The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M seeks to host 2016 presidential debate

The long road to the White House in 2016 will make a stop on campus next year if an application by Texas A&M University to host one of the four presidential debates is successful.
The university is in the process of finalizing a bid for one of the presidential or vice presidential debates to be held on campus during the general election. The debate, organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a private firm organized by the Republican and Democratic parties, would include the two candidates from both parties.
University advocates say the debate would be an opportunity to showcase the university to a television audience of millions of viewers across the nation.
Associate Provost for Strategic Planning José Luis Bermúdez said the university hopes that the debate will breathe life into a young, apathetic voting bloc as a part of the Texas A&M’s “Strengthening Democracy Initiative.”
“Voter turnout in Texas is among the lowest in the United States, with particularly poor levels of participation from young people aged 18 to 24,” Bermúdez said. “We hope to get many more people directly involved in the political process.” 

To encourage the student body to take an active part in the election process, Bermúdez said the university will allow students to participate in debate-related activities and programming organized by student groups and academic colleges and departments.

The deadline for the bids is March 31 and requires the university provide a full logistical plan for the political circus that would arrive with the debate. The Commission requires that all applicants are able to handle large events, something Bermúdez said the university has historically done well. 

To handle such an event, Bermúdez said the university will need to coordinate with city and emergency services — something College Station Mayor Nancy Berry said the city is ready to help with.

“We would have our fire and EMS people, as well as police officers and communications people available to the university on an as-needed basis,” Berry said.  

For the local community, Berry agrees that increasing voter turnout is the main hope. She said a major debate, which would be one of the most covered events in an intense election season, would also give national exposure to the area. 

“I think that the exposure is immeasurable and unquantifiable,” Berry said. “It would be really exciting.” 

If the application is successful the debate will be the first in Texas since 1976, a point that U.S. Rep. Bill Flores made clear in his recommendation letter to the Commission. 

“Hosting a debate would be an outstanding opportunity for our community and the state as a whole,” Flores said. “The many partnerships that exist between the university and the two cities will contribute to making the debate an outstanding occasion for students and faculty at the university along with the entire Brazos Valley region and state of Texas.” 

The application process is heavily competitive, and in addition to competitors who have not announced their application, the cities of Birmingham, Ala. and Charleston, W.Va. have announced their intentions to apply.

Bermúdez said if the A&M application is successful the payoffs for the student body will be significant. 

“It would be an opportunity for us to show the entire world what Aggies can do when they put their mind to it — and how committed we are as a university to serving the public good,” Bermúdez said.

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