Georgia begins college graduation season with extra focus on security, avoiding disruptions

Views of the Georgia State University J. Mack Robinson College of Business morning graduation ceremony at the Georgia State Convocation Center in Atlanta on on Thursday, May 2, 2024. (Natrice Miller/ AJC)


icon to expand image


With commencement ceremonies that began Wednesday at Georgia State University, Georgia colleges have entered graduation season with an eye toward avoiding disruptions.

A number of campuses have or are preparing to enhance security measures in response to the protests.

  • University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue said its schools will work with law enforcement for off-campus commencement ceremonies.
  • A Georgia State University graduate was briefly escorted from a commencement ceremony Wednesday after officials said the student began shouting in an apparent war protest. Another graduate was escorted out for taking a microphone from the university band.
  • Morehouse College officials are working with the U.S. Secret Service on security in preparation for President Joe Biden’s planned commencement address on the Atlanta campus May 19. Some have called for protests of Biden’s speech.
  • Georgia Tech made changes to its regulations around what type of gatherings and expression are allowed on its campus. Graduation ceremonies began Thursday for Ph.D. graduates, with commencement for other students Friday and Saturday.

Friday on the “Politically Georgia” program: We hear students from Georgia’s colleges and universities talk about their perspectives on protests. The show will stream live at 10 a.m. on or later on demand here.

Outside of Georgia, colleges and universities are adding additional screening for those entering graduation venues, adding security and in some cases providing designated protest zones — at a distance to avoid disruptions. At the University of Michigan, where graduation is Saturday at Michigan Stadium, known as The Big House, AP reports protests are ongoing on the Diag, a historic space for campus activism more than a mile away from the stadium.

“We respect and uphold the principles of free expression, and also recognize that no one is entitled to disrupt university activities,” Laurie McCauley, Michigan’s chief academic officer, said in an email to students and staff about commencement.

At Georgia Tech, the updated regulations now specifically prohibit the construction of temporary shelters — like the encampments going up at colleges and universities around the U.S. to protest the war — without prior written approval.

“In light of recent events around the country, Georgia Tech reviewed policies and procedures to ensure that expectations of behavior are clear,” said spokesperson W. Blair Meeks in an emailed statement.

Large signs like banners are also not allowed to be affixed to any “permanent structure,” including buildings and trees, without prior approval, according to the update.

— Reporting from AP was included in this article. Read more about graduation security across the nation.