Sen. Ben Sasse gets more than a $900k raise as UF president
The Florida Board of Governors confirmed U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse as the University of Florida's 13th President, approving a 5 year contract and a $1 million salary.
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Ben Sasse became U.S Senator for Nebraska in 2014 after winning all 93 counties. In 2020, he ran for re-election, setting a record for “the most votes in the history of Nebraska—again winning all 93 counties.”
He studied at Harvard University, graduating with a BA in 1994, an M.A. from St. John’s College (1998), and the University of Oxford. Later on, he pursued a Ph.D. in History from Yale University, graduating in 2004.
Sasse’s professional career started at the Boston Consulting Group and then at MicKinsey and Company, advising private companies, federal companies, and civilian groups in Iraq. Also, working at the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security before becoming the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.
Before being elected to the Senate, he taught at the University of Texas—later becoming president of Midland University, in Nebraska, for five years.
“Ben was just 37, making him one of the youngest college presidents in the nation,” according to U.S Senator for Nebraska website. “The 130-year-old Lutheran college in Ben’s hometown was on the verge of bankruptcy when he arrived, but became one of the nation's fastest-growing schools just three years later.”
Today, The Florida Board of Governors confirmed U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse as the University of Florida’s 13th president, approving a five-year contract expected to begin February 6, 2023, with the possibility of a one year extension.
The Board also approved a $1 million salary with a 4% yearly increase if the institution determines Dr. Sasse has achieved short-term and long-term goals. Additionally, earning $200,000 for each year as President, “plus up to 15% of his base salary if he meets performance goals set by the university.”
The contract also states the Board may terminate Dr. Sasse without cause “upon providing at least sixty days’ prior written notice of such termination.”
Concerns GOP attempting to influence Florida universities
The University of Florida (UF) achieved landmarks after surpassing $1 billion in research spending for the first time in 2022.
“Surpassing the $1 billion research milestone reflects UF's continued rise as one of the leading research universities in the United States,” UF Vice President for Research David Norton said. “But this number represents far more than dollars – it represents the value of these researchers’ remarkable intellect and talent and its impact on our state, our nation and the world.”
However, UF has been entangled in many controversies, especially accusations of “GOP attempting to influence Florida universities,” as stated by Higher ED Dive. “Florida’s public higher ed system, however, has in many ways exemplified a national trend of policymakers, mostly Republicans, intruding on operational matters usually reserved for college administrators.”
The interference of politicians in what can be taught in schools has limited the topics educators are able to address or present in libraries— race, diversity and inclusion, gender-based education, LGBTQ, with some states, especially Florida vocalizing disdain of critical race theory.
“In Florida we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory,” said Governor Ron DeSantis last year. “We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other. We also have a responsibility to ensure that parents have the means to vindicate their rights when it comes to enforcing state standards. Finally, we must protect Florida workers against the hostile work environment that is created when large corporations force their employees to endure CRT-inspired ‘training’ and indoctrination.”
Many states started introducing educational gag orders— Missouri lawmakers introduced 18 bills, Indiana introduced eight and Arizona filed six in January alone.
“Lawmakers are undermining the role of our public schools as a unifying force above politics and turning them instead into a culture war battleground,” Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, said in a statement. “By seeking to silence critical perspectives and stifle debate, they are depriving students of the tools they need to navigate a diverse and complex world.”
Despite the importance of the historical context of race in this country, last year, UF prohibited three professors from testifying in a lawsuit against the state’s voting rights law.
The University of Florida’s new faculty report states instructors feel a need to self-censor, pressured to alter course content and barriers to research.
Interesting enough is that UF further mentions it “believes that academic freedom and responsibility are essential to the full development of a true university and apply to teaching, research, and creativity. In the development of knowledge, research endeavors, and creative activities, the faculty and student body must be free to cultivate a spirit of inquiry and scholarly criticism and to examine ideas in an atmosphere of freedom and confidence.”
UF President Selection Process
Early this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation making Florida public colleges’ presidential searches secret until final stages.
As a result, The University of Florida did not reveal Sen. Sasse identity until final stages—“in accordance with SB 520, a sole finalist was selected and presented to the University at large,” reported UF. However, in response to not knowing the names of the other co-finalists the Faculty Senate of UF provided a vote of “no confidence” in a 67-15 vote, in the selection of the 13th president.
“I am grateful for the Board of Trustees’ unanimous vote and for their endorsement of our shared vision to make the University of Florida a world-changing institution and a pioneer in higher education,” said Sasse. “Education properly understood isn’t exclusively or even primarily about transmitting information. Education is about learning how to humbly and meaningfully engage with new ideas. We want Gators to engage ideas. I want our students to be challenged and to rejoice in the challenge. We want Gators to go out and serve Florida and the world. Let’s go out and build something great together.”
More higher education institutions in Florida are seeking new presidents like Florida Atlantic and Florida Gulf Coast Universities, “raising concerns about whether the state’s political climate is deterring candidates,” The Chronicle reports.
Although, “Ben is focused on the future of work, the future of war, and the First Amendment,” as reported by U.S Senator for Nebraska site. However, Florida students don’t seem convinced with the last part.
In October, when Sasse was named the sole finalist it sparked intense backlash from students at UF— the institution banned indoor protests after “hundreds of protesters flooded the building where Sasses was speaking, ‘chanting loudly, banding their fists on windows, walls and furniture,” said outgoing UF President Kent Fuchs to Politico.
“UF supports the First Amendment right to free speech and embraces our university as a place where people are able and encouraged to exchange differing viewpoints or express their feelings through peaceful protest,” Fuchs wrote in a message to the university at the time. “With this commitment comes an obligation to protect the rights of everyone in our community to speak and to hear.”
“The faculty would have preferred an individual who is qualified for the position, not a political appointee,” Paul Ortiz, president of the United Faculty of Florida’s UF chapter and a history professor, said in a statement. “Our students work too hard to get into this university for someone to waltz into the presidency because of his political affiliation.”