State board confirms Sasse as UF president 

Ben Sasse received final confirmation on Wednesday to become the University of Florida's next president.
Ben Sasse received final confirmation on Wednesday to become the University of Florida's next president. (Photo by Seth Johnson)

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse will become University of Florida President Sasse after clearing the final hurdle on Wednesday to take the reins at the state’s flagship university. 

UF’s board of governors gave near unanimous approval, with one member dissenting, at its meeting in Tampa, which was moved up a day because of Tropical Storm Nicole

Sasse will officially replace outgoing president Kent Fuchs on Feb. 6, according to the negotiated contract. UF’s search committee unanimously named Sasse the sole finalist for the job on Oct. 6, leading to unanimous confirmation by UF’s board of trustees on Nov. 1.  

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On Wednesday, several members of the board of governors asked questions of Sasse about political involvements moving forward and creating a campus where all students can engage in the marketplace of ideas. 

“Education is about learning how to humbly and meaningfully engage ideas,” Sasse said. “I hope that in my time…to be on a team of people pulling on oars, tens of thousands of folks, that want the UF to be a place that challenges students with new ideas even when they’re sometimes uncomfortable.”   

UF President Kent Fuchs
Courtesy UF Kent Fuchs

Sasse reaffirmed his commitment to exit partisan politics for a time while he enters the role of UF president. However, he and board member Alan Levine recognized that leading UF is inherently political.  

The president will be required to negotiate and create ties with lawmakers in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., in order to expand opportunities.  

The negotiated contract provides an annual salary of $1 million, and a possible 4% annual increase starting in 2024. That increase is dependent on reaching or progressing toward UF’s short- and long-term goals. 

The five-year contract ends Feb. 5, 2028. At that point, Sasse would return to the board of governors for a reappointment. The contract also gives a $1 million retention payment if Sasse reaches the end of his term—regardless of whether he continues past his first appointment. 

The contract also includes an annual performance bonus of $150,000 to begin in 2024.  

UF’s choice of Sasse has thrown the university into the higher education spotlight, especially after protesters crashed a series of forums last month.  

Students and faculty worried about Sasse’ stance on LGBTQ issues, free speech and his voting record in the Senate. Opponents also targeted UF’s selection process that kept the final candidates confidential and only released Sasse as an option.  

The UF Faculty Senate voted “no confidence” in the selection process days before the board of trustees meeting.  

Mori Hosseini, chair of UF’s board of trustees, addressed the selection process at the confirmation vote on Nov. 1. He said most top 10 public universities use the same system because it allows a higher quality pool of candidates.  

He cited examples of other universities that put forward only one candidate who then became the president: UC Berkley in 2017, UCLA in 2006, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 2022, University of Virginia in 2017, UNC Chapel Hill in 2019 and UC San Diego in 2012 and the University of Texas at Austin in 2020. 

Members of the board of governors also said the selection process was up to standards. The entire meeting is available on the Florida Channel. The section on Sasse begins at 3:13:00.  

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