(The Hill) – The Alligator, the University of Florida’s more than 100-year-old student-run newspaper, is calling out the school’s new president, former Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), for ignoring its multiple requests for comment or an interview, saying he “hasn’t even given us the courtesy of declining.”
“Whatever the president’s agenda, we can’t report on it clearly if he won’t talk to us. We tried emailing him, we tried calling him, we tried leaving him hand-written notes and we tried saying his name three times in the bathroom with the lights off. None of it worked,” the editorial board of The Alligator said in a Monday editorial, adding, “we’ve all been ghosted.”
The paper pointed out that it been openly calling for an interview with the Nebraska Republican since early November.
“The university is also behind on giving us Sasse’s schedule — despite our incessant weekly public records requests trying to locate his whereabouts,” it said.
“Alas, the problem isn’t unique to The Alligator: Sasse hasn’t granted an interview to any of the dozens of outlets that want to speak with him. But as UF’s oldest and most trusted news source, we urge him to reconsider his silence.”
Sasse, who was two years into his second term, announced in October that he would be resigning from the Senate to take the Florida position, pointing to the hyper-partisan nature of national politics as one driver of his career change.
“UF is the most important institution in the nation’s most economically dynamic state. Washington partisanship isn’t going to solve these workforce challenges — new institutions and entrepreneurial communities are going to have to spearhead this work. If UF wants to go big, I’m excited about the wide range of opportunities,” he said at the time.
Sasse, whose contract with the school includes a base salary of $1 million a year, officially stepped down from the Senate in January.
The announcement of his appointment had drawn on-campus protests, with students saying his anti-LGBTQ positions made him unfit for higher education. He also got a vote of “no confidence” from Florida’s faculty.
“We aren’t blind — we understand why Sasse may be hesitant to interact with either the media or the [student] body at large. If hundreds of people piled into an auditorium to show us how much they hated our hiring, we would also be cautious,” The Alligator’s editorial board said Monday.
But it added that when “his office refuses to communicate with us in any way” it “makes it difficult to report on the university as accurately as our readers expect.”
“For eight years, he dealt with national political reporters as a senator in the Beltway,” the newspaper said. “Dr. Sasse, we promise we are far more humble than the D.C. press corps.”