Ben Sasse criticizes other universities for ‘bizarrely’ giving attention to ‘smallest, angriest group’ amid protests

University of Florida president Ben Sasse criticized other universities for giving attention to the “smallest, angriest group” of protesters as various anti-Israel protests continue to occur on campuses across the country.

Sasse, a former Republican senator representing Nebraska, said on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that under his leadership in Gainesville, Florida, the school has not negotiated with the “people who scream the loudest” but does not hinder their free speech rights.

“We just don’t negotiate with people who scream the loudest. It just — it just doesn’t make any sense to me. We believe in the right of free speech. We believe in the right to free assembly and you can try to persuade people,” Sasse said.

“But what you see happening on so many campuses across the country is instead of drawing the line at speech and action, a lot of universities bizarrely give the most attention and most voice to the smallest, angriest group, and it’s just not what we’re going to do here,” he added.

While some schools, such as Columbia University, have resisted divestment from Israel despite negotiations amid fiery protests, others have offered concessions to protesters.

Northwestern University announced on Monday that it reached an agreement with protesters, which among other things, reestablishes the Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility with student, faculty, and staff representation. Brown University announced on Tuesday that it would hold a vote on whether to divest from Israel in October, in exchange for protesters’ encampment being torn down.

The University of Florida has rebuked protests that went outside of school policies, saying that the school is not a “daycare” and that they will “not treat protesters like children.”

“What we tell all of our students, protesters and not, is there two things we’re going to affirm over and over again, we will always defend your right to free speech and free assembly,” Sasse said on CNN on Sunday. “And also, we have time, place, and manner restrictions, and you don’t get to take over the whole university. People don’t get a spit at cops. You don’t get a barricade yourselves in buildings. You don’t get to disrupt somebody else’s commencement — we don’t allow protest inside,” he added.


Sasse also noted that on his morning run on Sunday, he passed by pro-Palestinian protesters with flags and said, “We protect their right to do that.”

“But we have rules. And one of those rules is we don’t allow camping on campus. And so you can’t start to build an encampment. And our goal is not to arrest people, it’s to help them get into compliance with the rules. They can protest. They can try to persuade people, but they don’t get to build a camp. Nobody, nobody else does either,” he said.

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