President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign will pay Eastern Kentucky University $10,800 to rent Alumni Coliseum on Saturday, according to a contract EKU released late Tuesday.
The campaign also will reimburse EKU for other anticipated or unanticipated costs incurred by the event, which is expected to fill the arena’s 6,000 seats. Trump is appearing in part to support U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, a Republican who is locked in a toss-up race with retired fighter pilot Amy McGrath in Central Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District.
According to the contract, obtained by the Herald-Leader under the Kentucky Open Records Act, EKU will not use its own police for the event and cannot bill the campaign for security expenses. Instead, the campaign will pay for private security contractors. A paragraph apparently referring to security plans was redacted in the document.
However, EKU spokeswoman Kristi Middleton said some extra staff from EKU Police and Conferencing & Events will work “just as they do for other large event rentals that bring thousands of people to campus.”
Potential overtime costs are factored into the rental fee, she said.
The contract requires the campaign to follow numerous university policies, including the university’s ban on weapons on campus.
Although the coliseum seats 6,000 people, many more protesters and supporters are expected to attend protests and rallies. Most of the university is a free speech zone, although according to EKU’s website on the rally, anyone wishing to gather in inside spaces must first make a reservation. A large area directly around the coliseum will be restricted for security purposes.
Trump’s appearance prompted more than 100 EKU faculty and staff to sign an open letter in opposition to the president’s appearance at the university. Earlier this week, President Michael Benson met with a group of students concerned about their safety while Trump and his supporters are on campus.
He released a letter in response to them Thursday, saying the university will do all it can to create a physically safe environment with “mutual respect in accordance with our policies against harassment and discrimination. What we cannot guarantee is that you are shielded from comments, expressions or even language which you find hurtful or offensive,” he wrote.
Benson went on to say that as a publicly-funded university cannot decide who rents its facilities based on personal political beliefs.
“However, just because some of my personal views may differ with the President, as they have with other speakers on this campus, I must defend his right — as well as every other American in this democratic republic of ours — to say whatever he or anyone else in our country wishes,” Benson wrote. “A statement, attributed to the famous French philosopher Voltaire says it best: “I wholly disapprove of what you say and will defend to the death your right to say it.”