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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Governed from afar: Our new administrators and the Board of Trustees

Opinions generic
Opinions generic

UF has gained new administrators straight from Ben Sasse’s dreams and our nightmares. They include Raymond Sass and James Wegmann, vice president of innovation and partnerships and vice president for communications, respectively. 

Unsurprisingly, they were former staffers who kicked it with Sasse when he was in D.C.

They do not intend to live in Florida. We seem to be starting a trend of campus cronyism, as the Orlando Sentinel described it, now from afar. “Cronyism is flourishing in Florida,” as its editorial board put it. 

It is not Sasse’s buddies, but Penny Schwinn as well, the vice president for pre-K-12 and pre-bachelors programs. She’ll be directing cooperation with Florida school districts from Tennessee

You know, the state that’s one whole Georgia away.

We don’t even get the kind of cronyism where you can protest outside an official’s office, because they will be in D.C. and Maryland. 

They may occasionally come down for their several hundred-thousand dollar jobs to bless us with a visit, gracing us plebeians in Florida. We’re so lucky.

This type of cronyism mixed with inaccessible leaders isn’t something Sasse pioneered. It is a long-standing problem of our Board of Trustees as well.

Looking through the bios of our current trustees, most live all over Florida, excluding Rahul Patel who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He was also chair of the committee that selected Sasse — the man who brought Sasse in isn’t even a Floridian.

None, it appears, live in Gainesville — they tend to only come for the board meetings once every few months.

So that is the distance, but what about cronyism? For that, we turn to political donations.

Mori Hosseini, the Board’s chair, has given over $460,000 to GOP-aligned groups and candidates, including thousands toward Gov. Ron DeSantis. He is very close to DeSantis, to whom he has loaned his personal jet for the presidential wannabe as well as a golf simulator.

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Richard Cole, an attorney, has given tens to hundreds of thousands toward Rick Scott, DeSantis, and Marco Rubio, per the Federal Elections Commission.

Christopher Corr has given thousands to a company PAC, “Rayonier, Inc. Good Government Committee,” which has been spent toward GOP congressional candidates. 

James Heavener has given thousands to nearly every state Republican Party. He has given nearly $1.2 million to GOP causes over the last 18 years.

Anita Zucker has given nearly a quarter of a million to Republicans.

I could go on, but you get the point. The combined board has given nearly $3.1 million to GOP recipients, according to Follow The Money.

If that isn’t textbook cronyism, I do not know what is. Overall, it is disappointing but expected that Sasse continued this trend.

I guess if nothing else, these distant administrators are embodying the spirit of commuter students.

Maybe Sasse is simply more like the board that unanimously selected him than might be immediately obvious. Hosseini and the gang simply could not wait to sweep him out of Congress since they felt a kindred spirit.

Ronin Lupien is a UF biomedical engineering senior.

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