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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

UW-Madison Goes All In For Obama

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Via Althouse. Professor Kenneth R. Meyer has four major concerns about how the university is handling Thursday Obama campaign visit. "[M]y reaction to President Obama’s visit has gone from unease, to mild irritation, to serious concern."

Here are the 4 problems:

(1) In order for students to get a ticket for this event (which doesn’t even guarantee entry), the University is requiring them to go to the Obama campaign website, provide contact information, and then click on a button that says “I’m In!” In a very real sense, we are forcing them to become participants in the campaign and express their support for the campaign. This is SOP for a campaign event, but it should not be for the University. Having a president visit as an educational public event is one thing. Forcing students to declare their support for a presidential candidate in order to attend the event on campus is quite another. Should we be in the business of helping a campaign farm thousands of email addresses?

Note: You also have to give your phone number, which for many/most students means a cell phone number, something that I think most people see as more private, since it doesn't go into the public phone directories.

(2) The location of the rally could not be more disruptive. It hardly seems appropriate to shut the central campus down for an entire day, closing offices and seriously disrupting our mission. I have several colleagues who had scheduled exams for Thursday. Surely there were other venues that would pose less disturbance.

(3) I have learned that classified staff will be required to take a vacation or personal day, arrange to work at another location on campus, or work at home. This is what pushed me into the seriously annoyed category. The UW is penalizing staff (or, at a minimum, dramatically inconveniencing them) for an event that they had no say in organizing or scheduling. That’s wrong.

(4) The University is finessing the central point of this visit. It is not a Presidential visit. It is not a Presidential speech. It is a campaign event. It is a major event when a president visits UW. It is, I’m sure you’ll agree, somewhat less major when the president comes not as a president, but as a candidate.
This is not a partisan issue (my objections would be the same if it were Romney). I think this should have been handled differently, in a way that welcomed the President but did not diminish our basic purpose.

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