Canvassing the Campus: An Update on How Universities Are Addressing Risks That Range from Terrorism and Bias Crime to Identity Theft

Article excerpt

In life, sometimes the student is the teacher. On campus, sometimes the students are the arbiters of acceptable security. In other words, a security program must be acceptable to and supported by students, as well as faculty and staff, if it is to succeed.

Two examples show how student involvement can thwart or help security. In one case, when the security department at a university installed a high-tech access control system at a residence hall, students chose to avoid the technology. They colluded with friends to find creative ways to bypass the system and render the entry control procedure ineffective. The security situation became worse instead of better. Eventually, the old procedure--a guard at the door to check IDs--had to be reinstituted. In this case, security acquiesced and students began cooperating again.

In another case, security involved the student body and other leadership at an exclusive university early in the process. The student leadership had the opportunity to hold hearings and committee meetings to discuss a proposed CCTV system. Security took the time to explain what the system would be used for and how the privacy rights of students and others could be protected. In the end, security agreed to follow a set of guidelines established by the committee, and the CCTV system was installed without further objections.

The need to accommodate student sensibilities is just one of the special issues that university and college security programs must address. Security professionals must also take into account such factors as the history of the university and the political climate on campus when crafting their policies. Following is a look at some of the major issues facing campus security departments today along with the solutions being implemented to address them.

Access control. Most institutions of higher learning have made an effort to adjust security since 9-11, with one emphasis being on better access control policies. Administrators understand that restricting entry to buildings, especially residence halls, creates a higher level of security. Consequently, some institutions now restrict entry to the campus itself or require more identification, such as photo IDs, before students can enter buildings. Other campuses have implemented searches, such as vehicle inspections, to ensure that no dangerous items are brought onto school grounds.

Vigilance. In some cases, policies haven't been changed but enforcement has become more rigorous. Security monitors at building entrances are being retrained on the need for strict adherence to all the existing policies. They are also reminded of the need for a greater awareness and screening of outsiders, such as vendors and contractors who work inside and around various campus buildings.

Community support. In addition, security on many campuses now tries to increase security awareness and support among the campus community by asking everyone to call immediately about anything suspicious or unusual, for example. In addition to instructions presented during student and employee orientations, many institutions send out e-mail, voice mail, and campus mail reminders instructing the community to call immediately to report anything out of the ordinary.

This policy tends to result in increased calls, which also means that security will face a greater number of false alarms. But the policy is also likely to yield some useful tips as well. The author has seen it result in the apprehension of trespassers.

At one university, faculty and staff called security frequently to report that there was someone suspicious in the building. While many instances involved students who had forgotten their IDs, security did apprehend several people who had no reason to be on campus at all thanks to the calls from the public. The campus reached a higher level of security through community participation.

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