U.C. Merced Heightened Security Measures

May 14, 2009 10:48:49 PM PDT
Security for U.C. Merced's commencement is being heightened dramatically because of Michelle Obama's participation in the ceremony.Metal detectors are something we haven't seen at U.C. Merced before. They're just one of the many additions to the campus since Michelle Obama agreed to be the keynote speaker. You can also see the thousands of chairs that have been set up for the ceremony. But along with the extra seating, the university also needs extra security.

A security company went to work Thursday morning assembling and setting up dozens of walk through metal detectors in preparation for Michelle Obama's visit.

The metal detectors are a strange sight for this small, rural campus, but students we spoke with don't seem to mind.

Daniel Titcher said, "I'm not surprised about the heightened security, it's all protocol, and it will be worth it in the end."

University officials are hoping the thousands of other people who will fill these seats on Saturday will be just as understanding.

U.C. Merced Spokesperson Tonya Luiz said, "Yes, your bag may be checked, it may be emptied, you may be checked to see what you're wearing, but really we just hope that this is going to be a pleasant experience. It's going to be a lot easier than airport security."

Specific security plans are being kept under wraps, but organizers say the U.C. Merced Police Department is working with the Secret Service and other local agencies to make sure the campus and surrounding areas are safe. Roads leading into the university will be closed on Saturday until the ceremony ends around 4:00 p.m, so everyone with tickets will need to take shuttles from their assigned parking lot.

"Anyone who's received tickets has received explicit information about where they need to report and what time. "So it's really important that they arrive at that time that way they can board the shuttle, and the shuttle will be taking them into campus," said Luiz.

Senior Daniel Titcher says all of the extra effort is worth the historic moment he'll be a part of on Saturday. "I think all the craziness is a good thing, and it's going to put Merced on the map, and it's Michelle Obama coming. There's nothing better than that," said Titcher.

If you'll be attending the commencement, here are some other things you should know.

You can bring small purses or fanny packs, bottled water, food that's wrapped in clear plastic, and cameras. However, wait to load your film in case officers need to open your camera.

Coolers and large duffel bags are now allowed. There will also be plenty of food and water available here on campus throughout the day.

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