UF announces Ben Sasse as the only finalist for next university president

Editor’s comment:  Wow, this reminds me how we got the quack Dr. Joe Ladapo to come to Florida as our Surgeon General, spouting all kinds of nonsense about Covid and vaccines.  I sense DeSantis’ presence and influence all over this solo-finalist selection!

From The Gainesville Sun, Oct 10, 2022.

Ben Sasse, the Republican U.S. senator from Nebraska, is positioned to become the next president of the University of Florida.

UF announced Thursday afternoon that Sasse was selected as the sole finalist for the job, following a national search of more than 700 candidates.

Sasse, 50, is in his second term in the Senate and, if approved by UF’s Board of Trustees, would become the 13th president in the university’s history. The board is scheduled to formally consider his candidacy at its Nov. 1 meeting.

“The University of Florida is the most interesting university in America right now,” Sasse said in a prepared statement. “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.”

Sasse is scheduled to visit the UF campus Monday to meet with students, faculty and other members of the university community.

Lack of transparency in search

A bill signed into law in March, SB 520, allowed UF to conduct much of the presidential search outside of the requirements of Florida’s open meetings and public records laws. Under the measure, the university was allowed to keep the names of candidates secret and only publicly announce the names of any finalists.

UF reported that its search committee focused attention on a dozen candidates that included nine sitting presidents at major research universities, but that Sasse was the committee’s unanimous choice. Sasse is expected to resign from his Senate seat at the end of this year after accepting the offer to become UF president.

Paul Ortiz, a UF history professor and head of its faculty union chapter, said he was disappointed about a lack of community input on the naming of a finalist.

“Sen. Sasse is really going to have to work hard to establish trust because his name has never come up. There hasn’t been any community vetting, there hasn’t been any town hall meetings,” Ortiz said. “This was conducted outside of the Sunshine Act because of the state law. It’s going to be very challenging to take the next steps here, because when President Fuchs was appointed, for example, he already had met with a lot of people before his appointment.”

Sasse spent five years as the president of Midland University before being elected to the Senate. His prior academic experience included being a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin. He earned a PhD from Yale University and a bachelor of arts from Harvard University.

His selection comes as questions of political interference have hung over UF, since it was revealed last fall that faculty were barred from testifying in court against policies backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature.

Rahul Patel, a UF trustee and chair of the Presidential Search Committee, had previously told The Sun that the university was focused on hiring “an accomplished educator of national stature, with recognized scholarly success.”

Patel told The Sun Thursday that the search committee unanimously selected Sasse “because he embodies the attributes and leadership qualities identified by the UF community, and the credentials sought by the search committee.

“This was led by the search committee, with direction from the board of trustees, as laid out in Florida statute,” he said. “There was no other influence or other body involved in the search process.”

Patel said that among the candidates for the job who were sitting university presidents, none of them would come forward as a finalist unless they were chosen as the one sole finalist. He said that Sasse is a “visionary and transformational leader.”

If the board of trustees approves Sasse for the job, the selection will be subject to confirmation by the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System.

Sasse has served as a U.S. senator since 2015. He was one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict former president Donald Trump of incitement of insurrection in his second impeachment trial. He is the author of two New York Times best-selling books, “The Vanishing American Adult” and “Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal.”

 Image Credits: Associated Press