For candidates, a long road to UNH

  • The Michael Ettlinger email obtained from Wikileaks shows the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy director offering his support to the Hillary Clinton campaign. —Courtesy photo

  • A screenshot of the University of New Hampshire Women’s Studies program Facebook page encourages students to use department supplies to create signs for a protest.

Monitor staff
Published: 11/20/2016 10:13:52 PM

The University of New Hampshire says it hosted 24 presidential candidate events at all three of its campuses during the primary and general election season, and it looks like most of them were Republicans.

UNH hosted former Republican candidates Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio at some point during the election season. On the Democratic side, candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley all set foot on campus. Third-party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson have also held events, according to media spokeswoman Erika Mantz.

But as the election came to a head between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, one candidate seemed to become a clear favorite.

A pre-election Facebook post from the school’s Women’s Studies program encouraged students to attend an “Our Power Walk Out And March” event, hosted by UNH College Democrats, which was meant show “our solidarity with all people who are at risk of getting their rights taken away by a Trump presidency, and to ensure that it is known that Trump’s hateful rhetoric does not represent our generation and we will not allow any anti-climate, racist, sexist, or xenophobic policies to win through,” according to the event page.

The Women’s Studies Facebook post  says students who are interested in attending the event but need supplies can stop by the program’s office for paper and markers.

Mantz called the nature of the post “troubling.”

“UNH encourages its students, faculty and staff to be engaged citizens but as a university we do not advocate for particular candidates or political parties. The university is working with the department to review the posts,” she said.

Once the nominees were decided, Donald Trump never appeared on campus, while Clinton and Sanders appeared twice. Even President Obama, along with Democrats Colin Van Ostern and Maggie Hassan, appeared on Nov. 7 to stump for Clinton at the Whittemore Center.

For Scott Myers, a senior studying history and co-chairman of the UNH College Republicans, the sense of bias does not surprise him: he’s always felt like the political minority on campus.

“It’s just a vibe I got from a lot of students, not necessarily from faculty,” he said. “I think there were a lot of ‘silent majority’ students who felt afraid to voice their support because of backlash because of the liberal media’s portrayal of Trump. I think a lot of people were afraid of being labeled a racist or a bigot, like he was, when they weren’t.”

Roughly two-thirds of the estimated 14,650 residents of voting age in Durham are between the ages of 18 and 24, according to the U.S. Census. Clinton secured 68 percent of the vote in Durham.

But that minority feeling did not stop the College Republicans from campaigning and holding events, Myers said: in addition to presidential candidates, he said the group hosted Kelly Ayotte multiple times, including one time where she ate in the dining hall with students. While he said it had been “frustrating” to not see Trump come to the school, he understood the candidate “couldn’t visit everywhere.”

WikiLeaks shows support

The university has always maintained a non-partisan stance, Mantz said, but that policy came into further question after a Wikileaks email shows a prominent UNH official sending apparently partisan emails to the Clinton campaign.

An email from Carsey School of Public Policy Director Michael Ettlinger to Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta in April 2015 offers his support to the campaign. Ettlinger states in the email that he would like to be “helpful from my perch in New Hampshire . . . but the best place to start is with what I can do formally from heading the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.”

The email then goes on to suggest university and nearby venues the campaign could host at, with the Carsey School’s help, noting that the school could not sponsor an even that was explicitly a fundraiser, although a straight speech, an interview or a town-hall format would be acceptable.

Ettlinger also offers to host N.H. Listens events, a program the Carsey School offers to stimulate conversation in communities around contentious issues. The program is “well regarded in the state with the exception of a small tea party group that has accused it of exercising mind control,” Ettlinger writes.

Ettlinger said Carsey sent out invitations to candidates of both parties around that time, but said he could not provide an email sent to Republican candidates as of Friday.

“We’re checking around. Others were much more involved in the follow-up work than I and might have received things I don’t know about or don’t remember,” he wrote in an email.

Mantz said candidates usually reach out to the university if they want to schedule an event, but when asked if the Carsey School typically reaches out to candidates during the election season, he said “The university has always been open to providing opportunities for our students and community to hear about candidates.” She also asserted that the school reached out to both candidates, including Trump, via the public affairs office, once the Carsey invites went out.

Lots of logistics

Having a candidate get to campus is no small feat: Mantz said details such as the number of chairs needed to how much security is needed has to be hashed out beforehand, as does the location and a rough estimate of how much the whole event will cost. And they expect people to pay that estimate, or the deal is off.

“We make sure there’s no confusion,” she said. “Usually there’s a general agreement beforehand, but things can change quickly.”

How much a visit costs depends on those details, as well as the venue. Larger rooms in the Memorial Union Building can range from $750 to $1,250; the Field House is $2,000, and the Whittemore Center is $4,000. The Bernie Sanders rally on Feb. 8 cost more than $48,000, Mantz said.

Of those who held events during the election season, only Stein, Carson and O’Malley have outstanding bills, Mantz said. The school is currently preparing an invoice for the Clinton campaign for President Obama’s recent visits, she said.

Mantz said Trump was planning on holding a rally at the Whittemore Center late in the campaign season, but it did not come together. Phone calls and an email to the Trump campaign were not returned.

John Balcom, vice chairman of the New Hampshire House Education Committee, called both the email and the posts “inappropriate,” stating it sends a message that UNH endorses one candidate but not the other.

But Bolcom didn’t see any reason for the incidents to go beyond some disciplinary paperwork; certainly not to the point of defunding the university system.

“It’s distressing to think any partisan action could be happening there (the schools),” he said. “But I’m very proud of our universities; I would never consider cutting funding to the system. These things happen sometimes.”

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