President greets crowd of 30,000

President Barack Obama greets the crowd as he arrives at Bascom Hill on the campus of UW-Madison during a campaign stop in Madison, Wis., Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012. M.P. King-State Journal

Michael P. King

President Barack Obama's campaign paid UW-Madison $15,000 to stage Thursday's rally on Bascom Hill, according to the contract between the two parties released by the university Friday.

The sum is to cover "basic services and equipment," including police and security and cleanup.

The contract allows the university to bill for additional costs if needed, such as "material damage" to grass, trees or light fixtures on Bascom Hill. Early reports from the university's grounds crew suggest no such damage, said Vince Sweeney, vice chancellor for university relations.

Some additional costs are expected to be billed, Sweeney said, although those details are still being worked. For instance, the university used giant tarps to cover the windows on an entire side of Chadbourne Hall, a dorm near Bascom Hill.

The windows had direct sight lines to the stage. Tarping the windows from the outside was considered more efficient than going room to room and papering over them from the inside, Sweeney said. He was checking Friday whether the university plans to keep the tarps for other purposes, in which case their cost would not be billable.

The Obama campaign provided the stage, seating, sound equipment, lighting, barricades, portable bathrooms and free bottled water. The contract lists the Kohl Center as the alternate site if Bascom Hill didn't work out.

The rally required the all-day closing of several campus buildings, including Science Hall and the School of Education. About 180 class sections with 3,198 students were displaced by the building closures, said Dennis Chaptman, a UW-Madison spokesman.

It was not known how many classes were canceled, Chaptman said. Some were rescheduled, moved to different sites or conducted through distance-learning technology, he said.

Ken Mayer, a political science professor who criticized aspects of the rally prior to it being held, maintained Friday that putting the event in the center of campus was unnecessarily disruptive.

"I continue to think the university could have accommodated the president in a way that didn't shut the campus down for a day," he said.

Mayer also objected to the Obama campaign requiring attendees to provide a phone number and email address to get a free ticket to the rally. Although some people have ascribed partisan motives to his complaints, Mayer said he would have voiced the same concerns regardless of political party.

Mayer said he went through with his 11 a.m. "Introduction to American Government" lecture class Thursday at a building not affected by the campus closures. Only about 50 of the 420 enrolled students attended, he said.

He did not consider canceling class. "I felt I had a responsibility to the students who didn't want to go to the rally," he said.

To those who skipped class, Mayer said he tried to be as accommodating as possible, making lecture materials readily available and providing flexibility on when and where students could attend the smaller discussion groups that accompany the large lecture class.

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