Beto O'Rourke

Beto O'Rourke, a potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, stops by an overflow room to thank University of Wisconsin-Madison students who came to hear him speak Friday at an event that attracted more than 200 people.

Presidential prospect Beto O’Rourke’s Friday appearance on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus was marred by confusion over access by the media and the broader community to the event. According to the Associated Press, “UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas said Thursday the event is not open to the press, public or anyone not affiliated with the university.” A leader of the UW’s Political Science Student Association, Isaac Johnson, reportedly indicated that the former congressman from Texas wanted to limit attendance to students and people affiliated with the university.

Ultimately, some campus reporters got in and O’Rourke — who was quite accessible to the media at a Milwaukee Area Technical College event earlier in the day — mixed with an overflow crowd. But the mixed signals were embarrassing. UW-Madison is a public institution. The message from UW officials and student groups to presidential prospects and prominent figures who choose to appear on the campus should be that they are expected to be open, transparent and accessible.

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Some rooms may be crowded. Logistics may be an issue. But major political events on the UW campus should NEVER be off-limits for the media and the community.

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