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Last modified: Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Indiana University applies to host 2012 presidential debate

April 12, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A student-led initiative has resulted in Indiana University submitting an application to host an official presidential or vice presidential debate in the fall of 2012.

IU is one of 12 colleges and universities to apply to serve as a site for one of the debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates will select sites for three debates between candidates for president and one debate between candidates for vice president.

Leading the IU effort is the Presidential Debate Student Coalition, organized by officials with the IU Student Association and including the Indiana Memorial Union Board, the Political and Civic Engagement program and the Residence Halls Association. The university administration is supporting the initiative.

Students Riley Voss and Barrett Tenbarge, coordinators of the group, said hosting a debate will provide unique opportunities for IU students to learn about and engage with the political process.

"I encourage every IU student to see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in American politics in its most sincere, bipartisan form," said Voss, director of debates and issues for Union Board. "One reason these debates are held on campuses across the country is to benefit the youth voter. If IU is selected, the ball will be in our court, and in the state of Indiana, that's exactly where we like it."

IU Auditorium

IU Auditorium

The debate itself would take place at the 3,200-seat IU Auditorium. Other campus facilities, including Assembly Hall, Wildermuth Recreation Center and the Radio-TV Center, would be available as support centers for news media and other debate operations.

Doug Booher, director of the IU Auditorium, said hosting a debate would provide multiple benefits for Indiana University, its students, the Bloomington community and Indiana.

"First is the incredible learning opportunity that our students, faculty, staff and community members will have," he said. "It will be a springboard for all types of learning and discussion, and that's something we plan to take full advantage of, if IU is selected.

"And second, it's a fantastic economic development opportunity for our community and the region. The debate is the centerpiece of the American political scene for days. It obviously brings a lot of visitors, and it also puts a focus on the university and what it's able to accomplish."

Booher said the university will seek corporate and philanthropic partners to help cover the cost of hosting a debate and to demonstrate state and community support. The City of Bloomington and other civic partners will be involved with preparing for and hosting the debate.

IU submitted an application to host a 2008 presidential or vice presidential debate and was believed to be close to being selected. Students who were involved with that proposal passed along their knowledge and enthusiasm in hopes that the campus would win a debate the next time around.

"Our goal is to include every student in one way or another through our various initiatives and the debate coalition itself," Voss said. "The week leading up to the debate will be one of the most unbelievable periods in IU's history. It's an opportunity that no student, faculty member or administrator will ever forget."

The deadline for submitting debate applications was April 1. Officials with the Commission on Presidential Debates will visit prospective debate sites this summer to evaluate their facilities and their capability for hosting a debate. Four debate sites and two backup sites will be announced this fall.

The Commission on Presidential Debates was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners. Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the United States presidential and vice presidential candidates and to undertake research and educational activities relating to the debates. The organization, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan corporation, sponsored all the presidential debates in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.