Planning grows more complex as inauguration nears

With less than a month before Jan. 20, the University is developing complex logistical and security plans in preparation for the presidential inauguration, which is expected to draw millions to the District, but exact measures remain largely uncertain.

School officials plan to distribute GWorld cards to all registered overnight guests on campus and to order all Sodexo food to be delivered on the Friday before inauguration – ensuring the campus is supplied in the event of an emergency.

Administrators have also considered extending the hours in dining venues like Ivory Tower and J Street, and hiring additional officers to assist the University Police Department with crowd control and general security.

“We are looking at extending dining and venue hours. But how do you predict what the crowds will be?” University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said.

In two inauguration planning groups, which Schario said have been meeting since before Thanksgiving, administrators are prepping for the logistical nightmares of strict security, road closures, crowds in the millions and plenty of uncertainty.

Schario said she expected the majority – if not all – of campus to be within the Secret Service’s security perimeter for the event.

The University is coordinating with nearly a dozen external agencies and groups, including the Secret Service, National Park Service, Presidential Inauguration Committee and the D.C. government, but there are plenty of variables that have prevented GW from making concrete plans.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Schario said. “We are monitoring the larger city situation for an idea of what we can expect on campus. We are not sure what the conditions will be like so we’re planning for a lot of different situations at once.”

She added, “This is a historic inauguration. The security will be beyond anything we’ve ever seen.”

Schario said the two inauguration groups are made up of representatives from across the University, including UPD Chief Dolores Stafford, members of University President Steven Knapp’s office, Senior Vice President of Student Academic and Support Services Robert Chernak, Director of Government, International and Community Relations Michael Akin and administrators from other GW campuses.

One group meets twice a week to address logistical concerns, including how to operate the Vern Express in the gridlock traffic expected on Jan. 20 and finding a venue large enough for students to work on the 50-foot float scheduled to appear in the presidential parade. The other group is focused on events and programming, including GW’s Inaugural Ball and sifting through rental requests for the University’s available space during inauguration week.

Ensuring staff can make it to work on Inauguration Day – and find a place to park – is of particular concern for University organizers, Schario said. The proper number of staffers is critical for food services, facilities and security to operate smoothly with the additional crowds expected.

Hundreds of members of the media have already applied to attend to GW’s inaugural ball – including a handful of national newspaper reporters and an E! News crew.

“The media have been crawling out of the woodwork,” Schario said. “There’s been a lot of interest, to say the least.”

University-planned events around Inauguration Day include alternate viewings of the swearing-in ceremony, a gospel choir show in Lisner Auditorium and a campus-wide community service initiative on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Check and the Newsroom blog for complete inauguration coverage.

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