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Professors in Madison question Obama rally

Three UW Madison professors have expressed concerns about President Obama's Oct. 4 visit to the campus.

Ken Mayer, Donald Downs, and Ann Althouse say it was unfair to make students register with the Obama campaign and express their support before they could get a free ticket. The event was held on a large open hillside outside Bascom Hall in the central part of the campus.

Six nearby buildings were shut down for security reasons - and Mayer said some instructors planned to give exams in those buildings that day. He said a campaign rally quote, "hardly seems appropriate to shut the central campus down for an entire day, closing offices and seriously disrupting our mission."

He said the UW was penalizing or inconveniencing staff members for an event in which they had no part of planning. Downs said it raises questions about forcing students to click a link on Obama's Web site that says "I'm in."

UW vice president Vince Sweeney said administrators took the concerns seriously, and will respond. He said staffers in the affected buildings were encouraged to take vacation or a personal day, or move to a different location.

The U-W says the Obama camp will pay the university $15,000 for the rally, while taxpayers will cover police and security costs. The last time Obama visited Madison in 2010, the police bill was around $260,000.