Ben Sasse: University of Florida students protest presidential finalist’s visit to campus
University of Florida students protested the visit of Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska – the university’s likely new president – to the school on Monday.
Students protested Sasse at an open forum on the university’s campus in Gainesville on Monday afternoon, according to the university’s newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator. Sasse plans to resign from the Senate by the end of the year to serve as president of the University of Florida, CNN reported last week.
Sasse was scheduled to host three open forums on Monday afternoon, according to the university’s website.
According to the Independent Florida Alligator, Sasse left a forum about 15 minutes earlier, at which time about 300 protesters entered the ballroom where the event was taking place.
Protesters called Sasse homophobic and racist, The Independent Florida Alligator reported.
In one of three forums held during the day, Sasse discussed his stance on LGBTQ+ rights after condemning the US Supreme Court’s decision that guaranteed same-sex marriage at the federal level in 2015. Independent Florida Gator quoted him a saying that the decision was “the law of the land”, adding that it was not going to change in the near future.
“Your question is, do I support and affirm everyone in this community?” Sasse said in response to another question Monday, according to the student newspaper. “Absolutely.”
Asked about promoting diversity at the university, Sasse reportedly said, “I want us to understand it by listening to our community and our conversation, who doesn’t feel included and how do we address those issues and reduce those barriers.”
Video obtained by CNN shows protesters chanting “Hey hey. Ho-ho. Ben Sasse must go”, during Sasse’s visit.
Last week, the university’s presidential search committee voted unanimously to nominate Sasse as its sole finalist for the position of university president, a source told CNN. Sasse would replace Kent Fuchs, who is leaving the post after eight years to become a teacher at the school.
Sasse was president of Midland University, a Lutheran liberal arts school in Nebraska, before his election to the Senate in 2014.
Ethan Eibe is a sophomore at the University of Florida who was covering the protest for the Independent Florida Alligator. He told CNN he spoke to several people who participated in the protest.
“Many are concerned about past comments by Sasse that show he is not in favor of same-sex marriage and abortion. When it comes to a community as diverse as UF, the students as a whole don’t think he’s a good fit,” Eibe told CNN Monday. “They basically see him as a political person. They think it was a bad look at the board that named him the only finalist out of 700 applicants.
The University of Florida would not comment on Sasse’s visit to the school on Monday.
Meanwhile, CNN contacted Sasse’s office but received no response.
According to the university handbook, the president is the chief executive of the school and oversees all activities of the university.