Just in case the traffic jams and press swarms don't alert students at the University of Tampa to the arrival of the Republican National Convention, their first professor will.
In late August when nearly 50,000 people descend upon Tampa for the convention, the University of Tampa will require its nearly 1,600 first-year students to take RNC 101, an introductory course designed to teach students the history of political conventions and keep them updated on the daily happenings at the event.
The class will branch out covering the Republican convention to focusing on basic civics and the political process, as well as current events. Course planners intend to not favor the Republican Party over another political party.
"We've tried to go out of our way to be bipartisan," said Joe Sclafani, the University of Tampa's interim dean of the college of social sciences, mathematics and education. "We're not plugging anyone; this is not a 'Vote for Mitt Romney' class."
"This is really about just getting students to understand why it is we're having this disruption, what the importance of a presidential convention is," Sclafani added.
The course arose more out of concern for RNC-related traffic than for anything else, according to Sclafani. Since the first week of classes corresponds with the convention's first day, college administrators worried that faculty might not be able to get to campus, a mile and a half away from the convention center. So they decided to use the opportunity to teach students how to use their online course management system, Blackboard, in case instructors couldn't make it to class.
"Then we asked the question, What kind of content to teach them? We decided, Why don't we use the actual content of what's going on?" Sclafani said, adding that "college students are often apathetic in the political process. We just thought we'd take this opportunity to get them to engage that way."
Though the university does not have any formal arrangement with the convention, it has volunteered to supply students as interns for the event. They have also planned a host of political events to coincide with the gathering.
Administrators are also working with Tampa police, campus security and homeland security to train students and employees about safety during the crowded convention.