FAIRBORN, Ohio (WDTN) – Wright State University is pulling out of hosting the first presidential debate in 2016.
The university made the announcement Tuesday afternoon. The university’s president cited both financial and security reasons.
“Wright state has a responsibility for the safety and well-being of those on our campus and the surrounding area. We all take this responsibility really seriously. Over the last few weeks, we’ve had a growing concern about what it would take to guarantee the safety and security of our campus,” said David Hopkins, Wright State University president.
24-Hour News 8 sister station, WDTN, reported earlier this year that the university was millions of dollars away from the estimated $8 million needed to host the debate.
It was scheduled for Monday, September 26 at the Nutter Center and was to be the first presidential debate of the campaign season.
This decision does create a financial loss for Wright State.
The minute Wright State agreed to host the first presidential debate, they agreed to the $2 million dollar fee that would get things moving and set up.
President Hopkins says they will work with the Commission on Presidential Debates to recoup some of that but expects they won’t get all of it back.
To break down the costs of these debates, WTDN looked at what other colleges have spent in the past.
They found most host schools spent between $3-5 million with the cost going up over the years.
President Hopkins said they applied for the debate with those numbers in mind, but as they learned about the security they would need, Hopkins says he found that securing a public university is more costly and difficult than securing a private school.
“Having a large open campus, accessible to the public lead to concerns about whether we can ensure the safety and security of those on and around our campus during the debate,” said Hopkins.
He said they anticipated to spend $8 million dollars but when the estimates started going over that, he decided to pull the plug on the whole event.
“Security expenses have escalated much higher than expected, the additional costs created an unnecessary financial burden on our university during a time when we are in the midst of an important financial remediation plan,” said Hopkins.
The university is in the midst of financial challenges. This spring, WSU announced that it needed it cut about $27 million from Wright State’s budget over the next two years.
They plan to cut expenses, raise graduate and out-of-state tuition by three percent and cut staff.
“When you don’t have enough money, you have to stop doing certain things. Some things that aren’t being productive, we are looking at them and when we do that we have to give people notice their jobs..the work is not going to be available anymore,” said Hopkins said at the time.
WSU leaders say they’re trying to limit the impact to employees by making those reductions through attrition and a voluntary retirement incentive program.
President Hopkins insisted the university would not be footing the bill. As of July 5, $2 million had been raised in pledged cash and sponsorships.
The Commission on Presidential Debates released the following statement:
“In light of Wright State University’s announcement of earlier today, the September 26, 2016 Presidential Debate will be held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. The Commission very much appreciates Wright State’s efforts. Hofstra University served very successfully as a presidential debate site in 2012. On September 23, 2015, the Commission announced that Hofstra University had agreed to serve as an alternate site this debate cycle if needed. The Commission looks forward to working with Hofstra once again.”