UWM’s Participation In the 2016 Presidential Campaign

With Wisconsin still in play before the April 5th primary election, both parties were very active around the state. And the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee played a pivotal role in the campaigns.

The Democratic Debate visited campus on February 11th and utilized the Zelazo Center which is an arts performance center on Kenwood Blvd directly across the street from the Fine Arts Building and the student union. Media overflow was housed in the ballroom of the student union. The debate was sponsored by PBS NewsHour and Facebook and the two sponsors reimbursed the university for the use of their facilities and catering for the media and presenters. Other than obstructing traffic and parking around the campus I don’t remember any complaints about the event.

On April 3rd, GOP candidate Donald Trump spoke on the main stage of the Fine Arts building. This was rather surprising in a number of ways…the first it doesn’t seem like a solid venue for his message and second it doesn’t seem like it would be big enough for the types of crowds that he pulls in. But that’s neither here nor there…it was his decision.

But there was some controversy around the Trump event. Faculty and students didn’t want him to appear on campus in the first place…but rightly the university allowed him to appear. And rightly his appearance drew a reported 70 to 100 protesters (although that seems low to me). And Fox News is paying for the extra security that was required.

But UWM did do something wrong with the Trump event…and as I said they rightly allowed him to appear there…but remember what I stated above about the Democratic event? That overflow media was housed in the UWM Union. Here’s what was wrong:

Trump’s April 3 town hall at the UWM Arts Center, which had a ticketed audience but did not include media beyond Fox News Network…

UWM should never have allowed an event to be held on their campus that excluded the general media. Never…this isn’t a private facility per se…it is a very public university…one that prides itself in being an urban school involved with its home community. Any event there should be open to whatever media group is interested in covering it…I can’t imagine that a few of the local TV stations outside of Fox6 wouldn’t have liked to have been there…I can’t imagine that the insecure and lost its way Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wouldn’t have liked to be there.

Universities have a responsibility to present all viewpoints to their student body and let them choose who/what they want to support…but they should never let one media outlet control coverage of events on their campus. They need to support free speech AND freedom of the press in the same breath.


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