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Colleges, universities tighten security for graduation ceremonies

Boston University ( Boston University (

The Massachusetts university where one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects attended is restricting the number of people who can attend this weekend’s graduation ceremonies as colleges and universities around the country tighten security for commencement in reaction to the deadly April 15 attack.

Colleges and universities in and around Boston are tightening security, including Boston University, where one of the three people who died in the dual bombings was attending as a graduate student. So are Northeastern University, Brandeis University, Tufts University, the Berklee College of Music and others. Schools outside Massachusetts are taking extra precautions as well, including the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Georgia.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where an MIT policeman was shot and killed by gunmen who police said were the marathon bombers a few days after the explosions, guests are being advised that they will walk through metal detectors at the event location, and that they should “consider the appearance of some objects, and leave anything that could be perceived as dangerous at home or in your hotel room.” Only guests with tickets will be admitted.

According to, the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, where suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attended and even returned to right after the bombings, is for the first time, limiting to two the number of family members that graduates can bring to the ceremonies. Each one has to have tickets, too, according to an e-mail sent out last week, which upset some students whose family members were planning to fly in from far away to attend and would now not be able to get a ticket.

Nursing major Heather Medeiros, 21, was quoted as saying:

They told us only last week. … They’re giving us two tickets, which doesn’t even cover immediate family. My grandmother isn’t coming any more; she’s not flying … from Maryland to watch it (from a viewing area).”


At Boston University, everybody attending the May 17-19 ceremonies — including faculty and students — will be screened, possibly with a metal-detecting wand, and large bags will be prohibited. Students and faculty are being asked to carry in their robes rather than wear them into the event venues and dress in designated areas. The university’s police chief, Thomas Robbins, was quoted on the school website as saying:

Following these guidelines should mean very little delay in the days’ activities. We are taking this action to make things as secure as we can.


In Austin, University of Texas officials said Wednesday that security at May 15-16 ceremonies will be more intense than usual. All bags and purses will be searched, and no bags bigger than 12 inches high or across will be allowed, the school’s website says. Dennis Chartier, University of Texas Police Department lieutenant and special events coordinator, was quoted as saying:

This is something we’ve been going toward for years, and the Boston bombings were the catalyst. We want to keep everybody safe.


The University of Georgia, too, announced a restriction on the size of bags — nothing larger than a cubic foot — for the May 10 ceremony and said that all media and photographers will have to get credentials from the school.




Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

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