With the 2008 Republican National Convention less than a year away, people are hard at work to ensure the University makes the most of the four-day St. Paul event and the opportunities it will present for students.
The convention, which will be held at the Xcel Energy Center Sept. 1 through Sept. 4, is expected to draw approximately 45,000 visitors to the Twin Cities area, according to the convention Web site.
Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, said students should be excited for the opportunity to see national politicians in the Twin Cities.
“It’s one thing to be detached and on the sidelines, but when you see the debate actually going on in your backyard and your front yard, it’s mesmerizing,” he said. “Think of ‘Saturday Night Live,’ except with political people.”
Jacobs said there will be a number of opportunities for students to get involved, no matter what their political beliefs.
“If you’re interested in giving a voice to issues, whether it’s Iraq or poverty or treatment of animals, the whole range, this is an opportunity to climb up on the stage and get your 15 seconds of fame,” he said.
“I think for students interested in politics it’s kind of just a remarkable experience,” Jacobs said. “For those that aren’t, they might catch the bug.”
The Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs will be hosting a number of related events for students to participate in during the week of the convention, he said.
Dan Wolter, a University spokesman, said a committee, co-chaired by vice provost for undergraduate education Craig Swan and University Police Chief Greg Hestness, is looking into issues ranging from campus security to academic opportunities.
The convention is great, especially for those interested in political science because of the potential for additional class and internship opportunities, Wolter said. The University might create a convention-related course, depending on faculty interest, he said.
Wolter said the University is looking to establish a bus stop on campus not only to shuttle people to St. Paul, but to invite out-of-towners to explore Minneapolis and the University campus.
If you’re in town, you’ll get a taste of the University, he said.
Matt Burns, spokesman for the 2008 Republican National Convention, is part of the arrangements committee that is responsible for planning and branding the event. This committee is a separate entity from the host committee, which was responsible for the initial site proposal, he said.
“We’re obviously very excited to be here and part of the community,” Burns said.
Cole Hoyer-Winfield, a Portuguese and art junior, said he was skeptical about how many students will choose to get involved in the week’s events.
“I think one-quarter of the students will be at least concerned with the events and the other three-quarters (of) students won’t,” he said.
Hoyer-Winfield said student involvement will depend a lot on the effectiveness of the University’s initiatives, especially with first-year students.
He added student action hinges largely on cooperation and the willingness to have open discussions.
Wolter said the University won’t be offering campus housing to the visitor influx because the convention will be taking place during the first week of school.
He also pointed out that despite the partisan nature of the convention, events will be fairly bipartisan, due in part to expected demonstrations and opposition to the convention.
Jacobs said people can expect to see people from the far right, the far left and everything in between.
“(Minnesotans) want to engage in things so they’ll tap into that, and it’ll be great for the country to be showcasing a state where (politics are) taken so seriously,” Jacobs said.