UF President Kent Fuchs announced Monday that the university will enforce its long-standing protest policy when the board of trustees meets to consider the appointment of Sen. Ben Sasse as president. Meanwhile, the UF Faculty Senate has scheduled an emergency meeting.
The board will convene next week—on Nov. 1—to discuss the UF search committee’s recommendation of the Nebraska senator the university’s 13th president. The committee unanimously named Sasse the sole finalist on Oct. 6.
The surprise choice caused backlash from some students and faculty. When Sasse visited campus on Oct. 10, protesters interrupted the scheduled forums and clogged up Emerson Alumni Hall to show their displeasure.
In a Monday email to the UF community, Fuchs said UF would enforce a rule that prevents protesters from entering university buildings. The rule, Kent said, has been in the books for more than two decades and can lead to discipline by the Student Conduct Code.
“We have not enforced this policy in recent years because in the rare cases that protesters entered buildings, they were respectful of others and their rights to speak and to hear,” Fuchs wrote in the email.
Fuchs encouraged everyone to still speak up and exercise their rights, citing free speech is “a blessing that distinguishes our great country from many others around the world.” But he said many UF staff members were unable to attend their in-person forum because of the Oct. 10 protesters.
“I pray that we will continue to find ways to express ourselves civilly and listen to those who disagree with us or who we find disagreeable — and ensure that all others can do the same,” Fuchs said.
Meanwhile, the UF Faculty Senate has scheduled an emergency meeting for Thursday with plans to discuss a no confidence vote on the selection process. The meeting will run 3-5 p.m., but a location has not been published on the schedule.
The resolution up for consideration takes aim at Florida Senate Bill 520, which allows universities to keep presidential candidates confidential until 21 days before a final vote.
“The next President should come already equipped to lead an institution of this caliber rather than aiming to learn on the job,” the resolutions says. “Anything less will result in a lack of faith in leadership.”
Professor David Bloom, the Faculty Senate chair, along with professors Lisa Lundy and Duane Mitchell, were part of the 15-member search committee that chose Sasse.
Sasse is a second-term Republican who previously served as president of Midland University, a small Lutheran institution in Nebraska. He holds degrees from Yale and Harvard and held a faculty position at the University of Texas in Austin.
Local critics have questioned his voting record and positions, but at the first forum on Oct. 10 Sasse pledged to separate his past role from the one at UF.
“I fully recognize that the responsibility of being a servant leader and a team member at an institution as complex as this is a celebratory role for the big and broad, diverse set of initiatives that happen here,” Sasse said. “And it’s a very different calling than the calling I have right now.”
The search committee narrowed a field of 700 candidates to 12 in the leadup to Sasse’s nomination. However, the university said because many of those 12 currently serve in high leadership positions elsewhere, the candidates said they would withdrawal their names if not selected as the sole nominee.
The search started in early 2022 after Fuchs announced he would step into a teaching role within the electrical and computer engineering department. Fuchs will have served as president for eight years come January.