Some students upset over handling of Sanders rally – but should be grateful there was a candidate on campus at all

The energy on campus was electric Monday.

The campus was bustling and the hype around Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ appearance at UB was high. Students packed into Alumni Arena to see Sanders speak, whether they supported the candidate or not.

Yet some were upset with the handling of the event, like the long lines, the Student Association giving away priority tickets an hour early and the fact many students couldn’t get inside the rally at all once Alumni Arena reached capacity.

It’s easier to forget this is a presidential campaign – things are bound to get hectic as supporters from not just UB but all over the state flocked to see their candidate. Students should appreciate the fact that they even had an opportunity to hear a candidate speak – which happened as a result of group of students taking the initiative to petition and SA noticing and reaching out to Sanders’ campaign.

Some students felt it was unfair that SA handed out priority tickets sooner than the originally scheduled start time of 11 a.m. and that only 500 were available.

The line for tickets started earlier than 7 a.m., which meant that there were more than 500 students waiting in line more than an hour before the 500 tickets were supposed to be given out. SA estimated that more than 1,000 people were in line by 10 a.m. As the line grew longer – extending from the SA office nearly to Lockwood Library – it became a safety hazard. With more than 500 students in line, there was no reason to wait to hand out the tickets – if you weren’t there, you weren’t going to get a ticket.

Only 500 priority tickets were offered to students because that’s all the Bernie campaign gave to SA, which the campaign did not have to do. It wasn’t up to SA to only have 500.

And students should keep in mind that having a priority ticket didn’t necessarily guarantee entrance – it only allowed students to bypass the general admission line and join a separate line. So even if students got a priority ticket, they still would have had to get to Alumni Arena early to wait in the student line, which grew quite lengthy itself.

The priority ticket situation could have been advertised better. The process was explained in an email sent Friday night, but many students neglect to check their emails. It could have been emphasized that priority tickets were not the only way to get inside Alumni.

But students should keep in mind the event became official just three days prior to the rally. That doesn’t leave much time to have a complete ironed out advertising campaign.

Another issue students raised was the general admission line, which was somewhat warranted. As the line to get into Alumni wrapped around the back of the building, it hit a snag. Sanders volunteers tried to have the line cross the street behind Bissell Hall, but it created a traffic and safety hazard. The volunteers then cut the line off in front of the UB Stadium, pushed those already standing in line back toward the stadium and then tried to create a zig-zag for those who joined the line. This was not effective and created chaos as Bernie-goers formed a mob of people near the crosswalk.

With people lining up as early as 8 a.m., there should have been a solid plan beforehand of where the line was to going to go when it inevitably got too long. And, like any long line, some groups delegated one person to wait in line and save a spot while other group members showed up later.

This isn’t uncommon – the same thing happens for Fall and Spring Fests, on the lines for SA tickets and pretty much any time impatient students are forced to wait for a long time. But after a while, it didn’t even matter where you were in the Sanders line so long as you kept moving to the front of the mob.

The line jumping definitely bothered some students, who waited for hours and still couldn’t make it inside Alumni Arena. This is no fault of UB or SA, but it would have been helpful had the volunteers managing the line had been on the same page and had a comprehensive plan for the thousands of expected attendees as they waited to enter the arena.

After Sanders finished his speech, he took the time to shake hands and take selfies with students and other community members. Once again, students were upset they were unable to approach Sanders and that the crowds were pushing in order to move to the front. Some students reported getting smacked in the head or yelled at by people behind them wanting to get close to the presidential candidate.

Getting out of the arena – and off of North Campus – was difficult because of the amount of both foot and vehicle traffic, which served as another point of contention. University Police assisted with directing traffic and Stampede buses appeared packed, shuttling students back to dorms and to the Center for Tomorrow parking lot.

It’s easy to complain about the things that went wrong. It wasn’t perfectly organized and about 3,000 people didn’t make it inside Alumni Arena.

But students should remember how quickly the event came together and be appreciative of the fact Sanders was at UB at all. It’s rare for students to care enough about politics to start a petition for their candidate of to come to their campus. It’s even rarer for their student government or university to listen to them and actually being said candidate to campus.

And for those who made it inside Alumni, Sanders’ speech made them forget about standing in line or being drenched in the rain.

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