Ohio State University and President Barack Obama and his re-election campaign have engaged in something of a lovefest this election season, quite noteworthy considering the school enrolls about 57,000 students in a state that has accurately selected the president in the last 12 election cycles.
This fact has not been lost on Obama, who has dropped in on the Columbus campus five times in two years.
Take his March 22 visit to the campus, nestled just a short drive north of the state’s capital building. Obama’s arrival came as Ohio gas prices neared $4 a gallon. Obama stopped in to speak on his green energy initiatives, a topic near and dear to many idealistic college students’ hearts. Only happy to oblige, campus officials shut down the Recreation & Physical Activities Center for his visit.
Their love affair resumed May 5, when Obama touted his re-election campaign in Ohio State’s basketball arena to a mostly adoring audience of cheering crowds. In return, the Obama camp paid the university $75,000 to rent the arena, according to The Lantern, the school’s student newspaper.
Just a few short months later, on Aug. 21, Obama paid a largely impromptu visit to Ohio State’s Student Union. However, Obama’s team was sure to park its army of tour buses – including ones borrowed or rented from Ohio State – along the campus’ east side, lest anyone hadn’t heard of his surprise appearance. The sight of the enormous motorcade prompted one homeless man to remark: “Oh, my God.”
Obama was in town to speak at another nearby university, but he was sure to make an appearance at his perennial favorite (wink, wink).
And let’s not forget it was hard to tell who the rock star was recently when Obama paid a visit to Ohio State accompanied by the popular Black Eyed Peas musician Will. I. Am.
As catchy techno tunes pumped in the background, the super-star artist (Will. I. Am, not Obama) chanted “Four – More, Four More Years!” over and over (ad nauseam). The students echoed the mantra and cheered in return.
The free event earlier this month drew about 15,000 students, faculty members and residents. Tickets were doled out thanks to student promoters who helped publicize and coordinate the campaign stop, prompting their peers to sign up – oh, so conveniently – through Obama’s website, meaning they’d have to give their email address to the campaign.
(After the event, the Obama campaign wasted no time sending a barrage of emails to students who had signed up).
The visit/concert led to some classes being cancelled, as well as temporary hindrances in accessing the university’s library. Roads through campus were blocked off by public transportation buses as well. Meanwhile, the Obama camp paid $200,000, in advance, to cover the costs of the spectacle. Yet two years ago an Obama event on the same grassy campus location, dubbed the Oval, cost Ohio State $80,000 to host, according to a November 2011 Lantern article. It’s unclear if the school was ever reimbursed for that.
In addition to Ohio State students who are big Obama fans, there’s faculty in the mix, too.
A big controversy was sparked in late August after an arts and sciences professor sent out an email urging fellow educators to invite the Obama campaign into their classrooms to help register students to vote in the upcoming election. Even Ohio State provost Joseph Alutto knew that was going too far, stating in an email to faculty that “simply put, partisan political discussions may not be sponsored by (OSU) employees on the OSU campus.”
In a similar vein, recently Senator John Glenn (D), namesake of the Ohio State University’s School of Public Service, was featured in a local commercial endorsing Obama. The school responded via email that Glenn’s endorsement was not one given by the School of Public Service as well. (Yeah, right).
In stark contrast, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has yet to visit Ohio State.
Fix contributor Patrick Seaworth is a student at Ohio State University.