By Nancy Koeneman
A phone call to UI Associate Chancellor Steve Schomberg on April 2 seemed simple enough. Vice President Al Gore wanted to come to the UI April 12 and host a town hall meeting with students to discuss financial aid.
Gore's trip to the UI was a snowball that turned into an avalanche of activity for dozens of people. From the first meeting with the vice president's advance staff at 5:30 p.m. April 8, to the final flurry of last-minute details on April 12, a cavalcade of people worked to make the visit a success.
A committee of 14 people from all over campus went to work the evening of April 8, marshaling the efforts of more people in their units for all the preparation work. Just a small part of the "To Do" list included selecting, preparing and decorating the site, deciding who would come and how they would be admitted, providing information about those involved in the event for FBI checks, and selecting where the vice president's staff and the Secret Service would set up their operations. Just a few of the UI units involved in preparation for the visit included the UI Police and Fire departments, the Division of Parking and Transportation, special events, Office of Student Affairs, Office of Public Affairs, the News Bureau, Division of Operation and Maintenance, Office of Financial Aid, and staff at the Architecture Building.
In 72 hours, the gallery of the architecture building had to be emptied of displays and other equipment and reassembled with risers, chairs, a stage, lighting and sound equipment, banners and flags. The area was "spruced up," said Pam Hohn, assistant to the chancellor. "They [Gore's staff] also told us they did not want to be overly disruptive and to let them know if they were asking too much. They were very accommodating."
Last-minute details kept the pace hectic Saturday and only a few small glitches (which were solved) showed up, she said. The vice president's staff told her this was one of the best events of its kind they have ever done.
"I told them that I could say afterwards that it was fun and I enjoyed it," Hohn said. "I don't know if I would have said that in the middle of it."