I am writing to tell you that the University met with five members of the Obama Presidential Campaign on Wednesday. The campaign requested the use of one of two outdoor University venues — the Amphitheater or the Harrison Institute-Small Library plaza. After reviewing the campaign’s request for either of these two sites and the impact on the University, the University declined the request for the following reasons:
- As you know, Aug. 29 is the second day of classes overall and the first day of classes on the Monday/Wednesday/Friday academic schedule.
- The use of either of the desired sites would require closing buildings adjacent to the sites for the entire day.
- The cancellation of 186 classes would occur if the site were the Amphitheater or closing of the libraries and Newcomb dining if the site were the Harrison-Small plaza. This would result in an extraordinary disruption of the second day of the new semester.
- In addition to the disruption to classes, the University would have to bear the full cost of security — a substantial and open-ended expenditure of staff time and money.
- By University policy, we would also have to offer the same accommodations and bear the same costs for the Romney campaign. Our federal and state tax-exempt status requires that we not favor any candidate.
The Secret Service will have final approval on the site chosen and would dictate the security requirements, but at a minimum the buildings adjacent to the event venue would need to be closed on Aug. 29. Adjacent buildings would be searched and secured with officers posted in each starting at least 6 hours prior to the event.
Additional details: The use of McIntire Amphitheater would require the closing of the following buildings on Aug. 29: Bryan Hall, Cocke Hall, Garrett Hall, Minor Hall, and possibly Maury and Monroe halls. The parking lots behind Bryan and Clark would have to be closed for the day, as well as a portion of McCormick Road.
The use of the Harrison Institute-Small Special Collections Library would require the closing of the Alderman Library, Harrison Institute-Small Special Collections Library, the temporary dining facility, Peabody Hall, and possibly Monroe Hall, the rooms along the West Range and a portion of McCormick Road.
Costs: the host site would be responsible for all security costs as determined by the Secret Service. The security costs would include, but not be limited to: staffing the intersections along the motorcade route (anticipate more than 200 officers would be required at a cost of $90,000 or more); security required at U.Va. and at the airport (obtaining officers from the local police departments and state police at U.Va.’s expense); canine dogs (obtaining them from police departments statewide).
While there are certainly financial implications to a state university that has seen faculty and staff salary freezes for the past five years, the primary reasons for declining the offer were related to disruption of the first days of classes.
A national election is something we want our students to be involved in — and hope that it is something they will rally around. The timing of this request simply could not be accommodated at these two requested locations because of the start of classes. This was not an easy decision, especially given our Jeffersonian legacy.
The University informed Jim Loftis, the leader of the campaign advance team, who said that he completely understood the decision given the impact it would have on the academic schedule.
Carol Wood, U.Va. Spokesperson