So, as you may have heard, the UF Board of Trustees named Republican Senator Ben Sasse as the final nominee, and then voted to install him as the next President of UF this past month. Needless to say, the campus community did not take this lying down, and I’ve been busy helping to organize protests, writing op-eds from the union, and most importantly focusing on changing the makeup of the UF Board of Trustees and Florida Board of Governors. Both of these bodies have direct control over the universities in this state, and both are made up entirely of Governor appointees, in this case from DeSantis. Every single member of the board who is not an elected position, such as the president of Student Government, is a big-time campaign donor to DeSantis, and they answer only to him. This is an entirely untenable and undemocratic way for our institutions of higher learning to be run, and has lead directly to the appointment of an unqualified bigot as our next President.
I’ve been mainly working with a loose coalition of folks here at UF but expanding out to the statewide level. We call ourselves the #FreeU movement, and our goal is to fight for academic freedom and fight corruption in our institutions of higher learning. Our main goal right now is to change the Florida constitution to make it so that the BOT and BOG are not entirely appointed by any governor, but instead more democratically appointed. No one person should have complete control over the entire state’s university system in the way that DeSantis has set himself up to have. In the past it hasn’t been as much of a problem because the Governor’s office has been less anti-education, but with our second term of an anti-intellectual, anti-education governor like DeSantis, changing this system is more important than ever.
#FreeUF is a growing coalition of students, staff, faculty, and community members both in the Gainesville area and around the state, and we are looking for all the help we can get to keep organizing and pushing our agenda. If you’re interested in what we have to say, feel free to reach out to me. I am one of the organizers of the group, and I’d love to tell you more, or better yet get you to one of our Thursday evening 6pm meetings.
As for Sasse, if you follow my Twitter, you’ve probably seen all my thoughts about him. He is unqualified (he is a politician, not a scholar, and running a small private college of 1600 students in no way prepares him for running a large R1 State Research university. I’m a more qualified candidate than he is!) and he is a clear bigot. He’s racist, homophobic, anti-woman, and anti-worker. He thinks tenure (which allows academics to pursue currently unpopular research in safety) should be abolished, and he thinks students should have to pay more for “less worthy” degrees like arts and psychology. He’s also a career politician, at a time when we are trying to get political interference out of UF’s administration. He’s a slap in the face to every person on this campus, and I have seriously considered moving to a different institution rather than work for him. I don’t have complete freedom to do that, and I generally like my work-place, job, and coworkers so I am loathe to leave them behind. But I do not feel as safe as I once did as an employee of this school.
Despite that lack of safety, I refuse to shut up about fighting for a better University for all. If we work together, we can persevere to make this a better place to work and learn and live.
Anyway, I’m hoping that things are calming down a bit in my life now and I’ll be able to post more regularly. I have a number of posts I want to write here!