Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Education

University of Tampa braces for challenges and opportunities of Republican National Convention

TAMPA — The first day of fall classes at the University of Tampa is Aug. 27 — which also happens to be the first day of the Republican National Convention just across the Hillsborough River.

Another school might see the convention's congestion and potential chaos as reason enough to suspend classes and send everyone home for a week.

That's what Tampa Preparatory School, just north of UT, will do.

But after long talks and lots of planning, UT administrators decided to stay open and make it work, embracing the convention as more opportunity than headache.

"This is just a superlative educational experience for college folks to have," said Linda Devine, vice president for operations and planning. "Our students come from all over the country and all around the globe, and (during the convention) we think this will be a pretty spectacular place to be."

Nor is UT the only institution of higher learning gearing up for the convention. Hillsborough Community College is looking at redeploying administrators and staff to other locations in case convention security forces it to close its administration building on Davis Islands.

HCC expects its Ybor City campus to be outside the security perimeter, though traffic could be tough enough that the college will urge students, faculty and staff to think about alternative transportation plans, like carpooling.

At the University of South Florida, administrators are looking for ways to put their faculty center stage, just as they did for the GOP primary debate in January and 2010's debates in the governor's and senate races.

"With estimates of 15,000 media there, I think we're going to be absolutely besieged by people wanting to talk to experts here," USF spokesman Michael Hoad said.

And all three schools are looking to leverage opportunities to help students land internships with the convention.

But the University of Tampa will be about as close to the action as possible, so it is trying to get students' attention now.

The university has put up a Web page — ut.edu/rnc — with travel and move-in tips for the beginning of the fall semester. It's holding orientation a couple of days early. It is using social media to engage students. And an online video produced by students and alumni includes tips for having an "incident-free RNC."

"Imagine five straight days of Gasparilla," junior McKay Ellis says on the video. "We need everyone to look out for each other."

Administrators also need for returning students to plan their fall arrival now, not in July or August.

The university regularly checks the availability of hotel rooms and airline flights on online travel sites.

"The message is plan early, plan now," UT dean of students Stephanie Russell Holz said.

Some of UT's 6,800 students could arrive as late as the weekend before the convention, but many — incoming freshmen, transfer students, athletes, resident advisers and other student leaders — will arrive at least a full week earlier.

The first-year students will be going through an introduction-to-college course that will include a piece called "RNC 101."

RNC 101 will include convention and relevant political history, but one of its chief goals is to introduce new students to the university's Blackboard technology, which allows faculty members to teach online. That way, if something happens that closes the campus, professors can still conduct classes online.

Because college campuses can be porous, UT is adding security for the convention and will require students, faculty and staff to wear their Spartan IDs on bright green lanyards at all times.

With several spots — Plant Hall, the Vaughn Center, the Crescent Club — mentioned in the convention's official guide to party and event venues, UT could see some visiting groups or delegations. Campus parking is tight even with no convention in town, so administrators were glad to hear that the groups would be coming by charter bus.

UT student government president Nick Chmura said the university has done a good job trying to alert students to the convention's impact.

The question is: Has it sunk in?

"I don't think they understand the magnitude of what's going on and how it will affect them, but at least they know it's happening," said Chmura, 21, a senior studying finance.

UT interim associate provost and professor of psychology Joe Sclafani compares the work to getting ready for a dissertation defense.

"There's a lot of preparation, and it's going to be a big test over a small period of time," he said. "We are doing everything we can to be prepared for that."

Richard Danielson can be reached at d[email protected] or (813) 226-3403.

Comments
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Published: 06/20/18
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Published: 06/20/18
Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

An early analysis of the Pasco County School District’s 2018-2019 budget projects a deficit of more than a million dollars, with more than half of that coming from a shortfall in funding new school safety requirements.Costs to hire and train 53 new s...
Published: 06/20/18
New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally pitched as a nine- or 10-story, 550-bed dorm for the overcrowded University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, USF’s latest residence hall project will likely look much different by the time it’s done.For starters, it...
Published: 06/20/18
Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Am I missing something in the — pardon the expression — brouhaha over the renaming of the University of South Florida Sun Dome to the Yuengling Center? In trading a college arena’s longtime name for that of a big-name beer brewed ne...
Published: 06/20/18

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18