CHARLOTTE — More than 100 students from 11 South Carolina colleges are taking advantage of having a political convention just next door by getting an up-close education in how they work.
One of their first big impressions is how much security is involved. Monday morning’s lectures took place inside a Methodist church not far from all the barricades.
Their crash course, being led by Winthrop University and the John C. West Forum, began Friday with on-campus talks about what’s involved, from hosting to financing to arranging all the logistics.
Autumn Weidman, a sophomore from North Charleston, took part because she chairs Columbia College’s state student legislature.
Asked her impressions of the convention so far, she said: “After the wow factor, I didn’t realize how much went into a convention. Specifically, I didn’t realize how many police officers it took.”
Eric Bostic, a Winthrop student from Goose Creek, said he has learned to appreciate why parties go to all the trouble.
“It can be considered pomp and circumstance or a pep rally, but it’s necessary,” he said. “The convention as a whole is galvanizing the whole country.”
Students arrived here Monday morning and heard from U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, and Republican National Committeeman Glenn McCall of Rock Hill.
Asked what President Barack Obama could accomplish in a second term with a Republican-led Congress geared up to obstruct him, Clyburn said, “If they do hold on to the House, a lot depends on what happens Nov. 6 on whether they will be able to be obstructionist. Most election officials react to election results.”
The idea for the course took root with a flurry of emails just 15 minutes after Democrats announced they would hold their convention here this year, said Karen Kedrowski, head of Winthrop’s political science department.
“Our goal is to give them an opportunity to learn about the convention, this unique American political ritual, as much as they possibly can,” she said.
Politically minded students also got an education this year with a chance to witness the hotly contested GOP presidential primary in January.
“2012 turned out to be an absolutely unparalleled year,” Kedrowski said.