GAINESVILLE, Fla. – As students and faculty celebrate homecoming this week, there’s controversy around a University of Florida committee’s pick for the school’s next president.
The UF Presidential Search Committee unanimously recommended United States Sen. Dr. Ben Sasse of Nebraska as the sole finalist to be the university’s 13th leader.
The decision is facing criticism from many students and alumni who plan to protest about a choice they say they had no part in.
Sasse has an impressive resume, graduating from Harvard and Yale and then becoming a senator representing Nebraska. He’s a Republican and has views many students say they don’t support, telling News4JAX that a partisan politician shouldn’t lead a public university.
“I just don’t think that his views align with the majority of the student body,” said sophomore Tranyia Orange.
Mixed opinions resonate as the news travels about a presidential search that was done largely behind closed doors, following a new law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“I think it’ll keep things running smoothly. I don’t expect any crazy changes,” sophomore Noah Katz said.
A search committee looked at more than 700 applicants to replace current President Kent Fuchs, who is stepping down. The group chose only one finalist: Sasse.
“Ben brings intellectual curiosity, a belief in the power and potential of American universities, and an unmatched track record of leadership spanning higher education, government and the private sector,” wrote Presidential Search Committee chair Rahul Patel.
READ THE ANNOUNCEMENT: Search committee unanimously recommends United States Senator Dr. Ben Sasse as sole finalist for University of Florida’s 13th president
Sasse is a Republican who’s shown conservative values, but he turned heads when he voted to convict former President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
On his platform Truth Social, Trump criticized Sasse, saying, “Great news for the United States Senate, and our Country itself. Liddle’ Ben Sasse, the lightweight Senator from the great State of Nebraska, will be resigning. If he knew he was going to resign so early in his term, why did he run in the first place? But it’s still great news! The University of Florida will soon regret their decision to hire him as their President….”
If he gets the job, Sasse will have to resign from the Senate. A new release from UF says he’ll be on campus Monday to meet with students and faculty, who can submit their questions and feedback here.
The Board of Trustees will interview him on Nov. 1 before making a final decision.
“Regardless of which side, having a very outspoken political critic be a representative of a very intellectual and ethnically diverse campus is just a poor decision,” said freshman Danny Wolcott.
News4JAX reached out to Sasse through his Washington office asking for an interview. So far, he has not responded.
Sasse on Friday released a statement to UF, writing: “The University of Florida is the most interesting university in America right now,” said Dr. Sasse. “It’s the most important institution in the nation’s most economically dynamic state — and its board, faculty and graduates are uniquely positioned to lead this country through an era of disruption. The caliber of teaching and research at UF is unmistakable, carried out through the core principles of shared governance and academic freedom. I’m thrilled about the opportunity to work alongside one of the nation’s most outstanding faculties.”
Student groups plan to protest Monday as the finalist visits the Gainesville campus.