Would-be graduates ushered from Florida Atlantic University’s campus Tuesday before they could collect their diplomas will have a shot at a do-over this week and next.
University officials canceled the graduation ceremony after a “targeted” and “credible” threat scribbled on a Post-it note triggered an evacuation and police search.
University police continue to investigate the threat but won’t say what was written on the sticky note.
Chief Sean Brammer did say, however, the threat was “credible” enough to march 462 students and their guests out of the auditorium and student union before the ceremony.
Those students can still walk the stage during one of the handful of upcoming commencements the university has planned. FAU is also giving the students free tickets to a football game and “special recognition,” the university said in a statement Wednesday.”
Many graduates The Palm Beach Post spoke with Tuesday invited family from out-of-state — even out-of-country — to the ceremony.
“It was very disappointing,” said Ricardo Arias, whose family traveled from Cuba to attend the big day at a university he’s invested two years studying French language and culture. He waited for them near the packed parking garage, unsure how they’d spend the rest of the evening or if his family would catch a glimpse of him on stage before leaving the following Tuesday.
“It’s a shame, especially if this is just some prank,” Arias said.
Students who missed out on the chance to walk during the ceremony are offered the following options:
- Out-of-state and international students will be invited to a special commencement ceremony this week, with the time and location to be announced.
- All other students are invited to a rescheduled commencement event next week. The location and time will be determined based on the number of people who plan to attend.
- Any students who can’t make the rescheduled ceremonies will be invited to take part in the fall 2018 commencement ceremony this December, the university said.
Any student affected by the incident Tuesday is also invited to the Sept. 8 football game against Air Force, the university’s first home game, for “a special recognition,” the university said in a statement.
A university employee discovered the note around 4 p.m. on a women’s restroom mirror at FAU’s College of Business building, Brammer said.
FAU police and FAU President John Kelly within minutes made the decision to cancel the evening ceremony, they said.
Police ordered students and guests out of the Carole and Barry Kaye Auditorium, where they filed into cars and off campus one-by-one. Police directed traffic to ease congestion, but it took some guests more than an hour to leave campus.
The situation was cleared around 7:30 p.m.
Two graduation ceremonies were held earlier in the day, one at 9 a.m. and another at 1 p.m, though neither were targeted by this threat, police said.
The auditorium where the ceremonies took place can hold about 2,200 people at full capacity. It isn’t clear how many people were inside when the situation ensued.