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UNF President John Delaney Q&A

By: Chelsea Kingsmill, Osprey TV Anchor



The GOP debate is coming to UNF. What would you say this essentially means for the campus? What will be the lasting impact?


UNF President John Delaney: It’s just fun to have this kind of energy on campus and really to get the exposure. I just met earlier with the CNN crew, and they said this is a beautiful campus. I suggested they do a good job at showing it off, and they said, ‘Oh we will.’ It’s a great layout for a debate because of the various venues and facilities. So, we’re pleased, we’re happy.


Aside from campus being fitting, pretty and the exposure, do you think this is going to be a good way to get young voters involved more than they would be usually?


Delaney: We’re probably going to get more student applicants as students see it. I have a feeling that’s what’s going to happen. I’ve already got some emails from students from each political party, that it’s getting them a little more energized. We’ll be getting some celebrities and VIPs on this campus. We often have those, but it’s kind of one a one’s coming to do a speech, here we’re going to have CNN reporters and, of course, the candidates. We had actually been told there were going to be 125 journalists, and there are more than 400 that are coming, from all over the world. Again, this is all selfish, I just want them to see the university and be happy with it.


Do you think this is the largest event to come to campus in UNF’s history? We had coverage on ESPN for men’s basketball, MTV came recently …


Delaney: You know, we’ve had some events where we’ve filled up the Arena for speakers that have been very, very big. We’ve had events at the soccer stadium. Russell Crowe’s team from Australia that played up here – that brought a bunch of people. But this will be one of the ones that will probably have the most notoriety, the most exposure for the university, in quite some time.


What role did you personally play in aiding to get the debate to come to UNF, and once it was decided, the planning thereafter?


Delaney: Well, the chair of the state Republican party is from Jacksonville, and he’s an old friend. He emailed me about potential venues in Jacksonville, if he could get the debate here. I frankly thought the downtown Times-Union Center may have been a better fit because there’s three halls there – there is a gorgeous riverfront – but that fell through for a number of reasons. The minute the CNN destination person came out here, she said ‘I love it, this is perfect.’ [She] loved the Student Union, loved the Lazzara Theatre, loved the ability to use the University Center. She’s bringing in some golf carts to be able to platoon people back and forth. So, really all I [did] was kind of turn it over to our people to see if the rooms were open and could we make adjustments. We checked with the chairs of the departments that are primarily impacted – music and art – because there will be some disruption in that building, and they’re very positive about it. So, it was nice to have that relationship, but really it was the fact that the university was a good fit.


Initially it was said that you were hesitant to let the debate come here because it was Republican-based. Is that because of conflict of interest – are you no longer hesitant – what is the story in that?


Delaney: No, I had some staff that were saying “Hey, does this mean we’re picking sides?” and of course it doesn’t. You know, we’d love to have President Obama come here and do something. So, we’d love to get on that map because it’d be great if they make a swing through Florida, that UNF becomes a tradition for each party. This time there is no Democratic primary, there’s only Republican. Our deal is really with CNN, it’s not with the party. It just happens to be a party debate that they’re covering. But, if they were shooting a movie, and we could get it where it wasn’t disruptive, we’d open up those doors, as well.


Right. So, there’s no concern that it’s going to portray that we are conservative as a whole?


Delaney: No, because we’re not endorsing, we’re not involved with that. We’re not allowed to endorse as a university under the IRS rules. It was just a question of, we will never turn down a presidential debate of either party. Or, if there’s a debate between the Republican nominee and the Democratic nominee.


What would you say to the students who are saying, “Well I didn’t ask for this, one of my classes is being canceled, I can’t park where I pay to park … ”


Delaney: That’s what happens when you go to a university.These things are going to happen. Obviously, what we have to look at as individuals is this is what’s good for the university. And if it’s good for the university, then it’s really good for the student long-term. It increases the value of their diploma, the exposure of their diploma, the value of their degree and that’s what we look at.


You contributed $1,500 to Mitt Romney’s campaign over the past year. Why Romney?


Delaney: I supported Mitt Romney last time. Part of my job is to be involved in the political process, and this state is sort of a Republican-oriented state. My grandparents knew the Romney family – they were from Michigan, and I was born in Michigan. I’ve got some really good friends that have gotten to know him personally. I tend to think he’s going to be the better person. It’s my friends that have twisted my arms to give some money, that’s a lot more than I’ve given in campaigns in the past.


Do you think that there’s a candidate that is most fitted for higher education? Do you think Romney would be that candidate?


Delaney: You know I actually have been asked that by a reporter from a magazine. I haven’t seen any of the candidates weigh in on higher education. I tend to not be a one-issue person. So, it’s kind of overall, and mostly what I want is a candidate that will be good for the economy and the basic economics of the country. That’s kind of why I’m a Republican in the first place is economic issues.



Email Chelsea at [email protected].

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