Tonight, the final presidential debate between current President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will occur just down the road from Lipscomb at Belmont University.
In light of this historic event, Lipscomb’s security team has spent weeks making plans to ensure that the campus remains as safe as possible.
“For the last month, we’ve really been doing some deep preparation, just getting ready for this evening because we want the campus to remain safe and we want the experience for our students and the employees and any guests that are in the area to be as smooth as possible,” said Kyle Dickerson, Executive Director of Security & Safety.
The security team has also been in contact with state and federal law enforcement in regard to making preparations for the night of the debate.
“We’ve been talking with the law enforcement partners that are a part of the actual event itself, which includes TBI, FBI, the secret service, just a lot of the big federal entities that are a part of it but also some local entities as well. They’ve been giving us really good information that is helping us feel really good about the evening, which is nice. What they have said is that they are expecting typical things for a debate,” said Dickerson.
One of the biggest concerns ahead of the debate is the traffic congestion due to the many road closures around Belmont.
“What we think is going to be a really big deal is traffic congestion for the night,” said Dickerson. “Most people don’t go to traffic congestion as their first concern for something like this, but it really is a big deal. If you are trying to get to work that evening or an appointment that afternoon, you might run into traffic congestion. We are trying to be mindful of that and just let our students and our employees know that ahead of time that you might run into that sort of stuff.”
In order to prepare for the inevitable influx of people in the area, the security team is restricting access to campus by closing all but three entrance points beginning at 2:00 pm. The remaining open entrances will be supervised by security team members who will ensure that anyone entering campus is supposed to be there.
“One of the things we are going to do is limit the access to campus as far as vehicle entrances. We are going to close those down to some main points. All of campus will still be accessible, there will just be three main points that people will want to enter if they are driving back to campus. That way, it will allow us to have some interaction with people as they are coming on to campus,” said Dickerson.
The entrances that will remain open are University Park Drive off of Belmont Boulevard, the Steamplant entrance off of Granny White Pike, and Ferndale Drive-by Lipscomb University Health Services. A Lipscomb I.D. will be required at these entrances beginning at 5:00 pm.
Due to the traffic congestion that will occur downtown, additional medical staff will be present during the evening to aid with any kind of medical need that may arise.
“We are also planning for if there is any kind of medical stuff on campus that night….There is going to be some clinic staff here for the evening. We are also going to have some EMTs that we have hired in to be on campus that evening just in case we do have somebody who, like, breaks an ankle that’s pretty bad and we need to get them to the hospital. Because of all the traffic stuff, it may be difficult to get an ambulance here to get them to the hospital, so we want to be mindful of that,” said Dickerson.
Lipscomb’s Student Life Services department will also have representatives on campus during the debate to meet student needs and create a more normal environment on what is sure to be an unusual night.
“Our student life personnel are going to be here that evening. There are going to be some people here who are watching the debate live and some student life personnel are going to be part of that. Also, student life personnel are just going to be in the area if anybody needs anything. It is just going to be a different evening than most,” said Dickerson.
Above all, Security & Safety Director Kyle Dickerson wants students to know that the university is prepared for anything that might happen to surround the debate and that it is going to be a good night.
“I want our students to know that everything is going to be good. We are here to serve our students and our employees in whatever capacity that we can. Our focus, really on every evening but especially the debate evening, is to allow our students to have a normal evening like any other. There are going to be some things that are different, but we want to give a healthy experience to all of our students that are here. We want to make that evening as smooth as possible, understanding that traffic is going to be a little crazy at times…. We want our students to be comfortable and know that it is a safe place for that. We want this to feel like home on nights like this to go that extra mile and make sure that’s the case.”
Additional information about road closures and entrance/exit point changes ahead of the debate can be found in emails sent from the Department of Security to all Lipscomb University email accounts.