President Barack Obama paid a campaign-related visit to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Thursday, drawing complaints from several professors who criticized the mass disruption to classes.
Kenneth Mayer, a political science professor at UW, sent a letter to university administrators chiding them for renting central campus to the Obama campaign.
“It hardly seems appropriate to shut the central campus down for an entire day, closing offices and seriously disrupting our mission,” he wrote. “I have several colleagues who had scheduled exams for Thursday. Surely there were other venues that would pose less disturbance.”
Others were more concerned with the registration process for the event. To attend, students followed a link from the university website to the official Obama campaign website, and gave their names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Then they had to click a box that reads, “I’M IN!”
Donald Downs, a political science professor at UW, found this troubling.
“I’m all in favor of Obama coming to campus … but in order to go, you have to go through the campaign website and provide information, and you have to click a box that says ‘I’M IN!’” he said in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Am I in for the event or in for Obama? If you really want to go to this important event, at least for a short while you are associating yourself with the campaign.”
Brown said many of his colleagues — including those who plan to vote for the president — agreed with these criticisms.
The university was not making an endorsement of the Obama campaign, according to UW spokesperson Vince Sweeney.
“We essentially rented the space to the campaign folks, and they’re the ones responsible for the ticketing,” he said in an interview with TheDC News Foundation. “We just felt that we needed to provide a link to that signup from our website because people would be visiting our website looking for ticket information.”
The campaign paid UW about $15,000 to use the venue. But the public university will pay the security costs of the event, which totaled $260,000 last time Obama came to the campus.
Only people who signed up on the campaign website may attend. The university’s chief of police, Sue Riesling, estimated that 30,000 gathered to see the president, according to a White House pool report.
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