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President's Message | Archive

January 15, 2009

TO: Campus Community
FROM: Neil Kerwin, President
SUBJECT: Inauguration Activities--January 17 to 20


On January 20 the nation will inaugurate Barack Obama as its 44th president in an historic event that is prompting unprecedented logistical and security planning in and around Washington, D.C.

In addition to the inauguration ceremony and parade on Tuesday, there will be public and private balls, parties, activities, and crowds flocking to Washington for the occasion. Officials are estimating that attendance could range in the millions, and major transportation arteries into town are being closed to normal traffic. Since the events are coupled with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and form part of a four-day holiday weekend, “normal business” operations both on and before January 20 will be affected in ways that are difficult to predict.

American University is making preparations to enable our community to enjoy this historic occasion and deal with the challenges an event of this scope will present. We expect that most students will remain in town and on campus for the four-day weekend, but most faculty and staff will not be working on January 19 and 20. The following is a brief summary of some of the campus preparations underway and activities being planned; additional information is available by contacting the specific units or sponsors listed.


Student Housing and Health

Housing and Dining Programs has notified students of the special guest registration policy in effect from January 16 to 21 for all campus housing. All residence hall students must pre-register their guests for this six-day period, and guests will receive a temporary ID card. Residents and guests must show their access card or proper identification to the housing or public safety staff member when entering any residence hall, and visitors must be accompanied by their hosts. For more information, contact Housing and Dining Programs at

Local medical and health authorities are reminding us that area health care facilities and hospitals could potentially be affected by the crowds and transportation challenges. If you have a medical emergency during this period and you are on campus, please contact Public Safety at 202-885-3636 and they will coordinate getting the care that you need.

Parking and Transportation

To accommodate the expected heavier use of public transportation, campus shuttle buses will operate from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. from January 16 to 21, ending at 3:30 a.m. on January 21. Inauguration planners and city transportation officials caution that Metro will be used at levels never before experienced, and they urge that anyone planning to use Metro or city buses should purchase fare cards in advance. Metro will operate from 4:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. on inauguration day, but everyone should monitor the news and check for travel and transportation updates. MARC and VRE (Virginia Rail Express) have reported that all of their rail tickets have been sold for inauguration day.

Meanwhile, driving into town for the inauguration is not recommended because street traffic is being rerouted and parking will be scarce.

For anyone driving to campus, the pay-as-you go machines in the Katzen garage and Nebraska lot will be operating and normal parking policies will apply for campus lots. Three activities by city and neighboring groups will affect campus parking at certain times on specific dates. The Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church will host a meeting from 8:00 a.m. to noon, Saturday, January 17; and the Washington Hebrew Congregation will host an inaugural ball from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 20. Both events will use the Nebraska lot. As mentioned later in this memo, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department will hold an activity in Bender Arena from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday, January 19, and both the Sports Center garage and the Nebraska lot will be used by the police officials who will be attending. Anyone using campus parking on those days at those times should consider using the Katzen garage or other on-campus parking options.

Public Safety

AU Public Safety will increase its presence on campus from January 16 to 22 and will operate with 12-hour shifts. Along with the other consortium universities, AU will provide an officer to participate in the D.C. Joint Operations Command Center and work with local police authorities to ensure that vital information flows to our campus community during the days around the inauguration.

Campus Connect (AU Alerts) will provide emergency communications and text updates as needed for AU community members who have signed up for this service. I again urge that everyone on our campus register for this effective complement to our other methods of emergency notification. Recent situations around the nation (and on our campus) have emphasized that multiple means of rapid and constant communication are needed during an emergency—and AU Alerts can be an important part of this effort. To sign up or for more information, go to the portal, click on Emergency Preparedness, go to AU Campus Connect Service, and follow the instructions. Or go to (enter your username and password).

With many visitors on and around campus, members of the campus community are urged to take particular precautions to secure their belongings, residence hall rooms, and offices. Suspicious persons or activity should be reported immediately to Public Safety.

Food Services

Campus food services will operate in a “weekend mode” from January 17 to 20. Weekend hours will be in effect on Saturday and Sunday for campus food operations, with some modifications possible on Monday and Tuesday to address the need to support campus events and altered student schedules. The hours of operation for campus dining services (along with updates on campus events) will be available at the residence hall front desks and the Mary Graydon Center first floor information desk; dining service hours also will be posted at

Food vendors have made arrangements to receive their shipments prior to the weekend to minimize any potential distribution problems.

Telephone and Electronic Communication

AU’s Office of Information Technology currently does not anticipate problems with the cell towers on campus; even if cell phone service is affected, text message capability is typically still present. Anyone attending the events closer to the heart of the city might have a difficult time using cell phones for calls, and authorities are urging everyone to keep their conversations brief to ensure that airtime is available for everyone.

