouldn’t be daunting,” he said. “This should be exciting, but somehow there is a weird paradox. Too much of higher education wants to resist change,” he said.
Sasse pledged to make practical majors “more practical,” restructure the general education curriculum to add “important and durable” content across all majors and “vigorously defend tenure” for fields where “longer-term employment contracts make the most sense,” while refining how majority teaching tracks function.
He also wants to accelerate the support and hiring processes for research teams in the university, he said.
“We will learn to hire faster,” he said. “We want to shrink that process to months and then weeks.”
As a flagship and land-grant university, Sasse said it was important for the university to diligently explain its purchases to Florida taxpayers.
“We commit ourselves, legislators, other elected, and the BoG [Board of Governors] to radical transparency,” he said. “To whom much is given, much is required, and we will tell the Floridians who pay our bills exactly what we spend the money on.”
With some staff having decades of experience, and campus buildings having under a century of history, Sasse said it was important to reflect on the administrative legacy preceding him.
“It’s also a great opportunity to recognize that so much of what is new in our mission is not new,” Sasse said.
Sasse was able to confide in Kent Fuchs during the transitional period, which he said he received “perennial wisdom” from.“We need to learn to embrace a comprehensive land grant mission,” Fuchs had told him. “This is not just about agriculture, it is about all 67 counties in the state of Florida.”
Thursday, 4:27 p.m.
Pastor Kevin Thorpe and Provost Scott Angle spoke before the ceremony concluded with the singing of the Alma Mater. The reception will occur outside on the lawn of the auditorium.
Thursday, 4:45 p.m.
In a press gaggle directly after the ceremony, Sasse addressed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent order to Florida to disband chapters of pro-Palestinian student groups, UF’s standing in national rankings and the university’s secretive $4.7 contract with the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
Sasse avoided directly answering a question about whether McKinsey’s report would be made public but did say the firm would continue to be a part of the university’s strategic planning process over the coming year.
In response to the State University System memo ordering universities to disband chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, Sasse said he is a First Amendment defender and will protect free speech on campus.
“All student organizations at the University of Florida that were in place before [the SUS’ memo] are still in place now,” Sasse said.
Sasse noted UF has the highest on-campus Jewish population of all public universities.
After multiple speakers touted the WSJ No. 1 public university ranking, Sasse addressed the slip in the U.S. News’ ranking to the group of reporters.
”We were also judged to be the number one public university in the country by the Wall Street Journal, it uses different variables,” he said. “But there’s more student-centricity in the Wall Street Journal's variable and it has to do with how much students have to expand and what they are ultimately getting out of being in this institution.”
Bailey Diem contributed to this report.
Contact Garrett Shanley at firstname.lastname@example.org, Aidan Bush at email@example.com and Isabella Douglas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow them on Twitter @garrettshanley, @aidandisto and @_issadouglas.
Aidan Bush is a junior journalism major and the University Editor at The Alligator. He previously edited and wrote for the Metro desks. When he has free time, he likes to sleep.
Garrett Shanley is a third-year journalism and history major and The Alligator's Fall 2023 university administration reporter. In his free time, Garrett can be found watching Wong Kar-Wai movies and brooding.
Isabella Douglas is a fourth-year journalism major and the Fall 2023 editor-in-chief for The Alligator. She has previously worked as the digital managing editor, metro editor, criminal justice reporter and as a news assistant. When she isn't reporting, she can be found reorganizing her bookshelf and adding books to her ever-growing TBR.