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Sunday Poll: Debate Hosting Costs Worthwhile?

October 9, 2016 Featured, Sunday Poll 14 Comments
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Washington University in St. Louis will host the 2nd presidential debate for 2016 tonight, not its first time doing so:

Washington University in St. Louis has hosted more debates than any other institution in history. Between 1992 and 2008, the Commission on Presidential Debates asked the university to host debates in five consecutive elections. The debate scheduled for Sept. 25, 1996, was canceled two weeks prior. The Oct. 9, 2016, event will be the fifth debate held at Washington University. (Washington University)

The last debate held at Washington University in St. Louis was the Vice-Presidential Debate in October 2008. Each time the costs have increased:

For the first debate that [associate vice chancellor] Givens organized in 2000, the fee the university paid to the debate commission was $450,000. This time, that upfront fee is just shy of $2 million. Combine that with other costs the university will incur, including the set-up of a state-of-the-art media center, security, staffing and crowd management, and Washington University will end up paying anywhere between $4-5 million to host the debate on Oct. 9. [St. Louis Public Radio]

That’s a lot of money! That figure might include paying local police departments for security details. With two presidential candidates in town at the same time their routes to/from the airport must be secure.

On the other hand, the influx of press and campaign officials means hotel rooms, restaurants. etc will be full for days prior. It’s unclear how much, if anything, local taxpayers will end up paying. It is unknown how much of the $4-5 million will stay in the local economy.

So lots of unknowns, but here is the poll question for today:

The poll closes at 8pm tonight, the time the debate starts.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "14 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. What something is “worth” is a highly personal issue. Is hosting a debate worth the cost? Versus fielding a competitive football team? Basketball team? Field hockey team? Building a fancy student center? Fancy new dorms? Giving faculty tenure? Upgrading research facilities? Having great public transit available? Good parking? And it will vary if you’re a current student, recent alumni, older alumni, faculty or staff. And even harder to quantify is the “value” of publicity, good or bad. There is no “right” answer, just many opinions!

  2. Benjamin Aronov says:

    Absolutely worth it for Washu. Think about the schools they are competing with for students. I heard it from a current 5th year student a few days ago that he’s never seen the student body this abuzz, truly loud and proud that they are at Washu like they have been the last month or two. For most of these kids its better than having the football team being in the playoffs.

    • Mark-AL says:

      “….student body abuzz”….sounds more like a typical reaction seen in a private high school. I wonder if, when I was a college student, I would have garnered any personal satisfaction from such an event, especially suspecting that some of my hard-earned tuition money was “allocated” to finance the debate, vs purchasing more lab equipment or paying my professors a living wage….or offering a tuition scholarship to a deserving student carrying 18 hours and working 25-30 hours a week to support himself. Actually, the DNC and the RNC should have paid Wash U for use of the venue, and they should have paid STL City and County for all the additional security that the event demanded in order protect the “esteemed” debaters.

      • JZ71 says:

        Four years ago, the first college I attended (quick, name it!) hosted the VP debate. As an alumnus, I thought that it was pretty cool. I have no idea how much they spent on it, but if they spent $1M, much less $5M, I’ll be seriously reconsidering my ongoing financial support.

        But looking back, I discovered that the Debate Commission also hosted several debates for second-tier (Libertarian, Green, Constitution, Justice) candidates, something that they appear to be trying very hard to be doing this time around: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election_debates,_2012

        • Benjamin Aronov says:

          Those debates were not sanctioned by the CPD. It is why Johnson and Stein tried suing the CPD for anti-trust and lost back in August. Total horse shit.

        • Mark-AL says:

          10/29: Unfortunately, I can’t name the college. Guess the “exposure” from the debate got wasted on me….and I suspect on many others.

          IMO, colleges and universities should spend zilch, zippo, nunca for any political debates. And I too would withdraw my financial support if I ever learned that ND or U of I ever spent a penny for such nonsense.

          In a society that (I hope) is trying to convince people to aspire to actually pay for what they get, we certainly don’t want to enable our presidential and vice-presidential candidates and give them a free ride!

          Even $1 M is a HIGH threshold. Just think about the faculty pay increases that could be made possible what that extra $ 1 M in the budget.

          • JZ71 says:

            Centre College, Danville, KY . . .

          • Mark-Al says:

            Can’t imagine that a private college, even one with the sizable endowment of Centre College, with only 1500 (-) students, can (or should) afford to flush away any money foolishly–meaning in a way that doesn’t directly benefit students and faculty. A school sponsored donation to the local humane society would probably have been money better spent than sponsoring a VP debate….and colleges have no business donating to humane societies.

      • Benjamin Aronov says:

        WashU is often reminiscent of an east coast prep academy so I’m not surprised.

        I agree with your points that WashU shouldn’t be paying for this but the sad reality is that in the current climate some other school would jump at the chance. The publicity and recruiting benefits of hosting such an event is simply too good to pass up for WashU. I personally think the Debate Commission is 100% in violation of antitrust laws, despite the recent court ruling. But until that crony-monopoly is broken up WashU would only hurt itself to take the higher road. I mean just look at how much effort they must spend to let prospective students know they aren’t located in Washington.

        • JZ71 says:

          I’ll repeat – without looking, name the two other universities that hosted the other two debates, so far, this year . . . this is primarily an ego trip for the participating institutions, any “marketing” value comes primarily from “preaching to the choir”. And if you can’t remember, just scroll down . . .
          Hofstra and Longwood!

  3. Timm says:

    I don’t think WU actually pays anything in the end. They make a direct appear to donors to fund things like this, much like they would a new library or athletic field

    • JZ71 says:

      Money is both green and finite. It all spends, and money spent on a debate is money that is NOT spent on a library or other academic expense. Donors are NOT an infinite source of dollars, and events like this are one reason why students today leave college with much higher debt loads than students of my generation. Yes, it was a great ego trip and gained WU another 20 (or 90) minutes of fame, but in a month who’e gonna remember the location of the debate? Ken Bone seems to be the biggest local beneficiary!

      • Mark-AL says:

        Normally I would agree with your second to last sentence. But because both debaters made complete fools of themselves, acting like both the inside and the outside of an anal sphincter, I’m afraid people are going to remember for a lifetime exactly “where it was allowed to happen”…..genital herpes for both Wash U and St Louis, contracted innocently but causing persistent irritation over a lifetime.

    • Mark-AL says:

      Sounds like the recurring axiom: “Oh, it doesn’t cost anything. The government pays for it”!


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