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Over 2,200 to Graduate Today

By Helana Kadyszewski


When all is said and done today at the 136th Commencement exercises in Killian Court, some 2,250 MIT students will be awarded an estimated 2,500 degrees.

This year’s crop of graduates will gather in Killian Court, rain or shine, for the most anticipated event in an MIT student’s career. Commencement 2002 is expected to draw an crowd of more than 11,000 people including participants and their guests.

Security pumped up

This year’s Commencement exercises have posed particular planning challenges for the Commencement staff. Director of Enterprise Services Stephen D. Immerman, who has been involved in planning Commencement and oversees the Institute’s safety and security measures, cites the events of Sept. 11 and the controversy surrounding guest speaker James D. Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank Group, as the primary concerns.

“This is our first Commencement in a world that is quite different, and with threats and risks that are largely unknown,” he said. “We had to ask ourselves: what is a reasonable and prudent safety and security response that would reasonably ensure the safety of the 11,000 plus participants and guests at our Commencement?”

Immerman and Gayle M. Gallagher, the executive officer of Commencement, have reviewed and redefined the security protocols for this year’s exercises. Security guidelines for both graduates and their guests have been posted online. In addition to the MIT Police, medical personnel, facilities staff, and an additional 200 student and staff volunteers will be on duty.

Because of the size of campus and the multiple venues involved throughout the day, Gallagher and Immerman have supplemented the MIT safety and security staff with hired details from the county. The State Police and City of Cambridge will have usual jurisdiction over Memorial Drive and Cambridge city streets, respectively.

Unlike past Commencement ceremonies, there will only be three entrances to the Court during exercises. All three entrances will be staffed by security personnel and all graduates and guests will be required to pass through metal detectors. The general admission entrance will be located on Memorial Drive and there will be two entrances for reserved seating areas on either side of the Court through Buildings 3 and 4.

Walsh indicated that the extra security for this year is primarily due to the events of Sept. 11. However, he mentioned an incident at last year’s ceremony in which members of the audience came into disruptive contact with a section of graduates and thwarted crowd control efforts. Walsh indicated that this year’s protocols will set the precedent for future Commencement ceremonies.

Anticipating Wolfensohn-related protest events, Immerman said, “Members of our academic community have the right to disagree and to make their views known, but no one has the right to disrupt an academic assembly. It’s not just MIT policy, it is also the law. ... MIT can only prepare and be ready to respond on our own property.”

“My understanding is that the security measures are less stringent than what was in place when President Clinton came,” said outgoing Graduate Student Council President Dilan Seneviratne. “While it’s still a hassle, it’s better to play it safe.”

Despite the host of potential disruptions and aggravations, Immerman is confident that the ceremony will be a success. “It is our hope that Commencement is not just problem-free, but rather that it is the celebratory recognition for the 2,300 plus students who deserve their moment and the admiration of our entire academic community,” he said.

Students have mixed feelings

Graduates are looking forward to Commencement with mixed emotions. Some, thrilled to escape the rigors of MIT academics, plan to enjoy the ceremony even if the weather is terrible. Others, not so sure of their post-graduation plans, are overwhelmed by the thought that they must move on. Even the most bitter students have expressed that they will miss their years at the Institute in one way or another.

“Right now I’m busy packing up my stuff and trying to find an apartment to put it all in. I’m sure I will have time for cheers and tears at the ceremony, though,” said Linda M. Yu ’02. Yu, who chaired the planning committee for Wednesday’s Senior Week Farewell Reception at the Museum of Science, will graduate today with a degree in management. Following graduation, she will head to the Global Technologies department at Merrill Lynch in New York where she will serve as a technical analyst.

“It’s a little sad to be leaving now that finally we’ve had some time to have fun with our friends on campus instead of studying and doing problem sets,” said Amy W. Mok ’02. Mok, who will graduate today with a degree in economics, will be working in Financial Services for Waddell & Reed in Waltham, Mass. after graduation. “I’m not so much looking forward to moving my tassel as I am to flipping my brass rat over,” she said.

According to a recent statistical profile of the Class of 2002, nearly one third of the survey respondents intend to pursue their studies in graduate school, while 60 percent of the respondents will be employed post-graduation.

Dalai, Seneviratne to speak

General admission for ticketed guests begins at 7:30 a.m. The procession of graduates will enter Killian Court at approximately 10:00 a.m. The program will begin at approximately 10:30 a.m.

Wolfensohn will deliver this year’s Commencement address. Wolfensohn’s speech will be followed by a salute to MIT from Seneviratne and a speech by Class of 2002 President Sudeb C. Dalai. Dalai will then present the Senior Gift to President Charles M. Vest. The degrees will then be awarded in a simultaneous alternating pattern between advanced and undergraduate degrees. Following the closing remarks at around 1:45 p.m., graduates and their guests will be dismissed to a reception at Steinbrenner Stadium.

The ceremonies may be viewed on closed-circuit television in selected classrooms in Buildings 1, 2 and 4, in Kresge Auditorium, Kresge Little Theater and several lecture halls. It will also be Webcast live via MIT AMPS.