When the Republican Senator Ben Sasse’s name emerged as a potential President for the University of Florida, some students and many faculty members roiled with anger.
The Faculty Senate proposed a vote of “no confidence” to the Board of Trustees, which passed 67 to 15.
When Sen. Sasse visited the campus, some students regaled him with a chorus of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Ben Sasse has got to go!” According to the Daily Beast, the law school’s “LGBTQ organization” president said, “It blows my mind that this is the sole person they came up with. I could probably go downtown on a Thursday and find someone better.”
Left unmentioned in press accounts, but no doubt present, were angry impromptu student meetings, sneering innuendo in classes, and posters plastered on bulletin boards and lampposts.
Impotent Liberal Rage
The Board of Trustees did the only reasonable thing. They unanimously named Sen. Sasse to the position. His term of office is scheduled to begin on February 6, 2023.
The left’s impotent rage manifested itself in an impeachment resolution from the “Change Party” to remove the University’s student body president, who is the student representative among the trustees, who voted to offer the job to Sen. Sasse. The language of the resolution was typically strident. “It is unacceptable that she neglected the calls to action of her constituents and her fellow elected colleagues.”
The Change Party also threatened Sen. Sasse through its “Deputy Minority Party Leader.”
“We will always push to find ways to hold people accountable and make sure that any decision or any words that are used or anything that occurs in any administrative event is for the good of the student body, and that our student body is always protected and heard and seen.”
Leaving the U.S. Senate?
At least two other aspects of this story are remarkable.
First, Sen. Sasse’s term in the Senate is incomplete. He was elected to his second term in 2020, which does not end until January 2027. As readily apparent, every six years, many will trade all dignity, scruples, and vast amounts of money to gain the position Mr. Sasse is giving up.
Indeed, the one million dollars a year in base salary has to be a powerful inducement. That compares quite favorably to a Senator’s $174,000. Residence in the University’s President’s mansion is also, no doubt, a step up from camping out in an undersized and overpriced Washington, D.C. apartment.
However, there must be far more to the decision than such practical considerations. Indeed, being part of the minority party in today’s Senate must be an immensely frustrating experience. Added to this dire position is the fact that the Senate runs on seniority—and Sen. Sasse’s mere eight years mark him as a relative neophyte.
On the other hand, Sen. Sasse will return to a position he held before at the University of Nebraska. As president of the University of Florida, he will be a big fish in a small pond—but a delightful pond, assuming that the “woke” elements will allow him any peace.
A Leftist Defeat—At Least Temporarily
This fact brings to mind the second—and more important—point. The leftists have, at least for now, lost a battle on a university campus, but not the war.
For the last dozen years, at least, the story of university education in the United States has been marked by the increasing power of the left. In a 2020 book, The Breakdown of Higher Education: How it Happened, the Damage It Does, and What Can Be Done, longtime Professor John M. Ellis described the modern university.
“[It is] a fantasy world, a radicals’ paradise in which things that everyone in the real world knows to be false can be true, and indeed is the only permissible truth.” (emphasis added.)
Within that world of fantasy, students have suffered attempts at Marxist indoctrination, Satanism, ostracism over pronoun use, Chinese infiltration, training in “Psychedelic Law” and all varieties of other nonsense—all the while accumulating massive debts for the privilege of “higher education.”
Can the Wound be Healed?
Presumably, U.F. President Sasse will see himself as a healer of the divisions that rend university life. In 2018, he wrote a book titled Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal. Radio station WLRN quoted his careful attempt to appease the controversy regarding his appointment.
“There is always going to be, in a time as disrupted as ours, a sort of sensationalist tendency to take whatever an angriest moment is and pretend that it’s a representative moment. Those are not the representative moments.”
Whether Mr. Sasse’s healing balm will ease tensions remains to the seen. The left often sees conciliation as a weakness. The Marxist instruction manual instructs true believers to take full advantage of such situations while compromising nothing. No doubt, the leftists will turn out in force to protest their new president when he takes office. The senator’s compromise abstention vote for the pro-homosexual “marriage” Respect for Marriage Act has apparently failed to impress the campus liberals.
A Cautionary Anecdote
Hopefully, the trustees will hold fast to their decision and support Sen. Sasse as he assumes the reins. However, he will do well to remember the controversy that drove former Clinton Economic Advisor Laurence Summers from his position as President of Harvard in 2006. According to Fire, Dr. Summers had mentioned that “there might be different levels of aptitude for science between men and women at the highest cognitive levels.” (Emphasis in the original.) Even this conditional statement, backed by significant scientific evidence, was enough for society’s levelers to demand—and get—Dr. Summers’s scalp.
Can the “moderate conservative” Ben Sasse succeed where the “moderate liberal” Laurence Summers failed?
From here, chances of success appear slim. The senator is famous for popularizing the world “adulting,” a word that describes by efforts of infantile young people to try to act like adults. Perhaps, he might introduce an adulting course to induce the radicals to grow up.