Virginia State University is making history as the very first HBCU to host a presidential debate in a general election. The institution announced it will host the second debate out of the three scheduled during the campaign. It will be held in the VSU Multipurpose Center on Oct. 1, 2024.
“We are honored and grateful to have been chosen as a host for a 2024 Presidential Debate,” VSU President Dr. Makola M. Abdullah said in a press release. “This is a historic moment for our university and for HBCUs nationwide. Our university mantra is ‘Greater Happens Here,’ and we look forward to welcoming the candidates, the Commission on Presidential Debates, and the entire nation to the GREATER at VSU.”
The HBCU hopes the event will help promote the university as a leading institution for social justice and shaping future leaders. VSU was originally founded in 1882 as a public and land-grant university. Today, it is the place of study for over 5,100 students.
“We have always been committed to excellence, inclusivity, and civic engagement,” Eldon Burton, VSU Assistant Vice President for Government Relations, said. “This incredible achievement will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on the campus community, the university’s reputation, and the nation as a whole. Now people will know that not only does Greater Happen at VSU, but history happens here as well.”
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Burton, who is an alum, also sees the event as an opportunity to encourage students to pursue a career in communications, political science and other related fields.
“There’s no telling how this could excite students, whether they’re in mass communications or political science or whatever, how this could excite them to move further along in starting their career,” he told WTVR CBS 6 News Richmond.
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VSU students have expressed their excitement and surprise at the announcement of the event.
“I was really, really, really surprised. It usually would go to a Howard, a Spellman, larger institutions,” Kailyn Haye, a senior and the Student Government Association President, told the news station. “Everyone’s really, like, shocked. They’re like wow, we’re the first to do it. To be able to say you’re the first, means a lot.”
She hopes the event will shed light on students’ concerns about their future.
“Being able to hear where we’re coming from first hand, we want to feel heard. We want to be heard. Because they have the power to make change, across the board for our lives,” Haye added. “If you’re going to come here, you need to listen to us and know that we’re serious about what we want, and if you’re supposed to be the next president of the United States, you need to understand your constituents, and what we want to see, and the change we want to happen.”