‘Honored and grateful’: Virginia State University to host presidential debate in 2024

VSU will host the second general election presidential debate on Oct. 1, 2024
Virginia State University will host one of the 2024 presidential debates and it will be the first HBCU to ever do so.
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 12:32 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2023 at 8:22 PM EST
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ETTRICK, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia State University has been picked to host one of the general election presidential debates next year.

On Monday, VSU announced it was chosen to host the second general election presidential debate on Oct. 1, 2024, in the VSU Multipurpose Center.

VSU says it’s the first HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) in the country picked to host a general election presidential debate.

“We are honored and grateful to have been chosen as a host for a 2024 Presidential Debate,” said VSU President Dr. Makola M. Abdullah. “This is a historic moment for our university and for HBCUs nationwide.”

It’s a little less than a year away, but preparation is already in the works, as the university went through the selection process for months.

VSU leaders say they’re most excited about what this means for their students.

“Everything we do here at VSU starts with our students,” VSU Assistant VP of Government Relations Eldon Burton said. On Oct. 1, and in the days leading up to Oct. 1, our students are going to be front and center playing a key role in the democratic process.”

“It is a great get for VSU. That is tremendous,” Political Analyst Dr. Larry Sabato said. “You get international publicity, so much publicity, you couldn’t buy it.”

Sabato of UVA’s Center for Politics says, beyond that, it also changes the game for HBCUs.

“It’s good that finally that barrier has been broken and, once broken, it may happen every four years. It should happen in four years,” he said.

Sabato says, for many decades, candidates felt obligated to participate and would have received ruthless criticism if they canceled.

However, he says, times have changed as we’ve seen recently with Former President Donald Trump skipping all of the recent Republican presidential debates.

“The candidates these days will cancel them at the drop of a hat if it benefits their candidacy,” Sabato said. “That’s what VSU and the other schools and the networks have to worry about. Will they spend a ton of money and then have at least one candidate say they are not going to be there?”

However, Sabato says, if the debate goes on as planned, it could have the potential to change the course of the election.

“These things can play a role and you don’t expect them to,” Sabato said.

It could also bring about once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for many students.

“They are very likely to be politicized by what happens,” Sabato said. “They’re going to want to participate in politics, maybe for their whole lives.”

VSU says there’s still plenty of work to do especially when it comes to traffic, security, and media coverage.

Overall, the school says the reception has been largely positive from the VSU community and those who live in the area, as its an opportunity for visibility and economic growth.

In 2016, Longwood University hosted the Vice Presidential Debate between U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and former Vice President Mike Pence.