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Faculty union seeks records on UF presidential search

Ben Sasse speaks from a table
Serra Sowers
Fresh Take Florida
U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., speaks Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, at the University of Florida, where he has been selected as the only finalist to become the school's next president.

The United Faculty of Florida is seeking records related to the University of Florida’s search for a new president amid the union’s objections to U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska being the only finalist for the job.

A search committee this month announced Sasse as the lone finalist. That came after the committee used a new state law to shield information about applicants for the presidency. Under the law, only the names of finalists are made public at the end of universities’ searches.

The union on Monday questioned whether UF violated the law. In a news release, the union said the law “makes no mention of allowing a single applicant to nullify the requirement for ‘the final group of applicants’ to be no longer exempt from Florida’s Sunshine Laws.”

The union said it has filed a public-records request to try to get information about a separate group of reportedly undisclosed finalists. The request seeks “the full list of more than 700 applicants and the personal identifying information of the final pool of 12” candidates.

“We didn’t want this law, but we without a doubt plan to enforce the shreds of transparency still left in this process,” Andrew Gothard, the union’s president, said in a statement.

In an interview with The Independent Florida Alligator student newspaper after Sasse’s selection, Faculty Senate President Amanda Phalin said all of the other finalists indicated they would give up their candidacies if they weren’t named the sole finalist.

Sasse is slated to be interviewed Nov. 1 by the UF Board of Trustees. Sasse’s selection has been met with student protests, at least in part because of his past positions on LGBTQ issues.

Outgoing university President Kent Fuchs said Monday the school is taking steps to prevent disruption of next week’s interview.

In a statement, Fuchs said the “university will resume enforcement of a regulation on the books for at least two decades, prohibiting protests inside campus buildings. 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.”