UF Student Body President faces impeachment for voting in favor of Ben Sasse

"And to Ben Sasse, this is 2022, not 1922. Being homophobic is not a 'political opinion,' it is discrimination and bigotry," wrote Daniel Baldell, vice president of the student body.

University of Florida trustees voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve Ben Sasse, the Republican senator from Nebraska, as the university’s next president, including the president of the student body—who now faces potential impeachment for neglecting to represent the student body.

Lauren Lemasters voted in favor of Sasse in the capacity of her role in student government, a move not supported by the majority of students at UF who hold concerns over Sasse’s stance against same-sex marriage.

Last month, the student senate, a group of 100 elected senators who represent more than 50,000 students, expressed their reservations about Lemasters’ inclination to support Sasse as they took a vote of no confidence for her role on the search committee.

“Therefore, let it be resolved that the University of Florida Student Senate do its part in meeting this list of demands and condemn Student Body President Lauren Lemasters’ participation in a unanimous vote within the Presidential Search Committee,” they wrote. “Therefore, let it be further resolved that the University of Florida Student Senate urges Student Body President Lemasters to vote ‘no’ on the confirmation of Senator Ben Sasse.”

Students took advantage of Lemasters’ office hours before she made her final decision on Tuesday readdressing Sasse’s controversial history surrounding his opinions on LGBTQ issues and how it affects students. But it wasn’t enough.

“I want to start by thanking you for, throughout this process, your candor and just your willingness to listen to not only me but to the concerns and the desires of the students for the next president,” she told Sasse before the board took its vote. “You’ve shown when I needed one-on-one time just to discuss with you how our students are feeling, you’ve been open to that.

“I look forward to seeing you ready to sit down and listen and learn from these students: to hear their concerns, to hear their big ideas, to really bring our university together in moving forward and treating them with dignity, respect and care,” she said. “Now it’s up to you to live up to that.”

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In a resolution from six members of the student senate minority party, they argued her decision constituted malfeasance, the Tampa Bay Times reported. According to the resolution, the authors referenced a statute that states that the student body president must not lack “confidence by their elected colleagues within (Student Government) in their ability to have an effective voice for representing their constituents” or “create a reasonable fear that the conduct could be repeated during the official’s term.”

They also said Lemasters was “blatantly ignoring the request of the student body as directly communicated to her.”

In a message to the student body, Daniel Baldell, vice president of the student body, issued a statement on Instagram after the vote was made.

“I do not support Student Body President Lauren Lemasters’ vote and condemn her for making a decision that so blindly went against student demands,” he wrote. “And to Ben Sasse, this is 2022, not 1922. Being homophobic is not a ‘political opinion,’ it is discrimination and bigotry. So although you may not have a desire for ‘political celibacy,’ the truth is that words matter and are NOT irrelevant to your role as president.”

Moving forward, the student senate will begin its hearings, in which Lemasters will have the opportunity to speak about her actions. The Senate will be split into an impeachment-led body and a trial body. Lemasters will face impeachment if two-thirds of the impeachment body votes in favor of it.

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttp://universitybusiness.com
Micah Ward is a University Business staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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