Finals Weekend Public Safety, Policies, & Security

To provide a safe environment for attendees, the University has implemented a clear bag policy and is utilizing metal detectors for graduates and guests attending Valedictory Exercises and the Final Exercises ceremonies.

Security enhancements include:

  • Metal detectors: Metal detectors will be used at the designated entrance points into the John Paul Jones Arena (Valedictory Exercises) and onto the Lawn (Final Exercises).

  • Clear Bag Policy: Attendees will only be able to carry the following style and size bag. Guests are strongly encouraged to utilize clear bags. For Final Exercises, Complimentary Bag Check locations are available in Monroe Hall (near the Garrett Hall Entrance) and in a tent near Randall Hall on the East Lawn. Space is limited. Bag check locations will close at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. All bags must be picked up by 2 p.m. Any bags not picked up at 2 p.m. will be taken to the University Police Department on Ivy Road.

    • A bag that is clear plastic, vinyl, or PVC and does not exceed 12”x6”x12”

    • A one-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar).

    • One small clutch bag, approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap can be taken to the event along with one clear plastic bag.

All other bags will not be permitted. A list of prohibited bags includes, but is not limited to: purses, backpacks, drawstring bags that are not clear, briefcases, coolers, fanny packs, luggage, computer bags, camera bags, binocular cases, and diaper bags.

Both graduates and guests attending Valedictory and/or Final Exercises are encouraged not to bring items that will delay lines to access into the JPJ arena or onto the Lawn.

Prohibited Items at Valedictory and Final Exercises:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Animals (except service animals)
  • Artificial noisemakers
  • Balls, frisbees, and similar items
  • Flasks and alcoholic beverages
  • Folding chairs or stools
  • Laser pointers
  • Sticks and poles (including sports equipment)
  • Tents*
  • Unmanned aircraft systems (including drones)
  • Weapons, fireworks, and explosives**

*Only tents (including pop-up tents) arranged by the University are allowed on Central Grounds during Finals Weekend.
**Final Exercises are “educational activities” at which these items are prohibited for members of the University community, general public, and visitors in accordance with University Policy and Regulation.

Balloons: Graduates are encouraged not to bring balloons to Final Exercises as a courtesy to all guests attending the ceremony. Although balloons are festive and celebratory, they can delay access into the assembly areas, impede the procession, and obstruct the view for many. If bringing a balloon to Final Exercises, please be mindful of others attending the ceremony as well as the environment. Please do not release balloons into the air (Effective July 1, 2021, it is illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia to intentionally release a balloon outdoors).

The Office for Sustainability will have volunteers on the lower Lawn collecting balloons from graduating students. The donated balloons will be taken to UVA Children's Hospital to help brighten the rooms of UVA's youngest patients. You can read more about this effort here.

Balloons are prohibited in the John Paul Jones Arena, all Intramural-Recreational Sports facilities, Newcomb Hall, and Old Cabell Hall.

Strollers: Umbrella strollers are encouraged due to the lack of space on the Lawn to accommodate large strollers. Once in the seating area on the Lawn, strollers should be folded and placed under the seat. Strollers are not allowed at the John Paul Jones Arena.

In addition to the list above, backpacks, large bags, and coolers are prohibited in John Paul Jones Arena for all Finals Weekend events. The arena is a smoke-free building (including e-cigarettes).

The University of Virginia reserves the right to prohibit any item deemed hazardous or disruptive to the ceremony or that interferes in the enjoyment of the event by others.

Water: Guests are allowed to bring  empty beverage containers (i.e. refillable water bottles) to utlilize the water filling stations available on the Lawn as well as unopened beverages to Final Exercises. No half-full (or half-empty) bottles. They must be EMPTY or factory SEALED when arriving. The Lawn Overview and Guest Entrance diagram depicts the locations of the water filling stations. Additionally, bottled water will also be available for purchase at concession stands located on Central Grounds and the Lawn. For graduating students, complimentary bottled water will be available in their assembly areas and in the graduate seating area on the South Lawn.

Security Checkpoints

Everyone attending Valedictory Exercises and both Final Exercises ceremonies including graduates, faculty, and guests will be subject to security screening before entering the Lawn or John Paul Jones Arena (severe-weather site). All bags must be in compliance with the University's clear bag policy and will be subject to search which may delay entry into the venue (Lawn or the Arena).

Everyone wearing an outer garment such as an academic robe or coat will be asked to open it for a visual inspection. To expedite entry into the assembly areas, graduates and faculty are encouraged to robe after passing through the security checkpoint. 

The hours of operation of the security checkpoints will be:

  • Friday: 1:30 p.m. until end of the Valedictory Exercises ceremony
  • Saturday and Sunday: 7:00 a.m. until end of the Final Exercises ceremony

To access the Lawn:

  • Guests must go through one of two security checkpoints:
    • West side – steps and walkway near Garrett Hall and the McIntire Amphitheatre
    • East side – between Rouss Hall and Pavilion X
  • Graduates enter through checkpoints located at the entrances of the designated assembly areas around the Rotunda. Assembly diagrams for Saturday and Sunday will be available in the Spring.
    • Note: Graduates do not need a ticket for Final Exercises. Their cap and gown serve as their ticket for access to the Lawn and John Paul Jones Arena (severe-weather site). Without a cap and gown, graduates will not be allowed entry to the Lawn or Arena.
  • Faculty can enter through the following designated checkpoints:
    • Saturday – North steps of the Rotunda (East or West side)
    • Sunday – North steps of the Rotunda (East or West side), Poe Alley, Rotunda Alley, or Green Alley
    • Note:  Faculty members do not need a ticket for Final Exercises. Their cap and gown serve as their ticket for access to the Lawn and John Paul Jones Arena (severe-weather site).  Faculty members who plan to participate in the academic procession and not wear a cap and gown should contact the Office of Major Events at 982-3099 or [email protected] to arrange for access to the Lawn (or JPJ).

Protests, Demonstrations and Other Expressive Activities

The University of Virginia respects and encourages free expressive activity by its students, faculty, and staff. At the same time, consistent with its educational mission, the University has established reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on such activities on University Grounds to assure that such activities are undertaken in ways that avoid disruption of University operations, and are consistent with its educational, employment, and safety responsibilities to its students, faculty, and staff. The University's policy on protests, demonstrations, and other expressive activities during Finals Weekend is available here.


Updated: May 3, 2023