Looking ahead to the start of fall semester and the Republican National Convention

Late August and early September will bring us a busy, fascinating and potentially challenging string of days here in the Twin Cities. It’s move-in time at the University of St. Thomas (more on this below), and as always around Labor Day, the State Fair will be winding down. And in what has been called a once-in-a-lifetime event for St. Paul, 45,000 visitors will be coming to town for the Sept. 1-4 Republican National Convention (RNC) in downtown’s Xcel Energy Center.

Here are some thoughts on this historic event and its impact on the start of a new school year.

About the convention : For more information about the convention, visit the host committee site or the RNC committee site

Travel: Given the thousands of visitors who are expected, you may experience difficulty finding hotel rooms or transportation into the Twin Cities. An estimated 20,000 hotel rooms throughout the Twin Cities will be used by those attending the convention.

This could impact students whose families are helping them move back to campus or any person trying to book a flight into the Twin Cities just prior to the convention and the start of classes. Please make travel plans early to avoid any last-minute inconveniences. Additionally, the St. Thomas shuttles are already investigating alternative routes between the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses should heavy traffic or security details interrupt typical travel routes.

Move-in Weekend:  Residence halls will open on Saturday, Aug. 30. Anyone needing to move in earlier than that due to attendance at ACTC classes, difficulty getting to campus from out of state, etc., should speak with the Residence Life staff at (651) 962-6470.

The departments of Residence Life, Campus Life and Public Safety will be recruiting faculty, staff and returning students to assist with move-in that day and programming from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. Volunteers will help make the process a smooth one and their assistance is greatly appreciated.

Classes: While some ACTC schools are starting earlier than usual due to the convention, St. Thomas is keeping its traditional academic calendar. Undergraduate and graduate classes will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 3, with law classes beginning earlier as usual. Students who are enrolled in ACTC courses should plan on starting earlier (see related Bulletin article). 

Facilities: The staff in Facilities Scheduling, Physical Plant, Food Service and Public Safety are committed to ensuring that our newest community members have their needs met. Because the events traditionally held to welcome (and welcome back) our students require a full load on these departments, others are respectfully invited to limit the number of additional events that might require security, set-up, etc. Students living on campus also should be familiar with the overnight guest policy, found on Page 17 of the Resident Student Handbook, as they may field requests from students at other campuses who will be in town for the convention.

Policies: Universities are a place where freedom of expression is valued and civil discourse is expected. A national event like the Republican National Convention is expected to draw both supporters and protestors.

Our commitment is to uphold freedom of speech for individuals while ensuring the safety of our community. If you would like to bring a speaker to campus, make sure you are familiar with the speaker policies.  If you would like to protest, again be familiar with the protest guidelines. There also are political candidate guidelines that detail when and how candidates can appear on campus. And, there are political activity guidelines that prohibit the university from endorsing candidates, engaging in fundraising, etc.

These guidelines spell out what is expected related to use of campus facilities, signs in university buildings, etc. If all of this seems a little policy-heavy, keep in mind that the intent is to ensure fair application of the rules and standards.

Remember, too, that undergraduate students are required to attend the first day of class or they risk being dropped from the course. Commuter students, in particular, are encouraged to plan on extra travel time the first week of class in case of heavier traffic in the metro area.

Additional Opportunities:   The last national political convention in Minnesota occurred in 1892.  Every citizen, whether Republican or not, will find amazing opportunities to learn more about the political process. For example, “CivicFest: A Very Minnesotan Celebration” will be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center from Aug. 29 to Sept. 4. This nonpartisan event is an interactive multimedia experience celebrating Minnesota and U.S. history. Check the host site for additional volunteer and/or learning opportunities.

The Dean of Students office also will work closely with the Undergraduate Student Government this fall to share information about voter registration, absentee ballots, etc. We look forward to lively debates and active citizen participation this election season.

More information: The university will provide additional information related to the convention and/or the start of school as it becomes available. The information will appear in Bulletin Today, which is published Mondays during the summer. If necessary, announcements will be e-mailed to students, staff and faculty in Bulletin Updates.