Thursday, May 24, 2018
Education

UT plans for coexistence with nearby Republican National Convention

TAMPA — Just a mile away from downtown — where tens of thousands of visitors, delegates and journalists will set the area abuzz with the Republican National Convention — it'll be business as usual for the first week of the University of Tampa's fall semester.

That is, as usual as possible.

"So far, it feels like a pretty normal fall," said Linda Devine, UT's vice president of operations and planning.

But don't let that fool you.

While UT is sticking to its planned academic schedule, with classes beginning on Aug. 27 (the first day of the convention) and move-in for most students the prior Saturday, university officials are by no means turning a blind eye to the massive event.

For more than a year, committees of faculty, staff and administrators have been working on an RNC plan for the university. They've met with city leaders and law enforcement representatives, and they've spoken to staff at colleges and universities who dealt with the 2008 Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn.

They thought about changing the academic calendar, but the logistics would have been too complicated. Instead, they put together a plan that enables both educational engagement and, they hope, peaceful coexistence.

While many students will be involved in RNC activities, others will remain on campus taking their classes. And that's just as important, Devine said.

"They're doing what students do. They have their own agendas and things they're involved in," she said.

While no classes are scheduled to be canceled, faculty members have the option of holding their classes online that week. So far, about 25 percent of UT's 500-plus faculty members have indicated they plan to do so.

For those students and faculty members who plan to brave the busy campus, they'll have plenty of opportunities to get into the RNC spirit. UT is planning a bevy of social and educational activities — not necessarily pro-Republican, Devine said, but rather related to the political process. The school is also offering an online course, RNC 101, for students who want to learn more about what's happening down the road.

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