By: Brian Sikma
Today’s campaign rally by President Barack Obama at the University of Wisconsin Madison may find UW students picking up the tab of his visit in an unexpected way: paying for class time that never happened. UW officials cancelled classes around the heart of the campus to clear the way for the Obama campaign rally. Because the event included a token private meeting between the President and some University leaders the Obama campaign did not have to bear all of the security and logistics costs associated with the event.
Some UW professors and one lawmaker took issue with the way the University handled the visit. Even into the afternoon the University referred to the rally as a “Presidential visit,” something a resident political science professor took issue with, arguing forcefully that the rally was a political event and a far cry from a presidential public appearance. Presidential events, unlike campaign events, do not gather attendee data for political and campaign purposes.
The MacIver Institute, a conservative think-tank, asked UW Madison how many students were affected by the cancelled day of classes. The University told them it was around 3,198 students. Media Trackers looked at the school’s fall semester calendar and found 72 days that could be considered class days and used by professors for instruction. Using the in-state tuition rate of $5,192 per semester (excluding fees) that means that affected UW students essentially paid for today’s Obama campaign visit to the tune of $230,611 in tuition fees that, if classes are not made up, will not be recovered.
When asked if students would have a chance to recover the approximately $230,611 in lost class time, the University’s media team did not immediately respond.
Of course, the 3,198 students affected by today’s campus shut down are not all in-state students and some are paying more than the in-state tuition rate. Because statistics are not available for an in-state versus out-of-state student ratio for the affected students, the $230,611 figure is a conservative estimate.
College age and young adults were a key demographic in the Obama campaign’s success in 2008. It is likely that many of them were unaware of how much today’s campaign rally was costing them in lost tuition.
UW Board of Regents President Chuck Pruitt was a top Obama campaign official in 2008 and currently helps lead AB Data, a company that has done at least $29.5 million in business with the Obama campaign this cycle. Officials at the school long insisted that the visit was a “presidential visit” and thereby in keeping with the school’s educational mission. But when pressed about the completely political nature of the rally – which occupied the vast majority of Obama’s time on campus – officials admitted the event was a “campaign event.”
The school’s homepage however never mentioned the political nature of the rally instead containing a link headlined “Details Regarding the Visit of the President, Oct. 4.” Elsewhere on the site the event was referred to as a presidential visit.