‘Unhealthy’: Ben Sasse rips woke colleges in wake of Harvard scandal

University of Florida President Ben Sasse, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, ripped into other academic leaders regarding their responses to antisemitism on college campuses.

In a Wall Street Journal interview, Sasse said the University of Florida’s stance is that students should be disciplined if they call for the genocide of Jewish people — violating the university’s bullying and harassment policy.

Sasse said higher education is experiencing a critical moment where identity politics have given rise to antisemitism. 

“The culture of ideological conformity and monoculture at those schools is unhealthy not just for them but for the nation at large,” Sasse said. “Some people from the Right … say, ‘Let’s just let it all burn.’ That is not a healthy instinct.”

Three presidents of elite institutions — Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Claudine Gay of Harvard University, and Liz Magill of the University of Pennsylvania — testified before Congress in December 2023 about their universities’ responses to antisemitism on campus amid the Israel-Hamas war. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) grilled the university leaders, asking whether they would condemn calls for genocide against Jewish people on campus.

A refusal to provide a straight answer yielded public outrage, while Republican lawmakers called for Gay, Magill, and Kornbluth to resign from their posts. Magill stepped down four days after she appeared before Congress while calls mounted for Gay to follow suit. After weeks of plagiarism allegations, Gay resigned on Jan. 2.


Sasse, known for his outspoken criticism of former President Donald Trump, blamed the extreme sides of the political spectrum — the “wokes” and the “super MAGA” for aiding in “the collapse of a belief in classical liberalism is what’s eating up all of these institutions,” including universities.

“You can’t burn down every institution,” Sasse said. “Lots of institutions are going to be bankrupted by the digital revolution” and threatened by “ideological warfare about every institution.” The former senator said he wants “to conserve and preserve and reform and change and reorganize lots of institutions, and that requires you to have more of a public definition of what you’re there for.”