Gabby Carlson & Chrysa Keenon | Editors in Chief
Commencement will look much different this year than in years previous.
The class of 2019 Commencement ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. in the Kesler Student Activities Center (KSAC).
According to Jeff Wallace, chief of campus police, there has not been this high-profile of a visit on Taylor's campus before. However, Wallace predicts no lapse in security during the time of graduation.
"As with any visit of a dignitary, there will be heightened security, with both uniformed police presence, as well as Secret Service officials," Wallace said. "Control of entrance and exit areas will be a priority and of course monitoring the flow of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic is always important."
Wallace said there will be a team of 30 campus police officers, partnering with local and state police and secret service to ensure safety. Road closures and traffic restrictions have yet to be confirmed.
Although the priority of the secret service lies with Vice President Mike Pence, the priority of local law enforcement lies with members and families of the Taylor community.
"We have what our job is and we're ready for it and looking forward to it, because of who we're doing it for," Wallace said.
The time when commencement doors will open is still unknown. Wallace said they're currently looking to open at 7 a.m., but this may be moved later.
The amount of security checkpoints are unknown, but Wallace said the officer team is anticipating at least two entrances. He said there is a hope for having a seperate entrance for the graduates, but he has not yet gotten this confirmed by the Secret Service team.
Wallace predicted that the security checkpoints will look similar to that of an airport. A list of items which are allowed and prohibited is currently being compiled and will be released once it is confirmed by the Secret Service.
Due to Taylor's status as a private campus, there will be no room for external protestors, according to Wallace. Additionally, the police reserve the right to remove anyone who is acting disruptive during the ceremony.
However, there is room for peaceful protests amongst those students, faculty and families in attendance of commencement, if they feel obliged to do so.
On Tuesday night, an informational meeting was called for those who wish to display their dissent at commencement. A group of students have been meeting with administration to assemble a plan for those who do not wish to stay for Pence's address.
In the meeting, a panel of seven seniors explained why they are choosing to stay or walk out of commencement. This was in a hope to present more than two polarized viewpoints on the commencement controversy.
According to senior Johannah Lindsay, those who choose not to hear Pence's commencement speech are free to stand up and walk out of the gym. They will have a police escort to and from the KSAC into a predetermined location in the building, in order to protect those choosing to exit. There will be a hymn before and after the speech that will indicate when to leave and when to return.
Senior Sarah Manko, president of Inter-Class Council, led the meeting and urged those who choose to walk out to remember where they sit to get back in line for proper graduation order. Manko also requested that those who choose to remain seated during the speech act respectfully toward those exiting and not trip, shout or hassle those choosing to leave.
According to Jim Garringer, director of media relations, the ceremony will be a live broadcast on the Taylor University website. The broadcast will also be available to watch on the official Taylor University social media channels as well.
Garringer said that the university is anticipating national media coverage for this event. Media will be required to show identification through a press pass to gain entry.
"What we want to be able to do is to give access first and foremost to those media or locals who cover us as a matter of course on a day to day basis and then after that we will want to accommodate as any others as we are able," Garringer said.
Pictures and video recording devices will be allowed in the ceremony, following standard commencement procedure. However, Garringer said that the traditional spot for students to take photos during the ceremony is still waiting to be confirmed by the Secret Service.
Garringer said portable air conditioning units have been rented by the university through the help of a donor and will be provided to keep the gymnasium cool. According to Joyce Wood, senior director of parent and community relations, in the event the gymnasium is at capacity, there will be an overflow room available for people to watch the ceremony through the broadcast in Cornwall Auditorium in the LaRita Boren Campus Center.
"We're working hard to make this a day that will be one that is joyful and memorable for our graduates and we pray that our community will be able to come together to be united in Christ and that the Lord will be glorified in all of this," Garringer said. "We want to do a good job hosting the vice president of the United States."
More information will be released through official university media channels in upcoming days.