Wright State U drops presidential debate while some Cleveland campuses take precautions


CLEVELAND — Colleges have long leaned toward hosting presidential election events, both to create educational opportunities for their students and to gain publicity. A more cautious approach is emerging amid this unusual election, however.

Wright State University pulled out of hosting the first presidential debate of the general election on Tuesday, citing security and financial concerns. And several campuses here were quiet as neighboring institutions scaled back operations, largely due to security concerns.

“It’s a very difficult decision” noted Wright State President David Hopkins. “But there has been a growing crescendo of concern about what it will take to ensure the safety and security of campus and the community. The expense would be colossal. »

Wright State, located in Dayton, Ohio, was to host the first of four debates. But cost estimates for the event had risen from $3.5 million to more than $8 million, which Hopkins said was too much for the public research university.

Security concerns during the stormy election were a key factor in those estimates, according to the university. And Hopkins said Wright State, as a public university, would not have been able to restrict public access to its campus for security reasons during the debate, as a private institution could. Hofstra University, a private university on Long Island in New York, will instead host the September 26 debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Wright State officials did their homework before deciding to host the debate. They contacted 11 colleges that had hosted previous presidential debates, the Dayton Daily News reported.

They heard a clear consensus that a debate, while costly, was worth it given the exposure the colleges received. The students had the chance to experience a high-level exercise in democracy at these institutions, which in some cases saw an increase in applications and fundraising, Wright State learned during these interviews.

However, the tense atmosphere of this election is different.

Citing a “growing crescendo of concern about what it would take to ensure campus and community safety and security,” Hopkins said, “the current national environment has made security even more critical.”

Colleges sign up to host events like the debates knowing there are high risks and costs associated with their participation, along with significant returns from related publicity and unique learning opportunities for students, said Teresa Valerio Parrot. , director of TVP Communications, a public relations company. , which has worked with colleges that have hosted presidential debates.

“If and when an institution believes the risks outweigh the benefits, it should do what is fiscally responsible and most closely aligned with its mission to educate students — even if that means canceling their participation,” a- she said via email. “It is much wiser for an institution to refuse to host an event than to know the vulnerabilities of the campus and not cancel its participation. Every president needs to know if their campus and community can successfully host an event of this magnitude, including the ability to respond to the security realities of the event, and plan accordingly.

A few colleges near the 1.7-square-mile security perimeter here in Cleveland have chosen to shut down activities on their campuses during the Republican National Convention. About half of the city’s downtown has some form of restricted access.

Cleveland State University has chosen not to hold on-campus classes this week. The university said it made the decision because of expected traffic and parking conditions around its downtown campus.

Approximately 1,700 students will be affected. University officials have told professors to distribute course content online, on other sites or through take-home projects.

The university’s recreation center and library are open to delegates during the convention, Cleveland.com reported. And the university organizes several events related to the convention.

Cuyahoga Community College was opened this week. On Tuesday, students normally walked around the metropolitan campus of the large two-year institution, which is a mile from the Quicken Loans Arena, the site of the convention. And on Monday, Cleveland.com reported that Tri-C organized a campaign event for Senator Rob Portman, the Republican of Ohio. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, spoke at the event.

Security concerns have played a role in reducing most activity at Case Western Reserve University, but not because the university is unprotected.

Case Western welcomes 1,700 police officers and 200 members of the National Guard to its premises this week. Some faculty and students had complained about the move and called on law enforcement officials to keep their guns off university facilities.

The university made the decision to host the officers at the request of the city, Barbara Snyder, president of Case Western, said in an email to campus. She said city police assisted the campus police department when needed.

“In responding to the city’s request for a convention, we did not sufficiently consider the impact the decision would have on members of our community,” she wrote, “particularly students staying in university residences near the buildings housing the officers”.

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