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Fall break clears campus for debate

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Belmont’s representatives have returned from a meeting with the Commission on Presidential Debates in Washington, but much remains uncertain, and what the university actually learned remains uncertain as well.

“It was more a matter of reinforcement,” Dan McAlexander, Belmont provost, said. “Remain flexible.”

Belmont officials are expected to keep quiet about the details of the Oct. 7 Town Hall Presidential Debate until closer to the debate itself, McAlexander said. But, the university doesn’t actually have much to say at best.

“I don’t have anything new to tell you,” said Pamela Johnson, the director of strategic marketing and special initiatives who led Belmont’s team at the meeting with the commission. Johnson said she was unable to grant an interview regarding the meeting.

With the campus accommodating an increased number of people, including members of the press and the candidates’ entourages, during the debate and the days leading up to it, space will be tight. The fall break originally scheduled for Thursday and Friday, Oct. 16-17, has been moved to Monday-Wednesday, Oct. 6-8, adding one day to the break and eliminating the campus presence of most students and faculty on those days.

The new fall break will “ensure the least amount of disruption to our class schedules and instruction time,” McAlexander said in a published announcement of the change. The only classes that will be held during this time will be Wednesday evening classes.

Belmont still doesn’t know the perimeter of the debate security, how exactly residents of the neighborhood will be affected or to what extent students will be involved.

“At this point, it is our understanding that residents will be able to stay in residence,” McAlexander said.

If residents fall within the final perimeter set by the commission, they will most likely be subject to security checks, he said. “It will be like coming to the airport each time they come into the perimeter.”

Although the university still doesn’t know details on student involvement, McAlexander expects there to be student volunteers, he said, referencing prior debates.

“We’ve heard reports of a couple hundred individuals involved,” he said. But he has yet to hear anything from the commission.

“We would ask the entire Belmont community to exercise as much patience as possible as we await the arrival of what will surely be the Super Bowl of American politics,” McAlexander wrote in his campus announcement.

February 28, 2008

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