The graduate assistants union at the University of Florida opposes Ben Sasse as the lone finalist for UF president

University of Florida president candidate Ben Sasse
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

On Monday, October 10, students and faculty at the University of Florida rallied in opposition to the selection of Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) as the only finalist to be the next president of UF.

They criticized such things as Sasse’s stance on same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ issues.

On WMNF’s Tuesday Café we spoke about this with Bryn Taylor, the co-president of the union for graduate assistants, UF Graduate Assistants United (GAU). The GAU at UF is concerned about Sasse being the only finalist for UF president.

Listen to the show here:

WMNF asked Bryn Taylor about Florida’s new HB 7 law, which Governor Ron DeSantis refers to as “Stop WOKE.” GAU has cited it as one reason why they’re concerned about bringing in a politician like Sen. Ben Sasse as president of UF.

Graduate assistants and faculty members are extremely concerned about HB 7 in general.

It was one of the reasons why during the listening sessions during the presidential search process so many people said that we do not want a political choice we do not want a political figure as head of the university.

Because the influence of the state on UF has been huge for the last year especially. And faculty, graduate assistants are feeling very vulnerable, and very unprotected by university admin from the state’s attempt to basically outline what teachers can and cannot teach in higher education.

So, we wanted somebody who was going to stand up to the state and say, ‘No teachers are going to be able to teach what is correct and what is appropriate for their field. No matter if it is offensive to your political viewpoints.’

I mean basically, everyone is very concerned that he is not going to be that person to stand up to the state. Especially since a lot of people are thinking the state intervened in this whole presidential search process.

So, it hasn’t quelled anyone’s fears about the politicization of UF and it’s not making anyone feel very safe in terms of what they can and can’t teach in the classroom.

SK: “So that professor who I quoted earlier from the WUFT article when he said that Sasse did not specify who he was going to balance economic freedom under the law you still have that concern?

Yeah, very much so cause no one knows right now how it is going to be implemented. There are talks of it’ll be, like penalties for violating HB7 are going to be like fees to the university or like lawsuits to the individual.

There is so much unclear about how this law is going to be implemented at all. Yeah, it is even more unsettling that he doesn’t even have a plan for how to protect that.

But why would he, ’cause he’s from Nebraska?

Bryn Taylor, co-president of the union for graduate assistants at the University of Florida, UF Graduate Assistants United (GAU), speaking on WMNF

Watch the interview here:

WMNF’s Tuesday Café

Tuesday Café airs weekly beginning at 10:06 a.m. ET.

You can listen on 88.5 FM in Tampa Bay, on or on the WMNF Community Radio app.

Letter from UF Faculty Senate chair to UF faculty

Subject: Follow-up to Monday’s Forum & Additional Info

Dear Faculty,

I want to share the recording of Monday’s fora with Dr. Sasse, which you can watch here. Please feel free to send me any follow-up questions you may have, and I will work to get them answered.

I also want to provide some additional information regarding the selection process that I don’t think has been made sufficiently clear in communications up to this point. The Selection Committee did not choose to pick a sole finalist; a sole finalist was picked because none of the top candidates were willing to stay in the pool unless they were the sole finalist. In other words, none of the top candidates—all of whom were high-profile leaders—were willing to compete for this position against two others publicly for 21 days, which is what the new state law requires. If the committee had chosen more than one finalist, none of them would have remained in the pool, and there would be no finalists.

I hope this information provides some helpful context about the process. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you, and have a great day.


– email from Dr. Amanda J. Phalin, chair, UF Faculty Senate

Here’s a video of Sasse speaking to different UF constituencies

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