UF students protest new President Ben Sasse as he takes office

BY JARRED SPANOS, Alachua Chronicle correspondent

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida students demanding woke policies and more diversity, equity, and inclusion demonstrated today outside Tigert Hall as President Ben Sasse officially took office.

On November 1, 2022, UF’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted to make Ben Sasse the University of Florida’s 13th president. Sasse earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and a Doctorate degree from Yale and most recently served as a Republican senator from Nebraska. Sasse said during his interview, “Education properly understood isn’t exclusively or even primarily about transmitting information. Education is about learning how to humbly and meaningfully engage with new ideas. We want Gators to engage ideas. I want our students to be challenged and to rejoice in the challenge. We want Gators to go out and serve Florida and the world. Let’s go out and build something great together.” The Board of Trustees indicated that they believe Ben Sasse has what it takes to bring the top-five-ranked university to the next level.

One protestor said it’s important for Sasse to keep the students’ interests in mind. Protestors chanted, “Whose campus?… Our campus!” Protestors also chanted, “Whose community?… Our community!”

Dr. David Bloom, Chair and Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and a member of the Presidential Search Committee said, “In our interviews, Dr. Sasse made it clear that he understands the importance of a diverse and inclusive university, and as president, he would represent the interests and values of the faculty, the staff, and the students of the University of Florida.”

On January 31, Governor Ron DeSantis signaled that he intends to propose a law abolishing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory efforts (CRT) at state universities. In December of last year, universities were mandated to report the total amounts spent on all DEI and CRT efforts. The governor’s office said the change “raises the standards of learning and civil discourse of public higher education in Florida” by means of “prohibiting higher education institutions from using any funding, regardless of source, to support DEI, CRT, and other discriminatory initiatives.”

Joann Monte, a UF student, said, “I am a part of the CLAS Student Council, and I know that we made a committee that overlooks how we can involve more diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.” She said, “This was a direct counter to that involvement that we are trying to do.”

“We have a lot to say, and we have been trying to say it for a very long time. And the reason we are here today, and the reason we need microphones and megaphones and all of you with signs, is that they won’t listen to any other way,” said a student who led the chant: “Number 1… We demand – Market equity raises to staff and graduate students and all UF-affiliated workers. Number 2… We demand – President Sasse publicly disavow attacks from Tallahassee on academic and free speech. Number 3… We demand – President Sasse commits to non-compliance with targeted list-taking activities. Number 4… We demand – President Sasse maintain all pre-existing commitments to inclusivity, equity, diversity, justice, and sustainability and continue to provide gender-affirming care and comprehensive reproductive care. Number 5… We demand – President Sasse commits to protecting tenure for UF faculty.”

An unknown retired faculty member said, “This is going to be a very rapid decline unless our new president has the gumption to stand up to this.”

Steve Kerr, a retired faculty member of the College of Business, said, “So I am listening to our politicians; in fact, I read about them in today’s Alligator.” He said, “You don’t have to read far between the lines to catch what he is saying, that says we are admitting people who aren’t deserving to the exclusion of people who are deserving.”

The chants continued to get louder and louder as students began to climb the steps of Tigert Hall. The students, dissatisfied, began to chant, “Whose building? Our building!” Instantly after that, protestors yelled, “No DeSantis, no KKK… No fascist USA. No Sasse, no KKK… No fascist USA. No Nazis, no KKK… No fascist USA.”

Grin from Graduate Assistants United said, “I am pissed.” She said, “I am sick of my professors having to edit their syllabus.” Graduate students are looking forward to graduation, and Grin believes they should be enjoying their time on campus more. The University of Florida loses the feel of a top-five ranked university, according to Grin, when DeSantis “uses the Florida Board of Medicine and our college as a way to put someone in power who wants to take away trans rights.” She also noted that graduate assistants earn close to $10 a day and can sometimes be responsible for feeding a family.

Alex, from New College, said, “We are all in the same fight here.” He said, “We are all on one side together against DeSantis.” Alex argued many fascists want to take away freedoms, but he is happy to be fighting them alongside the University of Florida.

The protesters’ main message was that Ben Sasse should stand against DeSantis and promote woke policies for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus.

A protestor said, “If you don’t want a fourth protest, the ball is in your court.”

Another student, who said his name was Ahnaf, angrily walked by and said, “F*** him. He is not for us. He has never been for us. It seems like a political play, but, like, he doesn’t care about us.”

