Security for the 2001 Commencement was the tightest for any Yale graduation ceremony since the last time a President Bush received an honorary degree and addressed the University’s graduates.
Heavy concentrations of Secret Service agents and police were spread throughout the Yale campus, particularly around Old Campus and the President’s House on Hillhouse Avenue, where President George W. Bush ’68 spent Sunday night with Yale President Richard Levin.
Long lines formed all around Old Campus before the ceremony Monday morning as attendees waited to go through airport-style metal detectors and bag searches at each of the quadrangle’s many open gates. While the lines moved relatively quickly, the sheer volume of people backed the line up substantially along College, Chapel and High streets.
Less readily apparent than the lines were the two Secret Service snipers positioned in Harkness Tower and other vantage points around the stage during the Commencement.
Agents also manned metal detectors at both High Street gates, the two gates leading into the Vanderbilt courtyard from Chapel, and the Phelps and Cheney Ives gates on College. Police closed College, High and Wall streets Monday morning, while upper Hillhouse Avenue remained sealed off throughout the day.
Students living in Old Campus dormitories did not escape the lines. All students were required to vacate their rooms for at least an hour at 7 a.m. to allow for room searches, and those students in Lanman-Wright and Durfee halls — the buildings closest to the stage — were not allowed to return until the ceremony concluded.
The day also had its lighter moments: One unfortunate truck driver with a portable toilet on his flatbed was turned away from a police checkpoint at Wall and College despite professing a need to service the port-a-potty units on Cross Campus.
The security procedures were similar to those used when President George H. W. Bush ’48 attended the Commencement ceremony in 1991, University Secretary Linda Lorimer said in an e-mail.