Dear Campus Community,
Following the announcement yesterday of Donald Trump’s July 29 campaign stop in Colorado Springs using UCCS facilities, I have been asked a series of questions I will attempt to answer in this message. Many faculty, staff, and students have expressed disappointment and anger at Mr. Trump’s appearance on our campus. I am appreciative of questions and concerns raised and want to continue to be responsive. Because time is short before the event takes place, I want to address as many issues as I can in one communication.
The Legal Underpinnings of Leasing Space to Political Candidates —UCCS and the vast majority of all public universities make space available for lease (if space if not in use for academic or athletic purposes) to organizations including political organizations. UCCS for most of its 51 years has leased space to organizations including political parties. Because UCCS has made its facilities available to political candidates and their campaigns in the past-provided those campaigns have paid appropriate fees and complied with campus use policies-the university cannot legally deny the same access to Mr. Trump. As your Chancellor, I thoroughly checked our legal standing, as I would do in any such case, prior to authorizing the lease. The same process was used when we were the venue for a campaign event in 2008 by candidate Barack Obama. Simply put, the University of Colorado cannot discriminate against political candidates on the basis of their viewpoints. The First Amendment recognizes that if the university provides the opportunity for political candidates to speak, it cannot deny other political candidates the same opportunity. The lease to Mr. Trump is not an endorsement by me, UCCS, the University of Colorado, or its Board of Regents.
Assessing Charges — Some students have questioned whether UCCS should “make money” by leasing to Mr. Trump’s campaign. UCCS consistently assesses charges when any political candidate holds a campaign event. Other types of organizations also reimburse UCCS for event space. With regard to political campaigns, assessing charges prevents UCCS from violating laws that prevent the expenditure of public funds for the benefit of political candidates or showing preference for any political candidate. UCCS will not make a profit from assessing charges but will cover direct expenses.
Hostile Environment Based on Campaign Rhetoric — Some have raised concerns that Mr. Trump’s appearance on campus creates a hostile environment in a manner that would violate other federal laws. I have sought legal advice to respond to this inquiry. Political speech, even if that speech is offensive, is protected by the First Amendment and offensive speech does not serve as an adequate basis to deny this campaign or any other campaign the opportunity to rent university facilities.
Campus Safety — Some students have expressed their concern about campus safety, particularly in light of the fact that there have been confrontations at some of Mr. Trump’s other campaign events. UCCS leaders, our own excellent police force, local law enforcement, and the United States Secret Service are working to provide appropriate security and ensure campus safety. Campus leaders and I, accompanied by our own police officers, will be highly visible throughout the campus on Friday.
Expressions of Opposing Viewpoints — Many faculty, staff, and students have expressed their desire to demonstrate against Mr. Trump while he is on campus, and others in the community may join in those demonstrations. As a University that respects the ability and right of all citizens to voice their opinions, UCCS absolutely will permit lawful and peaceful demonstrations. No demonstration permits are required. The lawn in front of Cragmor and Main Hall and the lower University Center Plaza are convening sites for such expressions of free speech. As a core value of the University of Colorado, free expressions must be and will be honored. Law enforcement agencies will work to preserve the security for all. I will personally visit both sites multiple times.
Inclusion as a Core UCCS Value — Some have expressed concern that Mr. Trump’s visit does not support the UCCS core value of inclusion and respect. This event underscores more than ever the need for inclusion and respect. UCCS has a legal obligation to lease space to Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump has a legal right to speak. Others have a legal right to express disagreement. But this not solely about legal issues. The UCCS core value of inclusion and respect is front and center. This event, or any other event, must not let us waver in our commitment to inclusion and respect for all. I am confident UCCS, its students, faculty, and staff, and our community will approach Friday in a manner that demonstrates our shared commitment to free expression, inclusion, safety, political choice, and the democratic virtues that has served us for generations.
Details of the Event — As of the time of issuing this message Mr. Trump is scheduled to speak at 2 p.m. Those wanting to express opposition to the campaign are asked to gather in either the Cragmor lawn or the lower level of the University Plaza. UCCS is not handling details of ticketing for the event and other information may be available at the Trump website. Those wishing to assist me in providing safe way-finding for our students and others on campus may contact the Chancellor’s Office (x3436).
- The University Center Upper Plaza and Upper Plaza east and west access will be closed beginning at 7 a.m. on Friday until mid-afternoon. The Bookstore, Clyde’s, the Copy Center and Sanatorium Grounds Coffee will operate normally.
- The Pedestrian Spine walkway through the University Center will be closed most of Friday. Students, faculty and staff who need to traverse from buildings on the east side of campus (Main, Cragmor, Dwire, etc.) to the west side of campus (Columbine, Osborne, Engineering, etc.) will need to find an alternative route.
- Those holding tickets for the Trump event are likely to line up on the pedestrian spine in front of Dwire Hall and Main Hall. Non ticket holders will be directed to the Cragmor Green space or to outdoor space on the first floor of the University Center.
- Parking in lot 222 in front of Centennial Hall will be restricted to media and disability parking. If you normally park in this lot, I ask that you park in another lot or the Parkway Garage. The visitors will be asked to park in the Alpine Valley garage and will pay to do so.
I will be scheduling a campus conversation to discuss the events of Friday, July 29 in a couple of weeks. As always, thank you for your voice in our campus life, thank you for your respect for the importance of the issues of our times, and thank you for participating in important campus challenges and opportunities.
For the Chancellor’s previous statement on the event, parking details and more information, click here.