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Increased cost, security, traffic to come with Ohio State commencement

May 3, 2013

Kaydee Laney
 President Barack Obama speaks on The Oval on Oct. 9.

Lantern file photo

The price tag for Ohio State’s spring commencement this year, at which President Barack Obama will be speaking, is going to be higher than the cost was 11 years ago, the last time a sitting president spoke at the ceremony.

“The cost for Spring (Commencement in) 2002 was $402,514,” Amy Murray, OSU spokeswoman, said in an email. “$202,184 of that was directly attributable to (the) presidential visit.”

Then president George W. Bush spoke at OSU’s 2002 Spring Commencement.

The $402,514 is equivalent to about $520,814 today, accounting for inflation. The cost for this year’s commencement ceremony, however, is not yet known, Murray said.

Obama will become the third sitting U.S. president to speak at an OSU commencement ceremony when he takes the stage on Sunday. Former president Gerald Ford also spoke to OSU graduates, at the summer 1974 graduation.

Murray said funding for the event, which costs more when a high-profile speaker attends because of the additional security measures, comes from a specific budget.

“(Commencements) are funded by the commencement operating budget provided by central university administration,” Murray said.

In 2012, Spring Commencement cost more than $430,000, including rental and facility fees for the use of Ohio Stadium, physical set-up of the ceremony, public safety costs, traffic management, ticket printing and food and beverage costs, Murray said.

United States ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice spoke at the 2012 Spring Commencement.

Some graduates are not concerned with the cost of the ceremony or the increased security that is required for Obama’s presence.

“I think it’s worth it, because how many people can say that a sitting president spoke at their graduation?” said Micole Moore, a fourth-year in criminology and psychology. “Not only that, but it’s a really special day in everybody’s lives that are graduating.”

Specifics of commencement security measures are not publicly discussed in order to protect attendees and the president, but the number of guests that each graduate can bring was limited.

After students protested the original four-guest limit, though, which was put in place because of the high-profile commencement speaker, the number of tickets graduates could obtain for their relatives and friends was increased to 14. Approximately 70,000 guests are expected, OSU Police Deputy Chief Richard Morman said.

Security will be stricter this year as well, since other agencies will be working with the OSU Police Department for the event, Morman said.

“OSUPD is the lead agency,” Morman said. “We will be getting support from the Columbus Police, Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, we will be working as counterparts with the United States Secret Service.”

Morman said the number of officers that will be on guard during commencement cannot be publicly released.

There will also be limitations on what graduates and guests can bring into the stadium, as well as “airport-like security,” Morman said. A list of prohibited items can be found on the OSU commencement website and includes things such as liquids, signs and weapons.

Traffic on Sunday is expected to be similar to a sight many OSU students have seen.

“The traffic impact will be very similar to a football game day traffic,” Morman said. “Spring Commencement is a large event, with the possibility of 70,000 attendees and a possible 10,000 graduates.”

The traffic management plan consists of officers “directing and expediting the flow of traffic before and after the event,” Morman said.

Spring Commencement is scheduled for noon Sunday in Ohio Stadium. Obama will be delivering his speech exactly one year after the kick-off of his re-election campaign took place at the Schottenstein Center.


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