Campuses in Denver closed while DNC is under way this week
Auraria Campus police Officer Sergio Hernandez, left, and Corporal Dave Hall help check people in at a credential checkpoint Monday on the University of Colorado’s Auraria Campus. No one without a credential, or pass, was allowed past the checkpoint onto the other part of the campus.
Denver — Downtown Denver is busier than ever this week as Democratic National Convention activities take over the city, but colleges and universities in the downtown area look like ghost towns. The Auraria Higher Education Center, a campus for three higher education institutions in Denver, has completely shut down operations in anticipation of traffic and security issues caused by the convention.
“About a year ago, the three college presidents decided there were so many unknowns that the best thing would be to close campus for a week,” said Julie Hughes, Auraria’s director of communication and institutional relations.
Auraria contains campuses for the University of Colorado at Denver, Metropolitan State College of Denver and the Community College of Denver.
There are 40,000 faculty, students and staff from all three institutions being affected by the Auraria campus closing.
The University of Colorado at Denver also has some student housing outside campus. Students have not been evacuated, but there is security outside and only residents are being permitted inside the gated community, which is guarded 24 hours a day.
“It’s kind of weird that we’re all gated off,” said Galen Kerr, a business administration freshman who lives in the complex. “Two weeks into college everyone left and we’re just kind of stuck.”
The decision to close campus this week was finalized in May. Classes started a week earlier than usual this year, Aug. 11, to compensate for the shutdown.
Angelia McGowan, assistant director of communications at Metropolitan State College of Denver, said the college has planned volunteer and social activities for students during the break. The initiative, called Metro State Gets Unconventional, is meant to keep students involved despite the campus shutdown.
“It’s a critical time of the year,” she said. “They’re starting to figure out if they’re in the right place, and for us to have that downtime takes away from those students.”
Other Denver area campuses have taken special precautions to deal with convention traffic, but because they are further from convention activities than Auraria, they have remained open.
Mike Alexander, director of education for Colorado Technical University, located south of Denver, said the officials have planned for students and faculty arriving late to class because unscheduled road closures will cause delays for commuters.
“Come evening, the prime players — Obama, Clinton, Gore — are gonna be traveling,” he said. “You’ll be driving along and all of a sudden the lights will go off and you’ll be pulled over and asked to remove your vehicle from the street.”
Many criminal justice classes at Colorado Technical University have been canceled because instructors who also are police officers have been summoned to work on convention-related security, Alexander said.
Students living in Auraria’s student housing have mixed feelings about the convention coming to town.
“I can’t even get my car in here,” Kerr said.
“Last night I had to park eight miles away and walk. It sucked.”
Still, Dex Woodard, an industrial design freshman, said having a historic event take place in his college town is worth the inconvenience.
“I like having the convention here,” he said. “We have not had probably this high level of politicians in this area ever.”