Preparing for the Debate
Application & Selection
Changes to Campus
Application and Selection
Long before the 2020 presidential debate at Belmont University, plans were made to launch a bid to serve as an official host site. The road to Debate 2020 began in October of 2018, when Belmont University confirmed its application plans. Belmont officially submitted its proposal to the Commission on Presidential Debates early in 2019 and, in October 2019, Belmont was selected as the site for the third and final presidential debate of the 2020 campaign between the incumbent, President Donald Trump, and former Vice President Joe Biden. The debate was held on October 22nd just twelve days before the election on November 3, 2020. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tennessee Representative Jim Cooper (D) speaks at the 2020 Debate announcement at Belmont.
The Debate 2020 planning team has a phone call with the Commission of Presidential Debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, August 20, 2020.
Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn (R) speaks at the 2020 Debate announcement at Belmont.
Coronavirus has affected the entire world in many ways and has significantly changed how we go about our daily lives–including education. One of these facets is education. Like most schools, Belmont University transitioned to online learning in March 2020. In-person learning did resume after Labor Day for the fall semester, but with many precautions in place. In addition to a mask mandate, Belmont required spaces to accommodate social distancing, limited visitors on-campus and in dorms, and closed spaces workout spaces like the FitRec.
Learning in the classroom changed as well, with class times staggered to limit foot traffic in hallways and a HyFlex model that combined in-person and online learning. Needless to say, COVID-19 disrupted the normal flow of the academic year and normal sense of community on campus. So why not add a presidential debate to this unprecedented year?
Belmont University was selected to host the third and final 2020 Presidential Debate. Belmont had hosted its first presidential debate in 2008, but these two events could not have looked more different. The main reason for this difference can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Press and media access was limited, students were urged to stay in their residence halls or were moved to Opryland, and attendance was drastically reduced. For those allowed to attend, masks were mandatory for everyone in the debate hall except for the candidates and moderator.
In 2008, in contrast with the 2020 Debate, demonstrators outside the Presidential Debate at Belmont University wore no masks and were not socially distanced.
Belmont University President Bob Fisher opens the 2020 Presidential Debate before the candidates took the stage, donning a mask.
The crowd at the 2008 Presidential Debate at Belmont University.
Contrastly, the crowd of the 2020 Presidential Debate at Belmont University was very different, socially distanced and wearing masks.
Changes to Campus and Security
Belmont received a complete makeover for the debate. From security fencing to debate banners to increased security, Belmont transformed its campus in order to prepare for the 2020 debate. Several dormotories were closed and nearly 700 students were bused to Gaylord Opryland Hotel complex to spend the night. Campus was closed to the public, and those entering campus were required to show security or media credentials before entering. See just how much our campus changed for this once in a generation event.
2020 Debate banners and security fencing around the student dorms and the Johnson center.
7,120 Linear Feet of “No passthrough” fencing set up around campus.
25,834 square foot Media Filing Center on the main lawn, fully constructed in only about one month.
Belmont 2020 Debate Banner on the bell-tower at night.
Nearly 700 students who live in dorms within the designated Secret Service perimeter being sent to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.
The Fox news stage in the “game day’ area.
Belmont Security getting ready for the debate.
700 Metro Police getting ready for the debate.
Secret Service recognizes Belmont Security.