University of Florida Bans Indoor Protest of New President Finalist

Existing rules forbidding indoor protests were rarely enforced. Now, the school will ban indoor demonstrations as anger over the selection of Sen. Ben Sasse as the sole finalist for the open president position spreads.

Published October 26, 2022

Edited by Darlene Earnest
University of Florida Bans Indoor Protest of New President Finalist
Photo by Jeff Greenberg / Contributor / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

  • Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse is the sole finalist to be the university's next president.
  • Hundreds of students protested the senator's first on-campus visit on Oct. 10.
  • Sasse's record on LGBTQ+ issues has been a point of contention among faculty, staff, and students.

If students want to protest the finalist for the University of Florida's (UF's) next presidency, they'll have to do so in the swampy outdoors of Gainesville.

The public university's sitting president, Kent Fuchs, announced Monday that students, faculty, and staff will not be allowed to protest the nomination of Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse as the institution's next president inside of campus buildings.

A long-standing policy, which UF has not enforced in recent years, will be used to forbid students from protesting an upcoming Nov. 1 board of trustees meeting at Emerson Alumni Hall.

While the university supports the right to protest, Fuchs said, previous denouncements of the Republican senator forced a forum to be rescheduled virtually.

"We have not enforced this policy in recent years because in the rare cases that protesters entered buildings, they were respectful of others and their rights to speak and to hear," Fuchs said in a statement.

This announcement comes after Oct. 10 protests of Sasse spilled into Emerson Hall before a forum for university staff to ask questions of the nominee. According to the university and local reports, protesters entered the room where the forum was to take place, forcing the school to reschedule the event and hold it online.

"UF employees who traveled to the forum site did not get to hear Dr. Sasse speak in person, as many had planned to do," Fuchs said.

Students, faculty, and staff raised concerns about Sasse's history on LGBTQ+ issues throughout the protests. Others denounced the university's presidential search process, as Sasse was the only candidate publicly revealed.

Sasse has represented Nebraska in the U.S. Senate since 2015. Before that, he led the private institution Midland University beginning in 2010.

Fuchs announced in January that he planned to step down from his role as president in early 2023. While the institution ascended the ranks of top public universities during his tenure, his final year was marred by political controversies, including one occasion where UF prohibited professors from testifying in court as paid, expert witnesses against voting restrictions enacted by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, WUFT News reported.