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17 September 2012

Lottery for Romney, Obama events causes controversy

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s and President Barack Obama’s visits to campus on Wednesday and Thursday have raised concerns about the ticketing distribution process.

On Friday, the Division of Student Affairs sent an email to students who entered the lottery for Gov. Romney’s event on Wednesday, informing them that there would no longer be a lottery to distribute tickets to the event.

The event, as per the Romney campaign’s request, was only open to members of the UM College Republicans and presidents of certain organizations, such as the Federacion de Estudiantes Cubanos (the Federation of Cuban Students, known as FEC) and SpectrUM, the LGBT student organization on campus. FEC, for instance, will receive nine tickets for its entire executive board.

Though the local Romney office and the Florida communications director for the campaign were given the opportunity to comment on the campaign’s decision, they did not respond to phone calls and emails.

Of the 750 total tickets, UM was originally given roughly 400, with 99 percent of those tickets going to students, according to Rudy Fernandez, vice president for government affairs. Student Affairs has been responsible for distributing the tickets according to the rules imposed by each campaign and by Univision, who rented the BankUnited Center Fieldhouse where the events will be held.

The small venue was selected based on considerations about the taping of the show.

According to a statement prepared by the University of Miami, “These broadcast events are a partnership between the political campaigns, Univision, Facebook, and the University of Miami. Because of rules imposed by the campaigns, the University had to give preference to politically affiliated student organizations and student leaders.”

Political science professor Joseph Uscinski, the advisor for UM College Republicans, however, believes the decision to limit the tickets to Gov. Romney’s event did not stem directly from the campaign. According to Uscinski, senior Alexander Alduncin, the president of the UM College Republicans, spoke to the Romney campaign Friday morning and was told that the decision to limit the tickets was made by Univision.

“The Romney campaign did not specify that it would only be college Republicans,” Uscinski said. “It would be Univision’s decision – it’s not particularly clear that it was Romney’s.”

Although restrictions were placed on the Romney event, the lottery was still in effect for the event with President Obama on Thursday. Still, certain organizations were guaranteed tickets to the event, just as they were for the Romney event.

“There are only so many seats and the tickets need to be distributed somehow,” Uscinski said. “Most people will be unhappy, because most tickets won’t be available.”

Still, some Republican students who did not receive tickets to see presidential candidate Romney are upset with the way the tickets were distributed.

Junior Hailey Bush, a registered Republican, did not receive a ticket to the event. Although she was a member of the UM College Republicans last year, she has not been able to attend the organization’s events this year.

“I’m so upset!” Bush said. “My family is a huge supporter of the Republican party and they were so excited for me to go, especially since I was a part of UM College Republicans last year.”

Any limitations to ticket distribution would not infringe upon students’ freedom of speech, according to professor Samuel Terilli.

“They can do it, it’s a private venue,” said Terilli, who has practiced media, employment and commercial law for 28 years. “Candidates can dictate and have whomever they want. It’s not a violation of the First Amendment.”

Terilli also said he believes the decision directly reflects modern-day politics.

“I think it’s unfortunate when any presidential candidate feels that he or she can only stand in front of a hand-picked, guaranteed-to-be-friendly audience,” he said. “I think it devalues the political process. It makes it more of a staged theater than anything that’s truly authentic.”

The presidential candidates’ visits are part of Univision broadcasts, and will be aired on the Spanish-language station after each event. Univision, a TV station with studios and operations in Doral, will conduct the event in a question-and-answer format, with questions asked in Spanish and candidates answering in English. Translations will be provided when necessary.

“I know the university is doing its best to make sure that as many students that can attend, will,” Student Government President Nawara Alawa said. “It’s a shame that many students who were willing to hear candidates out might not be able to attend the events.”

One thought on “Lottery for Romney, Obama events causes controversy

  1. I would have to ask. what is the purpose of these events? Is it to talk among republicans or democrats, reafirming each other’s vews or is it an opportunity for students to hear the candidates, compare and make decisions. I really don’t understand the purpose.

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