Obama's visit: 22,611 students signed up for 1,300 seats


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URBANA — Almost 950 students at the University of Illinois won the Obama lottery Tuesday night.

UI officials notified 944 students, including 756 at the Urbana campus, that they had been selected to attend Friday's speech by former President Barack Obama, who will visit the UI to receive an ethics-in-government award. Another 141 are from the UI Chicago and 47 are from the UI Springfield.

A viewing party has also been scheduled at Huff Hall for Friday morning's speech, with room for about 4,000 students.

More than 22,000 students at the Urbana campus alone had thrown in their names for a coveted seat at Foellinger Auditorium, which normally has a capacity of about 1,300.

UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said some seats have to be removed to accommodate television cameras, and the bulk of the remaining seats will go to members of the media. Others are reserved for administrators from each campus and dignitaries, she said.

Students were notified around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Kaler said tickets were given out to a randomized list of students who had entered the lottery, the same way that lotteries for concerts and other popular events are handled.

Obama is being honored with the Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award from the UI's Institute of Government and Public Affairs, a university-system-level unit. He will be honored at a private ceremony following his 11 a.m. speech at Foellinger.

The former president opted to come to the Urbana campus to receive the award, rather than Chicago or Washington, D.C., where he now lives. A spokeswoman said last week he liked the idea of going downstate to meet with students and to illustrate the need for Democrats to reach out to all kinds of voters, not just those in major urban areas.

Some students who were not selected in the lottery expressed their disappointment on Reddit and Twitter.

"Finding out President Obama is coming to campus only to not win a ticket is the ultimate emotional roller coaster," wrote Connor Durm.

The UI ticket notice, posted by one user on Reddit, urged those who did not receive tickets to tune in to the livestream of the broadcast at go.illinois.edu/live or attend the viewing party at Huff Hall Gymnasium, 1206 S. Fourth St., C.

Doors to Huff will open at 9 a.m. Space is limited, and there will be no admittance after 10:30 a.m., according to the notice. Students also must show a university ID to get in, and won't be able to bring backpacks, bags, signs, megaphones, food, drinks or umbrellas inside, or "any other items that university police determine pose a risk to safety or a disruption of the event."


Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is jwurth@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).