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Florida Universities’ New Leaders

Florida universities’ new leaders are U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), president of UF, and former State Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R), chancellor of the state university system.

Sasse Choice Unanimous

The University of Florida’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved Ben Sasse, the Republican senator from Nebraska, as the next president of UF.

The process by which Sasse was selected was shrouded in secrecy in compliance with a state law, but members of the search committee purportedly reached out to more than 700 leaders nationwide. Sasse faced campus protests and a vote of no confidence in the search process, which left him as the sole finalist.

According to a resolution posted on the university’s website, the faculty senate said the selection process had undermined their “trust and confidence.” During Sasse’s first visit to the Gainesville campus, hundreds of student protesters flooded the building where he was speaking, prompting outgoing president Kent Fuchs to ban protests inside campus buildings during the confirmation vote.

In the end, though, even faculty and student representatives on the board threw their support behind him, despite questions on a litany of issues, including Sasse’s views on abortion rights; his lack of support for LGBTQ+ students and opposition to same-sex marriage; as well as his stint as president of Midland University, where he reportedly required faculty to sign loyalty oaths that they would not speak ill of him or the institution.

No starting date has been announced yet, nor has Sasse said when he will officially resign from the U.S. Senate.

Rodrigues Takes Helm

Republican State Senator Ray Rodrigues is the new chancellor of Florida’s state university system. He was unanimously approved to succeed outgoing Chancellor Marshall Criser, who is retiring.

Rodrigues is a close ally of Governor Ron DeSantis, another Republican, who has been a harsh critic of higher education in the state. Rodrigues has sponsored several controversial pieces of education legislation, including a law, enacted in March, that makes presidential searches at the state’s public colleges secret until their final stages.

Although the Florida Board of Governors insists it conducted a thorough search, only eight candidates applied for the job. Some were international applicants who had spent most or all of their careers working outside the U.S. None had any experience as a college president. Ultimately, only two applicants were interviewed.

News of Rodrigues’s hiring has drawn both kudos and condemnations. Political colleagues note that Rodrigues is a first-generation college graduate and praise his work ethic. But others suggest the fix was in from the start, “with Rodrigues elevated to the top of the résumé pile solely on the power of his political credentials.”

Originally published by Paideia Times. Republished with permission.

Paideia Times
Paideia Times
Paideia Times is a quarterly publication covering higher education news.


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