No, we won’t back down

UF Community Coalition protests on Feb. 6, first day of UF President Ben Sasse

The text below was originally a press release distributed in advance of the Feb. 6 protest. It was written by a united coalition of University of Florida undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, alumni, retired faculty, and community members led by Aron Ali McClory, Kestral Ward, and Rachel Hartnett.

Nearly four months ago, Ben Sasse was coronated as the next president of the University of Florida, after a presidential search shrouded in secrecy and suggestive of state-level political meddling. Gov. DeSantis has recently targeted academic freedom (see” and student health care (see: in higher education, with UF posing no opposition. Students, faculty, and staff have been left to navigate a tumultuous terrain of political ideological warfare occurring on our campus, without guidance, protection, or even comment by our university leaders. Once again, the campus community cannot trust Ben Sasse. 

University of Florida undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty, retired faculty, and alumni all continue to be disturbed by the appointment of Senator Ben Sasse as the new president of our university. Sasse’s track record in the Senate and at his previous position as Midland University president raise concerns regarding his potential actions here at the University of Florida. In order to protect the most vulnerable groups of our campus community, we demand:

  1. Market equity raises for staff, graduate assistants, and all UF-affiliated workers in line with the model set by the University of Michigan.
  2. President Sasse publicly disavows attacks from Tallahassee on academic and free speech.
  3. President Sasse commits to non-compliance with state-imposed list-making activities targeting freedom of political thought, racial equity, and gender-affirming care (i.e, attempts to enforce HB7).
  4. President Sasse maintain all pre-existing commitments to inclusivity, equity, diversity, and justice including, but not limited to, 
    • United HealthCare and GatorGradCare continue providing gender-affirming care and comprehensive reproductive care regardless of the Florida Board of Medicine “standard of care” and
    • Climate sustainability goals/initiatives.
  5. President Sasse commits to protecting tenure for UF faculty.  

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