University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., announced today the University has withdrawn as the host site for the first of the 2020 presidential debates, scheduled for Sept. 29.
After consultation with Dr. Mark Fox, St. Joseph County deputy health officer, and with the unanimous support of the Executive Committee of the University’s Board of Trustees, Father Jenkins 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.” In a letter earlier today to the Notre Dame community, Father 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.”
Father Jenkins added: “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. 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.”
He concluded by saying that “despite this decision, I hope we will all remain attuned to the many important issues facing our nation during this election year — and, please, let’s exercise our right and privilege to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 3.”
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 Commission on Presidential Debates, of which Father Jenkins is a board member, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and has sponsored all general election presidential and vice-presidential debates since 1988.