UNCC Makes Security Changes Ahead of Graduation Ceremony

CHARLOTTE, NC -Security changes will be made to graduation ceremonies at UNC Charlotte, school faculty announced on Wednesday.

There will be heavy hearts and grief hanging over what is typically an uplifting time for graduating students at UNC Charlotte.

“We will convey degrees in memoriam to the two lost students. and that will be part of our ceremony,” said Chancellor Philip Dubois.

He says he wants to honor Riley Howell and Reed Parlier, who lost their lives, and the four students who survived the shooting inside the Kennedy Building. All the while, Dubois says he wants to appropriately celebrate the graduates.

Shooting survivor Emily Houpt will graduate on Saturday.

“I think we’re going to have her come across the stage first. She may not be able to stay for the entire ceremony so we want to make sure she’s properly honored,” said Dubois.

People planning to attend graduation can also expect added safety measures.

“We already had a security plan, we enhanced that security plan and we’re going to move forward,” said Jeff Baker, the UNCC Police Chief.

One major change to the ceremonies this year is that each of the 5000 students and their families and friends will have to go through metal detectors before going inside Halton Arena.

“I feel a little uneasy, but I think everything will be okay,” said Senior Casey Pugh.

She and her family were taking graduation pictures on campus when WCCB spoke to her about the upcoming commencement.

“I definitely think it’s going to be different,” said Pugh, “everybody is going to be there to remember them, but also for the graduates.”

As students and staff prepare for graduation, a newly formed remembrance commission grapples with how to memorialize the tragedy and the lives lost.

“I understand the desire that people have to do something, but it may not fit,” explained Dubois.

He says he has heard everything from naming the rec center after Howell and Parlier to building a memorial garden.

“Above all else, we’re going to talk to the families and make sure whatever we do properly honor them,” said Dubois.

Right now, access to the Kennedy building is limited to a few faculty. No summer semester classes will be held in the building and no decision has been made about its long term future.

On Wednesday, the head of the Charlotte Counseling Center also revealed that 400 students and 350 faculty members have reached out for help since the deadly shooting.

David Spano, who oversees the counseling center says many students are experiencing anxiety, sleep, and fear issues.

“For many, I think they just wanted to talk about what they saw, what they experienced, what they were feeling as a way to begin to move past it,” said Spano.

UNCC posted an updated graduation schedule for the coming weekend.