Vice presidential debate planning gears up

Later this month, national and local media will descend on the University of Utah campus—virtually—to learn the latest about the vice presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 7, 2020, at Kingsbury Hall. The media telesurvey will be hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) and will include logistical information about credentialing, broadcast resources and other technical details related to media coverage of the debate.

“The pandemic is forcing everyone to think differently,” said Jason Perry, chair of the U’s Vice Presidential Debate Steering Committee. “While it is unfortunate our national media partners will not get to experience our beautiful campus in person this summer, the safety of our campus community and our national and local media partners is our primary concern.”

Perry says the U’s steering committee and various campus workgroups have been hard at work behind the scenes adapting plans to accommodate a variety of scenarios for the debate. “What we know for sure is that the debate will happen at Kingsbury Hall on Oct. 7,” he said. “What is still being determined is the size and scale of the event. Our team is working closely with the Commission on Presidential Debates to develop and update multiple plans.”

The university anticipates increased restrictions and limiting the number of attendees, campaign staff and media that will be allowed in the debate venue and the media filing center. Schematics and layouts for all venues and facilities will be reevaluated and updated in the weeks prior to the debate to meet CDC guidelines for social distancing. Campus events and watch parties are expected to be scaled down or hosted virtually.

“We applaud the hard work of the many dedicated team members at the University of Utah,” said Nena Slighting, executive director of the Utah Debate Commission. “The talent and expertise of the team are astounding. We are certain the state and the nation will view the vice presidential debate with pride.”

Slighting says the Utah Debate Commission is engaging in activities to connect regional students of all ages to the event, such as materials to help teachers navigate the challenges of discussing politics in the classroom and an essay writing contest.

On campus, many faculty are redesigning courses and incorporating curriculum about the debate. Students will also have the opportunity to volunteer and support operations at multiple locations across campus in the weeks and days leading up to the debate. Those opportunities are still being determined. You can find out more information about these opportunities and other updates at debate2020.utah.edu.