by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
“Our kids simply don’t know what an adult is anymore — or how to become one,” wrote Ben Sasse, now president of the University of Florida, in 2017’s The Vanishing American Adult. More evidence for Sasse’s thesis emerged the first day of his tenure at the university. A hundred protesters showed up at the door of Sasse’s office, pounding on it and presenting a list of “demands.”
The behavior of this rabble is not surprising, rather all too typical. The modern American college campus is replete with such behavior. “We are sick and tired of having our rights and freedoms set aflame, and this so-called president hasn’t even started work yet,” huffed a post from the protesters on the Instagram page of the school’s chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America. Even though Sasse only started this week, this isn’t the first time students have protested against him. Last year, during visits to campus to finalize his hiring, sessions open to student questioning were repeatedly disrupted.
The protesters’ anger seems to derive largely from the fact that, during his time as senator, he dared to voice conservative opinions on matters such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Never mind that Sasse has repeatedly said that he would not threaten those who disagreed with his views. Last year, Sasse said of his new position that “one of the things that’s appealing about this, frankly, is the opportunity to step back from politics.”
Sasse served as president of Midland University in Nebraska before entering the U.S. Senate, and has thought and written extensively about how to improve colleges and universities. “We need higher education to transform more lives by offering more accountability, more experimentation, more institutional diversity, more intellectual curiosity, more adaptive learning, and more degrees and certifications,” Sasse write in the Atlantic last year. “We need a rethink, renewal, and expansion—tinkering around the edges won’t cut it.” Frightening stuff, huh?