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Managing the Details

For Peg Pitzer, director of events management at Smith, the Dalai Lama’s visit presents many logistical challenges. She has on her desk a small printed photo of the Dalai Lama; stuck next to his image is a stack of yellow sticky notes counting down the days until May 9. Pitzer is in daily e-mail contact with the Office of Tibet in New York, and a representative from that office will make multiple trips to Northampton to meet with the steering committee before the event. U.S. State Department officials will participate in these visits as the event date approaches.

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Although the Dalai Lama visited Smith in 1984, he was then not yet a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. His visit prompted some fanfare but little of the extensive security that this spring’s event requires. Pitzer says the Secret Service has been on campus before for high-profile speakers such as Barbara Bush and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. College presidential inaugurations also require extensive planning. But Pitzer lists aspects of the Dalai Lama’s visit that distinguish it from others: 5,000 secure tickets, for example, and the fact that no cameras, cell phones or other electronics will be allowed at the event.

Pitzer has sought advice from organizers at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, where the Dalai Lama spoke in November 2005. They told her to expect people to camp out in the street hours before the event just to see the motorcade pass by.

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