A group of University of Florida students Thursday morning presented UF Student Body President Lauren Lemasters with a list of demands that reflected their unhappiness with U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, as the sole contender to be university president.
In a cordial exchange at the J. Wayne Reitz Union, about 15 students met face-to-face with Lemasters and vented their frustration about Sasse’s nomination and the selection process of a 13th president to lead UF.
“There’s a lot of concern about the presidential search committee’s choice to put forward Sen. Ben Sasse as the sole finalist for the position of university president,” said Andrew Taramykin, 20, a junior political science and history major.
The paper handed to Lemasters included a list of five demands that asked for Sasse’s nomination to be rescinded, increased transparency in the selection process and the release of names of other candidates. The list also sought the repeal of a recently enacted state law that governs the selection process.
The students also asked that any UF president demonstrate respect and advocate for people of all races, genders and sexual orientation.
Lemasters, who serves on the UF Board of Trustees, did not make any commitment to represent the student’s demands. But she thanked them for having the conversation and promised to listen to students and gauge their feelings leading up to next Tuesday when Sasse is scheduled to appear again before the trustees.
Ava Kaplan, a senior at the University of Florida, emphasized that Sasse can say a lot of things but there is no accountability.
“He can assure us that he supports the LGBT community, he can say those things, and we have no choice but to cross our fingers and hope that he is going to follow through on them,” Kaplan said.
UF students who attended meeting said they were happy to see Lemasters standing in the office and ready to hear their demands.
“I am somewhat appreciative for the responsiveness she gave us,” said Aron Ali-McClory, 19, a sophomore political science and anthropology major. “She could have just allowed us to come in as regular folks with office hours, but she treated us as I feel a representative body of UF deserves to be treated.”
Some thought the doors of the student government office might be closed but were happy to see that they were open.
“The fact that she was out there makes me happy, and I thought the action as a whole was really successful,” said Allan Frasheri, 19, a sophomore philosophy major.
Students also questioned Sasse’s qualifications to lead UF, specifically noting the size of Midland University, which has just 1,600 students. That compares with UF, which has a total enrollment of more than 60,000 students.
This gave great concern for some students who question whether he would be able to continue to grow UF at the current rate at which is it growing academically.
“Who gets this position is who’s going to continue the course that we’ve been on,” Taramykin said.
Frasheri emphasized that the university needs to heal from a number of events that have infringed on academic freedom and hurt UF’s reputation.
“It’s not healing our university, it’s making this problem worse,” Frasheri said.
No matter who is selected president, students said there still would be pushback.
“We want him to know that we are going to continue to be an issue for him,” said Ronan Hart, 22, a senior history major.