Notre Dame withdraws as host of first presidential debate over coronavirus constraints

The University of Notre Dame announced Monday that it is withdrawing as the host site for the first of the 2020 presidential debates, scheduled for September 29. 

“[T]he constraints the coronavirus pandemic put on the event — as understandable and necessary as they are — have led us to withdraw,” university president Reverend John I. Jenkins said in a letter to the Notre Dame community.

He said that after consulting with a county health official, he had made “this difficult decision because the necessary health precautions would have greatly diminished the educational value of hosting the debate on our campus.” Jenkins added 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.”

Notre Dame has hosted six presidents at commencement ceremonies through the years – more than any university in the nation except for the military academies – but this would have been the university’s first presidential debate.

The University of Michigan withdrew from hosting the second presidential debate last month. 

The Commission on Presidential Debates, of which Jenkins is a board member, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and has sponsored all general election presidential and vice-presidential debates since 1988.

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