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college’s Institute of Public Safety. I
must say, though, it was prudent on
my part not to participate in a class in
defensive tactics taught by martial arts
professionals. I am sure I would have
sustained an injury.
• Students’ motivation, preparation,
engagement and joy is palpable and
has been an inspiration.
• One of the areas we celebrate is the
degree to which Santa Fe has committed across every program and service
to internationalizing the college.
The college community incorporated
international aspects, including
material about different cultures,
geographies, religions, values and
political systems regardless of the
subject matter. There is a celebration
of diversity. A multicultural student
center serves the academic and social
needs of the college’s 2,000 students
from other countries.
A MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE
The 2018 experience as “Student for a
Day” was unique. A college Faculty
Senate member recovering from an
Achilles operation asked if I would
consider being Student for a Day in a
wheelchair. I had not had this experience and accepted. As a result, we are
making changes to our access points.
Santa Fe honors state and federal regulations regarding disabilities. I learned
firsthand about physical access not only to
classrooms and restrooms, but something
as simple as access to a vending machine.
Santa Fe’s central campus was built
in 1972, and has undergone continued
improvement since then to accommodate students with disabilities.
Santa Fe has preserved its natural
environment on rolling hills, which
means there are natural inclines to
master. I enjoyed the speed of going
downhill, but climbing in a non-motorized
wheelchair was sobering and instructive.
Particularly, the 2018 learning
experience was meaningful in differ-
ent respects. Gainesville was one of the
college towns selected for an invitation
by Richard Spencer, a white nationalist
whose rally in Virginia a few weeks before
had been the scene of violence and death.
To me, Spencer’s views are abhorrent.
However, a cornerstone of any good
college or university is freedom of
expression, sometimes called academic
freedom. So as much as I disagreed
with Spencer’s assertions, I support his
right to speak. Spencer was allowed
to speak on the campus of the nearby
University of Florida, but was marginal-
ized by the community with relatively
I found it interesting that a few
American students and international
students did not want Spencer to speak.
I understood and empathized with their
sentiment, especially that of a few stu-
dents who met with me to voraciously
and passionately advocate banning
Spencer. It was one of the most respect-
ful and thought-provoking teaching
opportunities in my time at the college.
It illustrated that the work of higher
learning is never finished. There is joy
in finding areas of agreement but also
in civilly confronting disagreements,
including those that are deep-seated
My experiences with students
demonstrate that leading an insti-
tution of higher learning is more
effective by having a fuller sense of
the students. For all the value derived
from written reports and literature,
and communications filtered through
the organization, personal encounters
with students conducted on equal
terms and with a minimum of struc-
ture yield invaluable insights leading
to improvement and success.
Jackson N. Sasser is president of Santa Fe College in
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