Campus community hard at work for October event

As the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate looms closer, many in the WUSTL community are hard at work preparing for its arrival.

The University will host the debate scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 2 in the Athletic Complex. This is the first time the University will host a vice presidential debate. It’s the fifth consecutive time the University has been selected by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), the event’s sponsor, to serve as a host.

Members of the national media assembled on campus in June to assess the WUSTL facilities and begin their own preparation to cover October’s debate.

Limited public tours of the debate hall will be available on Sunday, Sept. 28, and Monday, Sept. 29, and are open to the WUSTL community as well as neighbors and those from surrounding communities. There is no cost for the tours, but advance registration may be required for visits by groups, such as schools. Tour hours and other details will be forthcoming.

Access to campus Oct. 1 and Oct. 2 will be restricted to Washington University faculty, staff, students and invited guests. Members of the University community should carry their WUSTL IDs at all times, and invited guests should have WUSTL police-issued credentials from their host departments or offices.

Parking on the day of the debate will be an issue, as will security. University officials are working to make sure both run smoothly.

“As you know, we have limited parking on campus and alternate arrangements should be considered. But you can be sure that we are working very hard to accommodate the parking needs of the various groups involved,” said Nicholas Stoff, director of Parking & Transportation Services. “We should have more detailed parking plans available soon.”


The CPD is responsible for distributing all audience tickets to the debate, and there’s no guarantee that the University will receive any tickets.

Any tickets WUSTL does receive will be distributed to currently enrolled students through an online lottery process. Students interested in tickets have until noon Sept. 26 to register for the ticket lottery on the Web site,

Students selected by the lottery to receive tickets will be notified in the afternoon of Sept. 26 by e-mail and given additional instructions on how to obtain tickets, if any are made available by the debate commissions.

Tickets will be issued to specific persons and are not transferable; photo identification will be required.

Students with questions about tickets may contact Campus Life at 935-8499.

Debate format, television audience

Gwen Ifill, a longtime correspondent and moderator for nationally televised public broadcasting news programs, has been selected to moderate the debate. She also moderated the CPD’s 2004 vice presidential debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Worldwide television viewership of the vice presidential debate is comparable to the presidential debates, with the exception of the first presidential debate, which always commands the highest viewing numbers, according to the CPD.

All the debates will be 90 minutes long and administered by a single moderator, except for one presidential town-meeting format debate in which the candidates will be seated at a table with the moderator.

The vice presidential debate will include domestic and foreign policy issues, according to the CPD.

A format change is being introduced in two of the presidential debates as well as the vice presidential debate.

Each of those debates will be divided into eight 10-minute issue segments; the moderator will introduce each segment with an issue on which each candidate will comment, after which the moderator will facilitate further discussion of the issue, including direct exchange between the candidates, for the balance of that segment.

Time will be reserved for closing statements by each of the candidates in each debate.

Paul G. Kirk Jr. and Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., co-chairmen of the nonpartisan, nonprofit commission, noted that this change is aimed at increasing the educational value of the general election debates.

“Our mission is to promote voter education,” they said. “The public deserves to hear and see the candidates offer and defend their positions on the critical issues facing our country in the most thoughtful and in-depth manner that television time constraints will allow. Loosening the constraints within the 90-minute debate will allow for more serious examination of complicated questions.

“This change will also open the possibility of the moderator inviting candidates to question each other. We want voters to benefit from as full an explanation of a topic as possible, and we feel certain that the candidates will welcome this change for the same reason,” they said.

Washington University is the only institution to host more than two debates.

The University hosted the first three-candidate presidential debate in CPD history in 1992, was selected to host a presidential debate in 1996 that eventually was canceled, hosted the third and last presidential debate of the 2000 campaign season and the second of three presidential debates before the 2004 election.

In her introduction of the 2004 debate, CPD executive director Janet Brown praised the University as being the “gold standard” for debate sites.