Over the weekend, some shocking news hit the political landscape as it was announced that Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) is expected to resign from the U.S. Senate and become president of the University of Florida.
On Thursday, the UF named Sen.Sasse the lone finalist for president.
Sasse was the president of Midland University in Nebraska before becoming Senator, and also taught at institutions such as the University of Texas.
He made headlines after the event of January 6th when he was one of few Republicans to vote to impeach President Donald Trump (R-FL).
However, the thought of a Republican at the top of an institution like UF (which is a top 5 public university) is unnerving to some.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), a UF graduate, stated that as a “concerned alum, I have many concerns,” and that the university’s selection process “needlessly harms UF.”
— Debbie Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) October 10, 2022
“The University of Florida Presidential Search Committee’s secretive, sole-selection process needlessly harms UF by undermining any new leader with students and fellow alumni who are already troubled by corrosive efforts to politicize our state’s flagship university,” wrote Schultz in a statement.”
“In addition to concerns over how his selection might affect recruitment of top academic talent, Sen. Ben Sasse will face daunting challenges to address unresolved concerns over academic freedom and independence and I am eager to hear how he will continue out-going Presidents Fuchs’s drive for UF academic excellence and college affordability.”
Sasse’s selection comes at a time of change and uncertainty for the university. While being a top 5 public university for the second year in a row, Sasse will also have to address issues that are pertinent to college campuses presently, such as accusations of institutional discrimination against conservative voices.
This is most likely what prompted Schultz to finish her letter with, “I am also eager to hear him more fully explain his views on critical campus concerns, ranging from basic equality and access issues to academic censorship, intrusive philosophical surveys of students and faculty and tenure protection policies.”
Sasse will have to address other issues such as the athletic department as well, which is a huge source for the institution’s funding.
UF is currently in a period of change. After a decade of athletic dominance in the 2000’s, Florida hasn’t won an SEC championship in either football or basketball since 2014. They just hired a new football coach, Billy Napier, now in his first season, their men’s basketball coach Mike White is rumored to be on the hot seat, and their women’s basketball coach resigned last year following accusations of verbal abuse towards his players.
Sasse, alongside the Athletic Director Scott Stricklin, will have to evaluate these positions as the nation braces for conference realignment in the future.