Not Enough Seats to Accomodate Obama

To Whom it May ConcernI’m writing to express some dismay at the apparent lack of capacity planning surrounding Senator Barack Obama’s appearance with Congressman Sanders and Senator Welch on Friday at UVM’s Ira Allen Chapel.My wife and I were among the many people turned away for lack of seating in either the presentation venue or the overflow venue.While that is, in itself, disappointing, the lack of alternatives for real-time listening added insult to injury. (Especially for those of us that took time out of work to do what we view as our civic duty: participate – in person – in democracy.)Primarily, it’s troubling to me that UVM staff failed to foresee the popularity of this event, given the somewhat liberal slant of the student population and the area’s permanent residents.While Ira Allen Chapel is certainly statelier than the University’s larger venues, either Gutterson Arena (capacity 4,035)[1] or the Patrick Gym (capacity 3,228)[2] could have accomodated more attendees than the Chapel’s 900[3], plus the 298 seated in CC Theater.Seating capacities aside, I’m disappointed that the University failed to use its existing media capabilities to extend participation to more members of the community: while the events were simulcast over closed-circuit television to the CC Theater, the campus televisions next door in the Cook Commons dining area (capacity 500[3]) were either off or trained on a display of an event schedule.And WRUV (90.1FM), whose studios are two floors beneath the event, appeared to be broadcasting its standard programming. It seems to me that these resources could have been leveraged to deliver unique content to the campus community and the surrounding area.Even an extension of the Chapel’s public address system with speakers on the front steps (where Senator Obama graciously obliged the waiting crowd with an impromptu speech before entering the Chapel) would have been helpful, as the weather was tolerable.If I am wrong about any of the above details, I apologize: we left several minutes into the event.In any case, I should hope that the events coordination staff would make note of the fact that a number of would-be attendees were left in a lurch, and attempt to take that into account in planning future such appearances.Additionally, I’d hope that they would consider coordinating more extensively with University media facilities to provide farther-reaching real-time access to such events: prominent figures only stop by so often, and it would help secure the University’s footing as a pillar of the intellectual and political landscape to demonstrate an aptitude for hosting these people.