  • If they would only put that effort and focus on finishing school and paying off their loans…a finance class may work be a great start.

      • I don’t. What I do know is that a very large number of college students who have loans don’t think it’s their responsibility to pay for a school loan they signed for. I also know that this being the community it is, (primarily liberal), they object to a university president who doesn’t share their beliefs. I also know the organizers of said “protest” objected to his being elected as UF President. It seems like those who shout the loudest about having their voices heard are the ones who scream the loudest to silence those they disagree with. (Those would be the liberal voices if you need help with that.)

        Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t a large group of liberals also object to Trump being elected? Before Trump was in office, a certain Congresswoman said he wasn’t her president and he should be accosted at every opportunity. To the best of my knowledge, with the exception of the knuckleheads who stormed the Capital on 1/6, there wasn’t as large a number who protested Biden being elected. We didn’t like it but you pick up and wait until next time.

        • “Correct me if I’m wrong,” but aren’t there member of Congress who still claim Biden’s election is illegitimate? Funny how your selective memory fails to see the hypocrisy of both sides.

          • Lack of common sense. Of course they do & they will. Never said there weren’t Congressional members who had those thoughts. But hey, what else would/should we expect from a liberal other than deflection.
            They’re just as big a knucklehead. You can put yourself in that group since given your comment, it’s a safe bet you don’t think Trump was elected in 2016. You, like many others, probably said you would move if Trump was elected. What kept you?

      • They either have loans, scholarships or successful parents. I worked my way through….and would not have time for this nonsense.

  • A great University needs greater students.

    In my opinion, activism is only half of the battle. Students need to major in things they care about and can do well in. With straight As, admin is more likely to meet specific students’ needs. Strive to be the change you wish to see in the world.

    • I doubt most of the protesters are current UF students. They’re a cobbled bunch of SFC dropouts and Civic Media Center brainwash victims, mostly. The same faces we see at every free pizza party protests.

  • They’re just lazy. Let them find a woke school with no admissions standards, no grades for performance, and trigger warnings so they won’t have to cry.

    • “lazy” because they want a say in how their university is led? By your logic, you’re just as “lazy” by taking a side in the current culture war.

      • Senseless, is more like it. My child wants a say in where I work at UF too. See how that works?

      • If they wanted to work hard and be evaluated (and admitted) on their merits, they wouldn’t be protesting in the first place. Woke and lazy are virtually synonymous. Throw in some stupid and some basic dishonesty.

    • That would be Florida State. There was an article in the news on Monday about FSU’s total integration of DEI from admissions through class subjects and curriculum.

  • Those protestors don’t speak for many of us who have felt bullied and silenced at UF. There has been a push to eliminate any diversity of thought, and that effort has been rather effective, sadly. I am hopeful that academic freedom might flourish again at UF. I hope Ben Sasse can outlast the mob who is going after him.

  • This communist loving homosexual mob cannot be allowed to prevail. If they don’t like it win some elections. The taxpayers of Florida pay for this University and we don’t want their agenda.

  • Guys, guys, guys! If there’s anything the old racist white guys who inhabit the Alachua Chronicle’s comment section know, it’s the inner workings of higher education and the very latest in pedagogical debates. Tell us how it is guys!

    • Racist? Really? You’re the only one who brought it up. And BTW, if you aren’t aware, DEI stands for racism. Diversity = forcing under qualified people in front of fully qualified people. Equity = equal reward for unequal performance. Inclusion = quota system based on artificial standards, not equality.

      • Most of them wouldn’t be at UF at all if they were still using the “old” (pre-1992) SAT. They are a by-product of the “IQ tests are raaaaycist!” argument. Cheating is a huge problem nowadays because you have so many students who aren’t smart enough to do the work. They will be your future doctors, CPAs, etc.

    • Well I’d just like to point out your overt, racist comment on White people (old and otherwise.)
      So apparently racism is quite alright when it’s yours huh?

  • Didn’t look like much of a “protest” just a few, unhappy, little brats. But for those few, if you don’t like UF or it’s new President, leave. Simple, just leave. You won’t be missed.

  • Brain-washed lil wokies, guess they think they have the whole world already figured out, at 20 years old..

  • I knew a man who laid bricks, building the Century Tower. The protesters claim it is their school, but they have built nothing.

    • True that! Many work harder to tear things down than they do at finishing school.
      Now if we could get them to protest GRU rates. Forgot, a lot of them probably have their parents pay that bill.

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