The University of Michigan will no longer host one of three presidential debates planned this fall in the run-up to the Nov. 3 general election, but related campus programming will continue.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced June 23 that the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami, Florida, will host the Oct. 15 debate that had been planned for Crisler Center on U-M’s athletics campus.
The other presidential debates will take place Sept. 29 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, and Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The University of Utah in Salt Lake City will host a vice presidential debate Oct. 7.
In a letter shared with the Commission on Presidential Debates, U-M President Mark Schlissel said, “It is with great disappointment that I must ask for the University of Michigan to be released from its agreement with the Commission on Presidential Debates to host the Presidential Debate on Oct. 15, 2020.”
The debate planning effort at U-M was being led by Michael Barr, dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president for government relations.
Schlissel called hosting a presidential debate “a tremendous opportunity for our university community to contribute to one of the most important features of our democracy — the open exchange of ideas — while setting an example of civic engagement and shining a light on the outstanding academic strengths of our institution.”
But he said, “Given the scale and complexity of the work we are undertaking to help assure a safe and healthy fall for our students, faculty and staff and limited visitors — and in consideration of the public health guidelines in our state as well as advice from our own experts — we feel it is not feasible for us to safely host the presidential debate as planned.”
The university will, however, forge ahead with the vigorous campus programming around the general election.
The “Democracy and Debate” theme semester will engage the university community around the topics of free speech and the exchange of ideas, what it means to be a member of a democratic society and democratic engagement from a global perspective.
Planning for virtual debate watch parties will continue and U-M students are actively competing in the Big Ten Voting Challenge.
Additional details on these and many other opportunities will be shared in the weeks ahead.