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Security Procedures for Graduation Weekend

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

Graduation Weekend 2024 is nearly upon us. While always a treasured event for the Northwestern community, this 166th Commencement holds special meaning for many in the Class of 2024, whose in-person high school graduations were canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Graduation Weekend is a time to honor the achievements of our graduates and those who have supported them along their journeys — family, friends, faculty and staff. Student Affairs and colleagues across the University have planned an incredible lineup for graduates and their families, including an address by actress and alumna Kathryn Hahn at Commencement, the Graduating Students Reception followed by a fireworks display on the lakefill, and traditional events including the Baccalaureate and March Back Through the Arch.

We have been saddened to see similar celebrations disrupted and even canceled at other universities this spring, and Northwestern is committed to avoiding this path. A robust security and operations plan is in place to ensure the focus remains on graduates throughout Graduation Weekend activities.

Ticketing and security

Tickets are required for all family and guests to enter Commencement and convocations. Security staff and magnetometers will be positioned at all event entrances. Graduates’ robes must be unzipped while proceeding through security. Attendees are limited to a small purse or personal bag up to 10x6x2 inches, which security personnel will inspect. To promote efficient flow through security, please limit belongings to only items needed for the ceremony.

At all venues, prohibited items include: air horns and other artificial noise makers, including instruments; animals (excluding service animals); balloons; banners; bottles and cans; cameras with detachable lenses; confetti of any kind; coolers; ski or non-medical masks (medical masks are permitted); fireworks; flags; flyers and handouts; glitter; laser pens or laser products of any type; outside food and beverage of any kind (alcoholic beverages included); poles and sticks; projectiles; selfie sticks; signs; tents; umbrellas (any size); weapons of any kind, including guns, knives, ammunition, explosives, pepper spray and mace; and anything else that would interfere with another guest’s ability to see, hear and enjoy the ceremony.

The United Center has additional restrictions prohibiting GoPros, iPads, laptops and plastic bags, and it reserves the right to determine other items as unacceptable upon entry. Further, the United Center will not store any prohibited items for guests.

Guests will be asked to dispose of prohibited items before entering Commencement or convocation venues or to return those items to their vehicles. Security may deny access to any individual who does not comply.


Proper regalia must be worn during Commencement and convocations. Regalia guidelines are available on the graduation website. Any adornments to the regalia should remain in good taste, fitting for a ceremonial occasion. Discriminatory, vulgar, threatening and hateful content is prohibited.

Freedom of expression

While the University supports freedom of expression, graduation ceremonies are not the time nor place for disruptive demonstrations. The University has designated a free speech area outside each venue and encourages anyone who wishes to engage in expressive activity to do so there. Any such activity inside the venue may not disrupt the ceremony or prevent others from enjoying it.

Community members who do not adhere to University policies will face discipline, and anyone who disrupts the ceremony could be asked to leave. All students, including those graduating, remain subject to the Student Code of Conduct. Violations of the Code of Conduct will result in disciplinary sanctions up to and including expulsion. Degrees will be held pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

Live streams will be available for Commencement and convocations on the graduation website, where answers to many Graduation Weekend questions also reside. Additional information regarding transportation, timing and other logistics will be shared with graduates soon.

Commencement is the culmination of graduates’ time at Northwestern — a time to reflect on the values and knowledge gained here, while looking ahead to new beginnings. We look forward to celebrating the Class of 2024, all they have achieved and all they have yet to achieve as they set out into the world.