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Frequently Asked Questions

When and where will the debate be staged?

The presidential debate will be October 15, 2020. The debate will be located at the Crisler Center on the U-M’s Ross Athletic Campus. Other aspects of the debate will take place in facilities near the Crisler Center or in other parts of Ann Arbor campus.

More about the Crisler Center.

Why does U-M want to host a presidential debate?
Universities — particularly the University of Michigan — can bring together people from divergent vantage points to tackle significant policy issues with the goal of deeper understanding and to search for common values. This is a national imperative for our times. U-M has done this effectively in our “Conversations Across Difference,” a series hosted by the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. This program brings together policy experts and policymakers of differing views to engage in substantive dialogue on this country’s pressing issues. Our diverse state will be a key focal point for this election and, as the state’s flagship university, we have the opportunity to lead, to demonstrate our values. As one of the country’s premier public universities, the University of Michigan is poised as an ideal venue for a presidential debate. Our 200-year history is steeped in a tradition of public service.
Is there a mission statement for the presidential debate?

Yes. Here is the full text of the mission statement:

The University of Michigan, as one of three sites selected to host a presidential debate in the 2020 electoral season, seeks to inspire engagement in the democratic process. As an educational institution, we will coordinate plans and preparations for a well-executed debate and offer programming throughout the year that will call upon the expertise of our faculty, the involvement of our students, the commitment of our staff, and the vibrancy of the entire U-M community. The 2020 debate provides a unique opportunity for teaching and learning across multiple platforms, engaging all voices and modeling inclusive dialogue. Our programming will connect our campuses, our neighbors, and fellow Michigan citizens with people across the nation and across the globe. We will promote the intellectual frameworks and the practical skills necessary for active engagement in the democratic process and for just governance here and abroad. As host of the National Democratic Institute symposium with foreign experts on democratic governance, we will also further mutual learning about global issues in democracy. Debates allow for the direct exchange of often divergent ideas and perspectives, helping voters make decisions that shape the direction of our nation. Debating issues of the day and engaging in the democratic process are core responsibilities of our academic institution and a national – and international – imperative of our times.

How will the university pay for the expenses related to hosting a presidential debate?
The university understands there will be significant costs associated with hosting an event of this magnitude and importance. We anticipate there will be donor support to underwrite these expenses. It is important to note that no general fund dollars will go toward debate expenses. That means no taxpayer support or tuition dollars will be used to pay these costs.
How is a major event like a presidential debate being managed?

The university has established a steering committee of campus leaders appointed by the president and a debate core team of 30 representatives of faculty, students and staff from all aspects of our campus to help execute the event and to help shape additional campus programming.

The Presidential Debate Steering Committee is led by co-chairs Michael Barr, the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president for government relations. Other members of the steering committee are:

  • Henry Baier, associate vice president for facilities and operations.
  • Thomas Baird, vice president for development.
  • Anne Curzan, LSA dean.
  • Lynette Clemetson, director of Wallace House.
  • Amy Dittmar, vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs.
  • Alec Gallimore, Robert J. Vlasic Dean of the College of Engineering.
  • Domenico Grasso, UM-Dearborn chancellor.
  • Timothy Lynch, vice president and general counsel.
  • Warde Manuel, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.
  • Jonathan Massey, dean of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.
  • Kallie Michels, vice president for communications.
  • Elizabeth Moje, dean of the School of Education.
  • Jonathan Overpeck, Samuel A. Graham Dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability.
  • Ravi Pendse, vice president for information technology and chief information officer.
  • Robert Sellers, vice provost for equity, inclusion and chief diversity officer.
  • Simone Himbeault Taylor, interim vice president for student life.
  • Eddie Washington, executive director of the Division of Public Safety and Security.

The Presidential Debate Core Team is charged with planning and coordinating the many aspects of the debate, under the supervision of the steering committee.

Core team leaders:

  • Catherine Carver, operations co-lead, 2020 Presidential Debate Initiative.
  • Ann Zalucki, operations co-lead, 2020 Presidential Debate Initiative.

Core team members:

  • Jenna Bednar, director, Michigan in Washington Program.
  • Jack Bernard, associate general counsel.
  • Laura Blake Jones, dean of students.
  • Akin Bryant, executive lieutenant, Division of Public Safety and Security.
  • Mary Jo Callan, director, Ginsberg Center.
  • John Ciorciari, director, Weiser Diplomacy Center.
  • Dilip Das, assistant vice provost for academic affairs.
  • James DeVaney, associate vice provost and executive director, Academic Innovation.
  • Paul Dunlop, associate athletic director for facility operations.
  • Shelly Fabrizio, associate athletic director for operations and events.
  • Rick Fitzgerald, assistant vice president of communications for public affairs.
  • Michelle French, project manager senior, Human Resources Strategy and Planning.
  • Ben Gerstein, president, Central Student Government.
  • Elaine Hanke, director, Conference and Event Services.
  • Jeffery Harrold, coordinator for academic standards and special populations, LSA.
  • Mike Hilliard, assistant vice president for development, leadership giving.
  • Bob Jones, executive director for support services, ITS.
  • Aaron Kall, director, Debate Program and Michigan Debate Institutes.
  • Laura Lessnau, director, Michigan News.
  • Frances Mueller, associate vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs.
  • Andy Palms, executive director of infrastructure, ITS.
  • Amy Peters, assistant director of business services, ITS.
  • Susan Pile, senior director, university unions and Student Life auxiliary services.
  • Jo Ann Preissner, associate director, Office of Budget and Planning.
  • Michael Rein, director of community relations, Office of Government Relations.
  • Dave Schueler, vice president for alumni engagement and program delivery, Alumni Association.
  • John Seto, deputy director, Division of Public Safety and Security.
  • Nikki Sunstrum, director of social media and public engagement.
  • Stephen Yaros, project manager, Office of the President.
How can I get tickets to the debate?
Presidential debates are primarily a television production, with a limited number of seats available in the debate hall. The Commission on Presidential Debates manages all aspects of the debate, including number of attendees and ticket allocation. Those details have not yet been determined, but ticket availability for the event will be very limited. Tickets will not be available to the general public.
What opportunities will there be for participation?
A presidential debate provides our community — students, faculty, staff, and visitors — with an opportunity to engage with the electoral process, through curricular and co-curricular experiences as well as public-facing events enhanced by being a debate site. We will share details in the months ahead as those programs are developed.
Will campus remain safe for everyone during the debate?
The safety of every member of our community is one of our highest priorities every day of every week. The university’s Division of Public Safety & Security will work hand in hand with local, regional, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to keep our campus community safe for students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors.
Will there be debate watch parties on campus?
Yes. We anticipate developing plans for watch parties in different parts of campus, depending on the availability of facilities. Stay tuned for those details in the months ahead.
How can I volunteer to help with the debate?
The debate will be a great educational experience, especially for students, who may be able to volunteer for various aspects of the event. More details about volunteer opportunities will be shared in the months ahead.
I’m a member of the media. How can I apply for debate credentials?
Media credentials will be issued by the Commission on Presidential Debates. More information will be available in the months ahead.
Who may I contact with additional questions?
Please send an email to and we will direct your inquiry to the appropriate person.
a portrait of Julio Cardona
The University of Michigan has a long history of initiatives that involve social justice and proactive action. By hosting the 2020 Presidential Debate, the entire University community will have the opportunity to take part in civic engagement on a variety of issues impacting our society today."
- Julio Cardona, Director, Trotter Multicultural Center, University of Michigan