As we all know, last week Governor Mitt Romney visited campus and gave a speech in our very own StansburyTheatre. I, like many other students, was eager to hear Romney speak – not because I anticipated agreeing with him, but because I was genuinely curious about what he had to say.
Because I wanted to be sure of seeing Romney, I arrived outside of Stansbury Theatre at 12:15 p.m. – optimistic and with a bag lunch in hand. I stood outside in the cold and in the rain until the doors were eventually opened around 1:45 p.m.
I was in the front of the line, and it seemed that I had a relatively good chance of getting in. I passed through security with no problems. To my surprise, I then discovered that I had no chance whatsoever of getting into Stansbury – I wasn’t on the list.
My first reaction to this news was pure frustration – I had known there would be some reserved seats, but I had absolutely no clue that all of the seats in Stansbury were reserved. I figured that maybe 100 out of Stansbury’s approximately 600 seats would be reserved, and the rest would be first come, first serve.
The mass email sent out to the entire student body by Craig L. Gagnon, associate vice president for communications, mentioned reserved seats. But this email in no way made clear that all seats in Stansbury were invitation only.
Since last Friday, I’ve spoken with several people on campus who were involved with the invitations sent out to students. Apparently, the university wasn’t contacted by the Romney campaign until early last week, around Monday or Tuesday. The original email to the entire student body was sent out on Thursday, March 29.
The university expected to have about 40 seats available for students, and so the government and economics departments were given first priority for these seats. Both the government and economics departments sent an email to students who are majoring, minoring or taking classes in government or economics, asking them to reply if they wanted a seat in Stansbury.
LUCC President Jake Woodford was in charge of making the list of students with reserved seats. Once the government and economics departments filled up the allotted 40 seats, Woodford was notified that there were now more seats available for students, about 60 in total. This change came from the Romney campaign, not the university.
Because of this sudden change, Woodford kept taking student names – anyone who emailed him – and putting them on the reserved list. Some students heard of this development by word of mouth and were lucky enough to get a seat – while most other students were left in the dark.
When I spoke to Woodford, he mentioned that Lawrence doesn’t have an action plan for an event like this. There was no standard procedure to follow.
It goes without saying that an action plan for events such as the Romney visit should be created. There was a lack of coordination between offices on campus, and a cohesive plan could have prevented that.
It also seems that the Romney campaign is largely to blame for the mismanagement of the event. They didn’t bother to communicate much directly to the university, and they were the ones responsible for many last-minute changes to the plan.
The Romney campaign failed to notify the university about the specific security measures they would be enacting, and that a photo ID would be necessary to get into Stansbury. Additionally, community members that registered online for seats were given priority over students. The Romney campaign didn’t seem to bother with the university’s concerns.
While the Romney campaign wasn’t easy to work with, I still feel that Lawrence could have better protected the interests of students. Lawrence could have negotiated with the Romney campaign in order to secure more seats for students. They could have said something like, “If we are hosting your campaign on our campus, in our facilities, then our students will get first priority.”
It also seems fairly arbitrary that government and economics students were given priority over all others – at a liberal arts school we should know that all academic departments can find something relevant in a politician’s speech. The invitations should have been arranged so that all students – regardless of area of study – had an equal opportunity. The information regarding the invitations should have been more clearly laid out to the student body.
I acknowledge that people in numerous university offices worked very hard on the Romney visit, and that the job was complicated by constraints of time. I am not implying that these people didn’t work hard. I feel that the job could have been done better, and more efficiently.
The frustration within the student body after Romney’s visit was palpable. I talked to numerous students who were just as frustrated as I was with the distribution of seats in Stansbury. Students absolutely should have been given priority over community members, and all students should have had an equal opportunity to see Romney speak in Stansbury Theatre.