senator.Ben Sasse named sole finalist for University of Florida president

senator. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), the former president of a small Nebraska college, has been named the sole finalist to be the next president of the University of Florida, the school announced Thursday.

The lawmaker said he wanted to return to academia as the country reconsidered a “complete interruption of work” after the pandemic.

“UF is the most important institution in America’s most economically dynamic state,” he said a statement. “The Washington partnership will not address these workforce challenges—new institutions and the entrepreneurial community will have to lead the way.”

“If UF wants to go big, I’m excited about the wide range of opportunities,” Sasse added.

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If Sass eventually accepts the position, Nebraska’s Republican governor. Pete Ricketts will appoint a successor in accordance with state law.

Sasse is expected to resign later this year once the review process begins and awaits final approval from the board, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.. Approval is expected as he is the only finalist.

University President W. Kent Fuchs, who has led the university since 2015, announced in January that he would “transition from chancellor to professor” when his successor was named.

Fuchs touted his success in raising the university’s public profile, leading a $3 billion fundraiser and keeping tuition steady.

But he has drawn criticism from some faculty members who say he routinely allows political pressure from state leaders to influence areas such as pandemic response, research and academic freedom on campus.

Under a Florida governor’s law, candidates for the school’s new principal are kept secret. Ron DeSantis (R) signed in March. The search included “hundreds of candidates,” according to a letter to University of Florida alumni from school board chair Mori Hosseini.

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Sasse was elected to the Senate in 2014 while serving as president of Lutheran-affiliated Midland University, which he has led since 2010. He has been an outspoken critic of the Obama administration, particularly the Affordable Care Act.

Sasse, 50, was seen as a powerful voice of dissent within the Republican Party during the early years of Trump’s presidency, but eventually changed as his constituents and his party’s politics became closer to the former president’s. Gotta be less vocal.

Sass is easily re-elected in 2020, but has been far less vocal after years of disagreements with Trump and other party leaders.

Before becoming a legislator, Sass worked with several Christian organizations, including the Coalition for the Evangelization of the Gospel (ACE), of which he served as executive director, and several federal government agencies including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, George W. Bush nominated Sass as assistant secretary for planning and assessment.

Sasse was born and raised in Nebraska and went to Harvard to pursue an undergraduate degree. He went on to earn a Ph.D. at Yale University, where he studied the intersection of faith and politics in the two major political parties.

Jacqueline Dupree and Susan Svrluga contributed to this report.

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