The political world in Nebraska and Washington, D.C., was rocked last week after news of the U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, is expected to resign and to serve as president of the University of Florida.
On Monday, he was on campus in Gainesville for a public speaking engagement.
As Sass answered questions from students during a forum Monday afternoon, a large student-led protest appeared to erupt outside the room. The live stream easily picked up chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Ben Sass gotta go.”
Sasse defended their right to it.
“I wouldn’t say that I exactly welcome the protesters, but I would say that intellectually and constitutionally I welcome the protesters,” Sasse said.
It appeared that many were upset with his policies and voting results, consistently one of the most conservative US senators during his time in Washington.
Before answering the questions, he tried to preempt some of them.
“Whatever position you take on federal policy or political issues does not define who you are or who I am,” Sasse said.
The three forums then asked Sasse specific academic questions about UF, but also criticized his stance against abortion and same-sex marriage.
“I believe in creating a culture and community of inclusivity. So that’s the first thing to say, everybody has infinite value,” Sasse said.
The senator also argued that, regardless of faculty policies, he would allow academic freedom.
“What is happening is not parenting. What happens in the classroom is discovery or learning,” Sasse said.
The University of Florida Board of Trustees is expected to vote to grant Sasse the position next month.
Watch the entire Q&A with the students below:
Dr. Ben Sasso’s press conference