UCCS Chancellor addresses concerns over Trump visiting campus, protests

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) UCCS is preparing for Republican nominee Donald Trump's visit Friday. A group of protesters are hosting a "Love Trumps Hate" protest at the school as well.

Fliers were left around campus Thursday encouraging students to either stage a walk out on Friday and stay home, go to the peaceful protest, or let school leaders know how they feel.

"I think the fliers telling people to walk out on it is a bit overblown. I don't agree with everything he says, but I think trying to shut people down when they're saying something is a bad precedent,” student Sean Glover said.

The university's chancellor, Pam Shockley-Zalabak, sent out an email to the campus community Thursday morning saying, "Many faculty, staff and students have expressed disappointment and anger at Mr. Trump's appearance on our campus."

Shockley-Zalabak says they have a legal obligation to lease the space to Donald Trump, as they did for Barack Obama in 2008 under the First Amendment.

"Freedom of speech is important,” Glover said.

They say the lease is not an endorsement by the chancellor, UCCS, the University of Colorado or its Board of Regents.

"I think it'll be good publicity for the campus despite your political views,” UCCS junior Gail Oliver said.

The email also addressed safety and morale concerns.

Our 11 News crew spoke with some students Thursday. They say regardless of their political beliefs, they want to be informed as much as possible on all sides of the spectrum.

"I would like to know that I’m educated on both sides so I can make an opinion from an independent base not just because I'm a Republican or Democrat. I think it's good to be exposed,” UCCS senior Ross Burton said.

11 News reached out to UCCS, they say they're not giving interviews, and their stance is that they are a landlord who rented the space to the Trump campaign.

Here is the full letter from UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak to students, staff and faculty:

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.

Respectfully,

Pam Shockley-Zalabak
Chancellor