Commencement security to increase

Graduates attending the University-wide Commencement ceremony will face heightened security measures this year, a University spokeswoman said Thursday.

Increased security measures due to first lady Michelle Obama’s presence will require students to arrive earlier than in past years and to show photo identification to enter the cordoned off seating area, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said.

The traditional procession of graduates that normally occurs before GW’s Commencement ceremony will also not happen due to the security procedures, University spokeswoman Candace Smith said. Smith said graduates will check in and take their seats as they arrive.

Seniors told The Hatchet they understood the need for security, but were disappointed they would not get to participate in a procession.

“I don’t like that they are not having the procession because I think a procession is a right of passage for any graduation,” senior Stephen Nishikawa said.

Students should begin arriving at 7:30 a.m. to check in and go through metal detectors, Smith said. This is earlier than the 8:15 a.m. arrival for graduates last year.

While cameras are permitted, graduates will be asked to not bring bags, Smith said, adding that participants are being advised to limit what they bring. Graduates will also receive a personalized e-mail to gain entrance to the National Mall.

Along with the e-mail, students must bring a form of identification, either a GWorld card or a government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license or passport.

Graduates were not required to go through metal detectors on the National Mall last year when Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, was the Commencement speaker.

Sherrard confirmed agencies – including the National Park Service, Metropolitan Police, Secret Service, and University Police – will be coordinating security.

Once graduates check in, seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis, Sherrard said.

“The earlier graduates arrive, the better their chances of sitting close to the stage and with their school,” Sherrard said.

“Family and guests of graduates should bring their tickets but they won’t have to go through a security checkpoint,” she wrote in an e-mail Friday.

Guests of graduates will be advised to hold on to their tickets while they are on the National Mall.

Despite the changes in procedure, some seniors, like Tara Dunigan, were not opposed to them.

“I think increased security is necessary, you just can’t take chances anymore,” she said.

Maryann Tadros contributed to this report.

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