Officials at the University of Northern Iowa have just over a week to prepare for a visit from the Dalai Lama. A planning committee has been hard at work since September 2008 when the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet accepted U.N.I’s invitation to Cedar Falls.
U.N.I. Director of Public Safety Dave Zarifis says the number of law enforcement officers needed to handle the event is four times that of a Presidential visit. “We plan on utilizing members from various law enforcement agencies with our staff, plus the state public safety department staff,” Zarifis said. “But, ultimately we’ll do it in a manner that’s not too intrusive and still provides for a pleasurable event for those who are attending.”
The 74-year-old Dalai Lama’s visit is set for Tuesday, May 18. He’ll take part in a panel discussion on “Educating for a Nonviolent World” in the morning and deliver a keynote address titled “The Power of Education” in the afternoon. Both events will take place inside U.N.I.’s McLeod Center.
Zarifis says he wants attendees to enjoy the experience, but also wants them to know security will be extremely tight. “There are certain things that will be and won’t be allowed inside the venues for the safety of the crowd and His Holiness,” Zarifis said. “I wouldn’t bring a lot of stuff that may set a detector off because it’ll slow the access into the facility.”
The keynote address is sold out, while a few hundred tickets remain for the panel discussion. The Dalai Lama has millions of followers, but Zarifis’ department is also preparing for protesters. A protest area will be set across the street from the McLeod Center. “If we do have people in that area, we’ll have a representative from our department who will meet with them and just guide them through what our perimeters are,” Zarifis said. “We’ll allow them to do what our constitution allows them to do, but in a manner that is safe for not only themselves, but for others in attendance.”