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Plan For Obama Speech Stirs Commencement Controversy At Rutgers

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- President Barack Obama is the prime graduation get for Rutgers University, but having him speak there has caused a commencement controversy as unlimited tickets have become highly restricted.

As CBS2's Dave Carlin reported, each member of the Rutgers University class of 2016 gets one ticket for themselves to see President Obama deliver their commencement address, and only three other tickets for guests.

For soon-to-be graduate Jake Torsiello that leaves out one member of his immediate family.

"We want our families to be there and celebrate with us rather than it just be about the president," he said.

Jake's family lives in Roxbury Township. His sisters Rebecca and Leah don't want to miss out on the high profile, meaningful event.

So his father made a painful decision.

"If it came down to it, I would have to stay home," Danny Torsiello said, "I'd rather have my two girls happy."

The president's appearance is helping the university celebrate its 250th anniversary.

Registration for the bar-coded tickets isn't open yet, but the high level of interest forced abandon the practice of giving unlimited tickets.

"While the limit to three guests at the stadium is a change from past practice, it ensures that every graduating student is accommodated," the school said.

The university said additional friends and family are being accommodated with screens at a student center and other on-campus locations where people can watch the president and commencement.

"It's not the same watching it on the screen than being there," Jake's mother Francine said.

"I expect my family should be able to come. They should have priority," Jake added.

Other students said the honor of having a sitting president speak makes up for the ticket tensions.

"I think you should be grateful that the president is coming. It's unfortunate that some many people can't attend, but it is the president so it has to be stricter," Marisa Tamimi said.

Those who are attending have been told to come to the stadium early on May 15, to get through the heightened security procedures for the 12:30 p.m. commencement.


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