Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor
President Barack Obama has visited Ohio State twice this spring and has at least one receipt to prove it.
While many students were away on Spring Break, the president spoke about energy to a crowd of about 2,600 at the RPAC on March 22. Obama returned to campus a few weeks later to kick off his 2012 presidential campaign, speaking to a crowd of about 14,000 at the Schottenstein Center on May 5.
On April 25, Ann Habershaw, producer of Obama for America, signed an agreement to reserve the Schottenstein Center for $75,000 for May 5. This fee took care of all operations of the Schottenstein Center.
The overall cost of the event was not made public, but it should be noted the university did not help fund it.
“The Obama for America campaign is responsible for the costs associated with the president’s first campaign rally of 2012 because it was strictly a campaign-related event,” said Jessica Kershaw, press secretary for Obama for America-Ohio, in an email.
Prior to Obama’s March 22 visit to the university, recreational sports director Don Stenta said he was notified of the visit the week before the event.
“He came on the Thursday of spring break, we found out the Friday before,” Stenta said.
Since the RPAC event was not a part of his campaign, it was planned and funded by the White House. The RPAC space was provided free of charge as a courtesy for the speech, and the equipment used was brought in by the White House staff.
The event resulted in a day-long closure of the RPAC, but Stenta said he received no complaints for the inconvenience.
For both events, the university had little time to prepare, a time crunch that Xen Riggs, associate vice president for Student Life, said was typical for these type of events.
“Sometimes you get a week or a week-and-a-half notices, sometimes you get two days … they’re constantly making decisions on where they want to go and what messages they want to deliver, so they tend to happen on pretty short notice,” said Riggs, who oversees the Schottenstein Center and manages high profile campus events.
When Obama came on May 5, Riggs said the university received a little more than a week’s notice that the president was interested in visiting OSU again.
“I got a call on Thursday night that week before, and then they came into town the next day and we walked them around several facilities. We didn’t get the word they were definitely coming until late Friday night or early Saturday morning,” he said.
Obama also spoke on the Oval in October 2010 to crowd of about 35,000. But Riggs said Obama’s team wanted to have the May event indoors and in a large venue to kick off his 2012 campaign. The team had been interested in St. John Arena, but the venue was already booked for the day. The Schottenstein Center was the only other available option that would work for the size of the event.
Obama’s visits to campus warrant high levels of security. Along with the local law enforcement, including the campus, local, city and county forces, the Secret Service traveled with the president for the May 5 event.
Riggs said the forces worked as “truly a collaborative effort,” which is typical of dealings with federal law enforcement.
“Here at OSU, we have historically had a great relationship with the Secret Service,” Riggs said. “They work with us and we work with them.”
Stenta called his encounters with the Secret Service “fascinating,” and said he was awestruck by “the level of expertise” they exhibited.
Presidential visits give students an opportunity to participate and be engaged in national politics, and OSU has received a lot of presidential attention. Choosing to kick off Obama’s 2012 campaign at the university is an act that some students said indicates the intentions of his re-election campaign.
“It’s important to him to talk to us. We can vote,” said Laura Wadsworth, a first-year in exploration. “We’re a big university, and we have a lot of influence.”