University Business May 2017 - 12

Beyond the News
Politicians on campus
Preparing for a campus visit from a public figure

Colleges may already prepare extensively for VIPs, but a deeper level of
cross-campus coordination can ensure
a smooth visit even when protests or
other disruptions occur. This may
require new approaches to university
security and collaboration between
communications, event planning and
academic departments.
When the visit isn't part of an
already coordinated regular event, such
as commencement, the first step in
prepping for a public figure's visit is to
define its purpose: What is the guest
expecting from the visit, and how can
the university best utilize the person's
time on campus? Often, this must be
accomplished with little notice, says
Emily Poesch, director of marketing at
the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
When President Barack Obama
visited the university in 2016, staff had
only six days notice of his arrival.
A strategic communications team
should establish relationships over time
with parking managers, venue workers
and campus security personnel to eliminate communication silos. If the university has an event team, its staff should
be involved from preliminary planning
stages as well. Campus police, of course,
should be alerted about the event, and
they must be flexible when coordinating
with outside security teams such as the
Secret Service, says Poesch.
In a time of sharp political divisiveness-illustrated most recently by
controversial author Charles Murray's
calamitous appearance at Middlebury
College in Vermont-preparation for
political visits should include designating an area for protesters near the
event. "You want to make sure pro12 | May 2017

THE BIG EVENT-In 2016, when President Barack Obama visited the University
of Nebraska at Omaha, more than 10,000 students, faculty, staff and community
members attended an event at the campus arena.

testers are safe, especially if counterprotesters [attend]," says Bill Mahon,
senior lecturer in the college of communications at Penn State University. "A
public university in particular needs to
be welcoming to all."
Helping the campus and visitor shine
Before a politician's speech, the university's event and communications teams
should be available to assist in lastminute tasks, such as printing tickets.
They should also supply the visitor's
team with informative bullet points
and key facts about the institution, like
the campus' Twitter handle and the
name of the school mascot, says Poesch.
Strategically marketing the event to
interested students and related departments will build the audience for the

visit. Faculty may produce assignments
around the visit to drive deeper engagement with the speaker.
Officials should strongly consider
appointing a senior administrator to coordinate this type of visit to help ensure
uniformity-rather than having different departments forge new processes for
each visitor, says Mahon.
The university may also consider
having the visitor tour other points of
interest-such as the library, laboratories and other distinct features-so they
can interact with students and researchers on a personal level, says Poesch.
Balancing school interest
with visitor intent
When higher ed institutions welcome
political candidates who are currently
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