Safety & Security (Prepare and Be Aware)

Access Control Final Exam

access control on campus


Shots rang out at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) on Wednesday, June 1, killing William S. Klug, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. The shooting occurred in an office in the engineering building. Officials put the campus on lockdown as police officers searched the campus for the shooter (who, it was discovered, had committed suicide in Klug’s office).

Forty thousand students attend UCLA, and locking down the huge center-city campus is no easy task. News reports said that some doors had no locks and opened outwardly. Students piled barricades in front of those doors. Students secured other doors that did not have locks with belts and cords.

After the incident, Scott Waugh, UCLA’s executive vice chancellor and provost, said that the campus emergency notification went well but that the university would undertake a review of campus doors and locking capabilities to make sure that all doors could from now on be locked efficiently with actual locking mechanisms.

What must officials consider when evaluating access control on a college or university campus? What are the issues and the priorities?

First comes the issue of deciding who can go where and when. When may faculty, students and administrators get into this building? What about that building? Will you control access to all kinds of buildings — classroom buildings, residence halls, libraries and so on — or just certain buildings?

Next, school officials must figure out how to manage visitors. Given that most campuses are open to the public, security must consider patrols to ensure that visitors roaming the grounds are only just roaming.

Then, too, there is an issue about admitting visitors to campus buildings. Some buildings — the library, perhaps — may remain open to the public during certain hours, depending on the security profile of the campus.

In the case of locked buildings, officials must set policies that control how security will manage visitors as they come and go.

access control on a university campus


PARTNERS IN SAFETY. Urban institutions, such as Columbus State Community College in downtown Columbus, OH, are having success in increasing campus safety by partnering with their surrounding communities. These town-gown relationships not only improve safety but also increase development in the area.

Security Around Columbus State Community College

Like most colleges and universities, Columbus State Community College (CSCC) maintains an open campus in downtown Columbus, OH. Unlike many urban schools, the CSCC campus neighborhood is considered one of the safest in Columbus.

“The security profile of the neighborhood is enhanced by the college’s 10-year collaboration with the Discovery Special Improvement District (SID),” says John Nestor, Ph.D., director of asset management (and former director of public safety) at CSCC, a non-residential state community college with its largest campus located in downtown Columbus. “In the SID, property owners voluntarily pay an additional property tax in exchange for additional police security patrols and social intervention services.

“Furthermore, the college has committed to assuming a neighborhood leadership role in urban renewal partnership with the City of Columbus.”

The urban renewal partnership between CSCC and Columbus appears to be working. Nestor notes that it has spawned retail and residential development in the area.

Who Can Go Where on Campus?

CSCC, then, is a relatively safe campus at the start. Nevertheless, school officials have developed a comprehensive access control program to ensure an even greater degree of safety.

Here’s how Columbus State Community College summarizes its policies regarding access control: “Priority for further card access control at our school was based on areas of high value due to equipment content, hazardous lab materials, protected records or high levels of public interactions,” says Nestor.

Nestor also notes that the college’s own 24-hour-per-day campus police department contributes to the overall access control program. The department’s facility houses state-of-the-art integrated communication, security and fire monitoring systems supported by the institution’s expert IT department.

CSCC’s access control program covers a list of needs that required a significant investment by the college. The administration bought and installed security system upgrades that enabled the integration of the various security technologies used on campus, says Nestor. The upgrades included expanded card access control, public space cameras and central and redundant realtime monitoring of fire and security systems.

In addition, real-time monitoring technology keeps an eye on the fire and security systems, including the emergency message and public address systems, a crime tip text line and a technology-based virtual security escort smartphone app.

According to Nestor, the goal is to provide lines of communication with students and employees that are so open and so quick to communicate that CSCC can deliver support before anyone feels the need to send an emergency text.

protecting campus from threats


IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. Successful access control programs encourage students and staff to be continuously aware, and report any suspicious or out-of-place persons or activities. Smartphone apps; anonymous, text-enabled tip lines; and public-space cameras improve an institution’s ability to protect its population by involving them in monitoring their surroundings.

Day-To-Day and Overall Program Management

“We don’t grant access freely,” says Nestor. “Access is granted on an as-needed basis as determined by department administrators and their program work. The administrators then request that the facilities management security system coordinators program the permissions to access cards. In this way, personnel access is managed and revised day-to-day.”

Nestor describes the overall campus security program as successful thanks to its multilayer and integrated approach to security systems, community policing and behavior assessment teams.

How can a campus security department create a multilayered and integrated approach to security systems? “It requires systemic and laborious thinking,” he says. “Take the time up front to identify potential linkages. Otherwise, you may end up with the right solution but not the best solution. Enhancing and integrating security access requires private and public sector managers to have one foot in the present and another in the future.

“They must focus on prevention and provide helpful security services to students and employees — and also be ready to respond to a critical incident.

“It’s a daunting task, I know. But as a parent of a college student, the college’s security footprint was one of the most important criteria we considered when sending my young adult to college.”

Indeed, studies suggest that the vast majority of parents take an interest in security when considering colleges and universities. In a recent survey of 985 parents of students considering college and attending college,, a website the researches issues that can help parents and students make learning decisions, found that 75 percent rated “safe environment” as highly important to their decisions. In fact, security ranked second in importance on a list of 19 factors considered highly important by the respondents.

safe campus


The Safest

In fact, CCSC recently received recognition as the safest campus in the nation from, a website that researches various college and university issues and develops rankings designed to help students and parents choose a school.

“But as all security professionals recognize, anything can happen anywhere, anytime,” Nestor says. “Colleges mirror the societies they serve. In that regard, campus police actively engage the campus in training and are adequately equipped to respond to critical incidents in partnership with other police and fire jurisdictions.”

Never Finished

What’s the next security step for Columbus State Community College? Nestor says the college creates a new security plan every five years and that planning is beginning for the next five years.

What security issues will characterize that period? “With the continued development of smartphones and apps, there is the potential for college ID cards to become obsolete and be replaced by apps, which can also be used for access,” Nestor says.

“However, we prefer to be on the cutting edge, not the bleeding edge, of technology,” he continues. “Cybersecurity of wireless access devices such as smartphone apps or proximity readers may be the future, but the risks of wireless codes being intercepted by hackers must be addressed first.”


Nestor also indicates that some colleges are exploring and deploying license plate recognition (LPR) as a security application.

“LPR will eventually render parking permit stickers obsolete, eliminating the overhead costs of sales and distribution of car stickers,” says Nestor.

When that happens, campus security will begin using license plate numbers, he continues. Parking control vehicles or campus police vehicles can carry license plate readers that will alert on vehicles whose owners have not registered or paid the campus parking system fee.

Finally, an LPR system can alert campus police to vehicles linked to crimes. Those vehicles, of course, may be on campus in support of some kind of criminal activity.

This article originally appeared in the College Planning & Management September 2016 issue of Spaces4Learning.