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Notre Dame withdraws as host site for first presidential debate, Cleveland's Case Western new host

Notre Dame withdraws as host site for first presidential debate, Cleveland's Case Western new host
Posted at 1:46 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-27 16:47:53-04

The University of Notre Dame has withdrawn as the host site of the first presidential debate, the university announced on Monday.

Notre Dame had been set to host the first presidential debate on Sept. 29.

In a statement, the university said it made the decision to withdraw after consultation with the St. Joseph County Health Department and with the unanimous support of the executive committee of the university's board of trustees.

The Rev. John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, made what he called "this difficult decision because the necessary health precautions would have greatly diminished the educational value of hosting the debate on our campus."

Notre Dame follows the University of Michigan in opting not to host a debate. The Oct. 15 debate that was originally scheduled to be held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be held in Miami instead.

In a letter to the campus community, Jenkins said that "the inevitable reduction in student attendance in the debate hall, volunteer opportunities and ancillary educational events undermined the primary benefit of hosting — to provide our students with a meaningful opportunity to engage in the American political process."

The Commission on Presidential Debates on Monday announced that the first presidential debate will now be co-hosted by Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic and held at the Health Education Campus in Cleveland.

It will be the second CPD-sponsored debate hosted by Case Western Reserve University. In 2004, the university was the site of the Vice Presidential Debate.

"We are honored to host this presidential debate at our shared Health Education Campus,” Cleveland Clinic CEO and President Tom Mihaljevic, M.D., and Case Western Reserve University President Barbara R. Snyder said in a joint statement. “This pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of health care and scientific discovery in unprecedented ways. To have the presidential candidates discuss these issues in our innovative learning space represents a tremendous opportunity for both institutions – and our entire region.”

Notre Dame has hosted six presidents at commencement ceremonies through the years — more than any university in the nation other than the military academies — but this would have been the university's first presidential debate, the university said in a statement.

"I am grateful to the many members of the university community who have devoted countless hours planning this event, and to the Commission on Presidential Debates leadership for their professionalism and understanding," Jenkins said. "But in the end, the constraints the coronavirus pandemic put on the event — as understandable and necessary as they are — have led us to withdraw."

This year's debates, sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, are:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 29 — Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland
  • Wednesday, Oct. 7 — Vice presidential debate at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City
  • Thursday, Oct. 15 — Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami, Fla.
  • Thursday, Oct. 22 — Belmont University, Nashville, Tenn.

This article was written by WRTV in Indianapolis and WEWS in Cleveland.