University of Florida faculty panel votes ‘no confidence’ on Sasse selection process

Union says state’s Sunshine Law violated
A vote of no confidence from the faculty of the University of Florida.
Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 11:49 AM CDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WOWT) - The faculty senate of the University of Florida voted “no confidence” in the university’s choice for its next president at a special meeting Thursday afternoon.

The 66-15 vote comes just days before Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse was expecting to fill the top job at the school he visited earlier this month — and was met with protests.

Leaders of the school’s faculty union say the presidential search may have also violated the state’s Sunshine Law, and it’s requesting the release of the names of the 11 other candidates.

Sasse was the only candidate named after being selected as the finalist. Faculty were informed at Thursday’s meeting that he was the only candidate who received unanimous support from the selection committee. Members of that committee said his experience as a politician would help bring stakeholders together to grow the university.

Thursday’s meeting started at 2 p.m. Omaha time. No protesters were heard on the livestream, but the university did announce earlier this week that it would begin enforcing a ban on protests that had been on the books there for decades.

Professors questioned those on the search committee about the process, not necessarily about the selection of Sasse himself.

At the meeting, faculty also learned that other candidates pulled out of the running for the position — or didn’t apply — when they learned they would have to disclose their participation in the process. Selection committee officials said those candidates didn’t want to be publically named as finalists because they thought it would hurt them in their current positions.

An emergency meeting at the University of Florida.

During Thursday’s meeting, faculty raised several questions not only about the process but about broader issues. Some questioned why Florida law was changed to make the process so secretive. Others repeated their concerns with Sasse, specifically about his views on LGBTQ issues.

Sasse was questioned about that during his visit to the university earlier this month saying that his statements were made because they represented the views of his constituents; and that as president of the University of Florida, he would represent their views — and the selection committee told faculty on Thursday that they felt comfortable with that response.

Some at Thursday’s meeting also pointed out that in 2014, the university named three finalists publicly, and then allowed staff, faculty, and even city officials to debate the merits of those candidates before making a final selection.

The UF Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to approve Sasse as the university’s next president. The decision would then go to the Board of Governors, a 17-member panel, most of whom are appointed by the governor of Florida.