Campus politics

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a story about how only some Ohio schools and universities charge candidates who use their venues for presidential campaign rallies. It’s a question I had been curious about for a long time. From my story:

In this college-speckled battleground state, the presidential campaign trail almost always leads to a school gym or student union, which offers candidates large venues and eager audiences.

But how exactly campuses roll out the welcome mat depends on the place.

Although they profess political neutrality, area schools take a patchwork approach to charging for use of spaces that provide a scholastic backdrop to so many stump speeches.

I filed a public records request for every contract between the University of Toledo and a presidential campaign during the 2008, 2012, and 2016 primary and general election cycles, and found that UT charged rental and other fees to only half of the candidates who used their venues. Bowling Green State University provided records showing it charged campaigns tens of thousands of dollars to use its facilities, and other area schools and colleges reported mixed methods of invoicing (or none at all).

UT is now working on a policy that will spell out who will handle requests from campaigns and how to charge for it. Officials tell me that the university won’t be subsidizing the cost for rallies any longer. The university aims to have rules in place by July 1– just in time for all of the campaigns that are sure to swing through northwest Ohio this fall.

A couple of outlets picked up the story, including the Associated Press. I saw the story run in the Dayton Daily News and the Cleveland Plain Dealer mentioned it in a weekly politics wrap up, as did the Education Writers Association.

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