Higher Ed Reacts to Ben Sasse's U of Florida Presidential Prospects

Historians in the News
tags: higher education, Ben Sasse, University of Florida

The University of Florida’s announcement of Sen. Benjamin E. Sasse as the sole finalist for its presidency elicited reactions that spanned from sunny faculty quotes in a news release to downright alarm about the direction of an embattled university. Sasse, a second-term Nebraska Republican, would take the job at a crucial moment for the state flagship, which has in recent months been plagued by academic-freedom concerns.

Amanda J. Phalin, chair of the university’s Faculty Senate, praised Sasse’s selection on Twitter, writing: “This is a historic moment that calls for a unique, transformational leader, & that is who I think our search committee has found.” (Phalin declined further comment in an email to The Chronicle but added that she’ll deliver remarks at a Faculty Senate meeting on Monday afternoon where Sasse will also take questions.)

Also singing Sasse’s praises were several faculty members who served on the presidential search committee, quotes from whom were included in the university’s Thursday statement. UF’s Board of Trustees will vote on the committee’s recommendation of Sasse at a meeting scheduled for November 1.

Others have been less enthusiastic about Sasse, citing his opposition to gay marriage and abortion.

Even a member of Sasse’s doctoral dissertation committee at Yale University chimed in. The Bulwark, a center-right conservative news site, described Sasse as having “a keen sense of history and constitutional principles.” Glenda Gilmore, a professor emeritus of history at Yale, tweeted: “As a member of his dissertation committee, ‘keen’ is not the word that comes to mind.”

Several campus organizations — including the statewide United Faculty of Florida, the staff and adjunct faculty union, the graduate-student union, and the campus chapters of College Democrats and the Young Democratic Socialists of America — are planning a protest on Monday outside the building where Sasse will hold several public forums, The Independent Florida Alligator reported.

Along with Sasse’s stances on gay marriage and his conservative politics, Emilio M. Bruna, a professor who holds dual appointments in UF’s department of wildlife ecology and conservation and its Center for Latin American Studies, is also concerned about Sasse’s past skepticism on the impacts of climate change. The stakes feel especially high, Bruna said, given that the institution has recently seen national controversy after officials attempted to curtail faculty members’ outside activities.

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education