AU Events and Activities

During the four-day weekend, we expect that most students living on campus will want to participate in the various inauguration and Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities downtown. For anyone remaining on campus, a number of special activities are being arranged, including “AU Celebrates Inauguration 2009,” sponsored by Development and Alumni Relations on Saturday, January 17. All events will be held or begin in the Katzen Arts Center and will run from 2:00 p.m. through 7:00 p.m., including a cocktail supper from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Doors will open for out of town guests at 1:00 p.m.; campus tours will be given by university archivist Susan McElrath and will depart at 2:00 p.m. (inclement weather would relocate this to a presentation in the Studio Theatre); and panels described below will begin at 3:00 p.m. A special exhibit from the University Archives, “AU Celebrates Inauguration: A Visual History of Presidential Presence at AU,” will be on display. For more information, visit or contact Development and Alumni Programs at 202-885-5900.

To honor Dr. King, a number of events are being scheduled—by the Washington College of Law, Center for Social Media, Community Service Center, Kay Spiritual Life Center, and Multicultural Affairs. Please check the various campus calendars, including Today@AU, for specific information on these and other commemoration activities. Social responsibility is an explicit and important goal in our new strategic plan. I urge every member of the community to heed the calls made so often by Dr. King to engage in service activities now and in the future that advance this important element of our university’s mission.

Saturday, January 17

• 2:00 p.m.—Women’s Basketball vs. Colgate at Bender Arena

• 3:00 p.m.—AU Celebrates Inauguration 2009

     - “Keys to the White House,” with Professor Allan Lichtman in the Studio Theatre, Katzen Arts Center

     - “The Youth Impact on Election ’08 and the Obama White House,” with Professor Lenny Steinhorn and AU students in the Abramson Family Recital Hall, Katzen Arts Center

• 4:00 p.m.—“Will President-Elect Obama Change the Way Washington Works? Issues Facing the President and the 111th Congress,” with Professor James Thurber and distinguished alumni in the Abramson Family Recital Hall, Katzen Arts Center

• 5:00 p.m. —Cocktail supper in the Rotunda, Katzen Arts Center. Free of charge for faculty,staff, and students; $20 for alumni and guests. For reservations, call 202-885-5921.

• 8:00 p.m. —Game Night, with board games, video games, and free snacks, Mary Graydon Center, second floor

Sunday, January 18

• 3:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. —NFC and AFC football championships, shown on the Tavern big screen

• 10:30 p.m. —W. the movie, shown on the Tavern big screen

Monday, January 19

• 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. —Bender Arena will be closed for a private event held by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. The Sports Center garage and Nebraska parking lot will be affected.

• 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. —MLK Service Project and Reflection, as volunteers from the AU community work with local youth to provide support services for senior citizens in low income communities in D.C. For information, contact the Community Service Center, or

• 9:00 p.m. —The American President, film shown on the Tavern big screen, sponsored by the Residence Hall Association

Tuesday, January 20

• 10:00 a.m. through the Inaugural Parade—Inauguration events, shown on the Tavern big screen

The Jacobs Fitness Center will be open on Saturday and Sunday but closed on Monday and Tuesday.

The library will be closed on Monday and Tuesday but open on the other days. Check the various Web sites for specific schedules and up-to-date information.


Helpful Hints for Inauguration Participation

This is an historic occasion and should be memorable for anyone who wants to go into the city to participate. If you do, a few tips might be helpful:

Public transportation—will be crowded; purchase fare cards in advance; identify alternative routes and modes of travel, including walking. Know your routes.

Be patient and prepared to wait—the number of visitors will be high, and finding places to eat, use a restroom, hail a taxi, and get immediate help in an urgent situation may be challenging.

Dress appropriately—for winter weather, standing for long periods, or walking long distances. Wear comfortable shoes.

Carry important information—including a photo ID and phone numbers for campus services including your residence hall front desk and Public Safety (202-885-2527).

If walking—go in groups and advise others of your plans.

Use text messaging—and landlines for communication when possible.

Carry water, snacks, cash and essential medications—if going downtown.

Know in advance—certain items (such as umbrellas) may be prohibited at the inauguration ceremony. A list of prohibited items is posted on various inauguration Web sites.

Check the inauguration Web sites—for information and updates.

The following links may be helpful.

Public Links for Inauguration Information

1) Washington Post Bridge and Perimeter Road Closures Map

2) Washington Post Downtown Road Closure and Parade Route Map

3) Washington Post Inauguration Central

4) District of Columbia Government Inauguration Central

5) DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA)

6) United States Secret Service (USSS) Presidential Inauguration Web site

7) United States Secret Service (USSS) Road Closure Map


However you plan to mark the occasion and participate in the events spanning the four days—have fun, but be responsible and make adequate preparations.

Also please check your e-mail midday on Friday for another communication from me. I will be sending important information that deals with next Wednesday’s (January 21) town hall meeting chaired by Provost Scott Bass and Vice President of Finance Don Myers, devoted to alignment of our next two-year budget with the goals of the strategic plan.


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