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University of Florida students, faculty plan to protest Monday as Sasse begins presidency

Incoming University of Florida President Ben Sasse will be greeted by protestors Monday afternoon outside the school's administration building as he officially takes the helm of the top-5 public university.

In a press release announcing the protest, which is planned for 2 p.m. outside Tigert Hall at 300 SW 13th St., the coalition of UF students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members are demanding that Sasse commits to a series of initiatives.

Those changes include:

∎ Market equity raises for staff

∎ Graduate assistants and all UF-affiliated workers

∎ Publicly disavow attacks from Tallahassee on academic and free speech

∎ Maintain pre-existing commitments to inclusivity, equity and diversity

∎ Commit to protecting tenure for UF faculty

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Sasse, 50, a Republican who resigned as senator of Nebraska to take the UF position, was chosen as the sole finalist to replace outgoing President Kent Fuchs in October by a 15-member search committee. The committee faced pushback from the UF community because he was the only finalist and because of his political background.

It later came out at the UF Board of Trustees meeting where he was unanimously approved that no other finalist wanted to come forward unless they were selected as the sole finalist.

The national search for Fuchs' replacement was done completely in the dark thanks to a bipartisan bill passed by the Florida Legislature last year that shielded candidate information from being public record.

Sasse came to visit UF in November where a protest erupted inside Emerson Alumni Hall during a student Q&A forum. The protest resulted in Sasse having to be escorted to a police car.

"Obviously, I wish they didn't have the position they had, but I strongly support the right of people to protest and exercise their free speech rights. So I won't say I precisely welcome the protesters, but I sort of intellectually and constitutionally happily welcome the protesters," Sasse said during the forum.

Fuchs later told students that they would be disciplined if they again protest inside the building, under a decades-old university regulation that had previously not been enforced.

Sasse over the years has made several anti-LGBTQ remarks while in public office, most notably expressing his "disappointment" of a 2015 Supreme Court decision that ruled same-sex marriage was protected by the 14th Amendment and a fundamental right.

He was approved as the university's 13th president by the Florida Board of Governors on Nov. 9 in a near-unanimous vote. Sasse said coming into the UF president role that he would put his personal politics aside. Sasse will earn a yearly salary of $1 million plus benefits.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: University of Florida students to protest President Ben Sasse