VIRGINIA – A University of Virginia spokeswoman says President Barack Obama will not be at the university when he comes to Charlottesville on Wednesday. In a statement released Friday, it was confirmed that the university declined the president’s request to speak at UVA.
UVA says the Obama campaign requested the use of one of two outdoor venues – the Amphitheater or the Harrison-Small Library plaza. The university declined the request for a number of reasons including class cancellations, which UVA estimates could be more than 186 classes on the second day of school. The other main reason is they would have to take on the full cost of security, and because of university policy and their federal and state tax exempt status, they would have to offer the same opportunity to the other candidate so as not to show favor for either candidate.
Virginia’s top Democrat is playing down the snub. While stopping in Albemarle County, Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran told NBC29, “We’re proud that he’s coming. We’re very excited that he’s coming to Charlottesville, regardless of where in Charlottesville. Charlottesville is known for the University of Virginia, so I don’t think that’s going to be missed on anyone.”
Other than the denied request from the university, questions still remain about the where and when of the event.
The Albemarle County Democratic Party blocked off 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on their website’s calendar for Obama’s visit, but there is still a lot of speculation and uncertainty.
UVA spokesperson Carol Wood confirmed President Obama will not be speaking at the university. Meanwhile, other information coming in Friday is narrowing down the details.
According to the UVA Communications Office earlier on Friday, they offered up John Paul Jones Arena, but were told it “was not academic enough” by the Obama for America campaign.
Meanwhile, Albemarle County Police Chief Steve Sellers says they know of a “proposed” location, but can’t say where because of Secret Service restrictions. It could be the nTelos Wireless Pavilion.
nTelos Wireless Pavilion General Manager Kirby Hutto tells NBC29 they’ve been asked to save the date, but nothing’s been confirmed. Regardless of where or when it is, the Obama campaign office says it’s ready.
Charlottesville Democratic Co-chair Jim Nix said, “Virginia is one of the battleground states and we’re quite excited that Charlottesville is considered one of the more important destinations in Virginia, a place that will play a big role in electing the next president, so we’re very excited about it and looking forward to it.”
Nix says there’s no confirmed time or date for selling tickets for the event, but it’s possible that the time will be set for Sunday at noon, if everything is in place by then.
The full details about the president’s visit are expected to be released no later than this weekend. We will bring you more information as soon as it becomes available.
The NBC29 newsroom has received the following statement from University of Virginia Spokesperson Carol Wood:
Many of you have asked about whether President Obama will be holding an upcoming campaign rally in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia.
I am writing to tell you that the University met with five members of the Obama Presidential Campaign on Wednesday. The campaign team had toured the University Grounds prior to meeting with University officials and zeroed in on two particular outdoor venues — the Amphitheatre or the Harrison-Small Library plaza — that would accommodate 5,000 to 10,000 people. Both of these locations sit in the middle of the daily academic enterprise. After reviewing the campaign’s request for either of these two sites and the impact on the University, the University declined the request for the following reasons:
As you know, Aug. 29 is the second day of classes overall and the first day of classes on the Monday/Wednesday/Friday academic schedule.
The use of either of the desired sites would require closing buildings adjacent to the sites for the entire day.
The cancellation of 186 classes would occur if the site is the Amphitheatre or closing of the libraries and Newcomb dining if the site is the Harrison-Small plaza. This would result in an extraordinary disruption of the second day of the new semester.
In addition to the disruption to classes, the University would have to bear the full cost of security — a substantial and open-ended expenditure of staff time and money.
By University policy, we would also have to offer the same accommodations and bear the same costs for other candidates. Both our federal and state tax-exempt status requires that we not favor any candidate.
The Secret Service would have final approval on the site chosen and would dictate the security requirements, but at a minimum the buildings adjacent to the event venue would need to be closed on Aug. 29. Adjacent buildings would be searched and secured with officers posted in each starting at least 6 hours prior to the event.
Additional details: The use of McIntire Amphitheater would require the closing of the following buildings on Aug. 29: Bryan Hall, Cocke Hall, Garrett Hall, Minor Hall, and possibly Maury Monroe halls. The parking lots behind Bryan and Clark would have to be closed for the day, as well as a portion of McCormick Road.
The use of the Harrison-Small Special Collections Library would require the closing of the Alderman Library, Special Collections Library, the temporary dining facility, Peabody Hall, and possibly Monroe Hall, the rooms along the West Range and a portion of McCormick Road.
Costs: the host site would be responsible for all security costs as determined by the Secret Service. The security costs would include, but not be limited to: staffing the intersections along the motorcade route (anticipate more than 200 officers would be required at a cost of $90,000 or more); security required at U.Va. and at the airport (obtaining officers from the local police departments and state police at U.Va.’s expense); canine dogs (obtaining them from police departments statewide).
While there are certainly financial implications to a state university that has seen faculty and staff salary freezes for the past five years, the primary reasons for declining the offer were related to disruption of the first days of classes.
A national election is something we want our students to be involved in — and hope that it is something they will rally around. The timing of this request simply could not be accommodated at these two requested locations because of the start of classes. This was not an easy decision, especially given our Jeffersonian legacy.
The University informed Jim Loftis, the leader of the campaign advance team, who said that he completely understood the decision given the impact it would have on the academic schedule.