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Articles: Security

Leslie M. Gomez is a partner in the White Collar Litigation and Investigations Practice Group of Pepper Hamilton LLP.

A senior administrator recently described the issues related to sexual misconduct as a dormant volcano that lies beneath main administration buildings on campuses across the country. This is a sentiment echoed by many administrators committed to successfully responding to issues of sexual violence and harassment, but sometimes uncertain how to get there. With prevalence rates high and reporting rates low, colleges face challenges in designing and implementing effective responses. But an integrated institutional plan can help.

Newer campus security systems capitalize on the ubiquity of mobile devices.

Police officers at the University of South Florida sprung into action one afternoon last February when a text message flashed on a computer screen at the campus 911 operations center, alerting the dispatcher that a student had a .25-caliber pistol in his dorm room.

On college campuses, students are often reluctant to report a crime, whether it’s being committed by a fellow classmate or a stranger.

One way to combat this problem is for universities to train bystanders on the need to do something when a potential crime or suspicious activity occurs, says Middle Tennessee State University Police Chief Buddy Peaster.

The lock and key is going the way of the VCR. An electronic access control system is more convenient, efficient, and secure. Access control has become an indispensable part of an overall campus security plan.

Flood insurance subsidies for colleges and universities located in federally-designated flood zones ended on Oct. 1

An ocean view may make campus tours scenic, but when it comes to flood insurance, coastal institutions will soon face a deluge of bills. Flood insurance subsidies for colleges and universities located in federally-designated flood zones ended on Oct. 1, when the Biggert Waters Act went into effect.

A child is abducted from a local middle school. The abductor flees to a local college campus, where he crashes into another car resulting in the death of two students. He runs into a wooded area with his hostage. A manhunt begins, an employee is shot, and additional people are taken hostage inside an academic building.

These events were all part of a well-scripted drill, not an actual tragedy. Nevertheless, anxiety ran high.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are a key part of safety systems.  Image courtesy of Siemens.

New York public and private colleges are now required to give every student written information about fire safety in residence halls and off-campus housing. Known as the Kerry Rose Fire Sprinkler Notification Act, it was named after one of three victims of the deadly fire that burned through a privately owned housing unit near the campus of Marist College in January 2012.

After the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, emergency response teams at Boston-area colleges had to act fast. Between reaching out to the community and accounting for students and faculty running or attending the race, institutions had much to contend with that day.

Managers from Boston College, Suffolk University, and the University of Massachusetts, Boston shared their experiences during a recent online forum aimed at helping administrators across the country learn about their actions in the wake of the tragedy.

As the rest of world gets on with their lives, those of us who call Massachusetts home are reminded daily of why the Bay State has always been Boston Strong. Speaking at a national interfaith service after the Marathon bombings, President Obama remarked, “We may be momentarily knocked off our feet. But we’ll pick ourselves up. We’ll keep going.

What will be the future NFC smartphone technology landscape on college and university campuses?

“The whole idea is that anything you can do today with a key or a card, tomorrow you will be able to do that with your phone,” points out Jeremy Earles, a product marketing manager at Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, which partnered with Villanova University (Pa.) on its advancing NFC smartphone installation.

If NFC smartphone dreams come true this year as hoped, for many schools it will simply be a matter of turning the technology up on their existing card readers. Indeed, the use of smartphones enabled by near field communication is happening on some campuses and is a near-term reality for others.

NFC is a technology currently in use with many campus card systems to enable access control and transactions to pay for food, laundry, and other services. The trouble with the cards is that they are easily lost or forgotten and just aren’t as handy.

Planning to implement a biometric system on campus? Phil Scarfo, a vice president at Lumidigm, a  New Mexico-based biometric company, recommends the following actions:

Iris Recongition

When it comes to access on college and university campuses, striking a balance has always posed a challenge. On the one hand is the need to limit access to those authorized to have it, whether that means students who have paid for dining services or faculty accessing labs or other facilities. On the other is the desire to make the process as efficient and user-friendly as possible. Old standards such as traditional door locks and plastic ID cards still serve their roles, but as with virtually every aspect of modern life, technology is bringing new opportunities.

Situations promoting campus alerts can be disruptive, but also informative. The University at Buffalo’s Joseph Brennan recalls an incident where a student reported seeing a man enter the campus library while carrying what appeared to be a rifle. Immediately upon hearing the report, officials issued an alert using the university’s system from Rave Mobile Safety. Recipients of the message were advised to stay away from the area, and the building was searched.

In an era when higher education leaders are more mindful than ever of potential threats to the safety of those living, learning, and working on campus, security planning has reached new levels of complexity. Few would argue that at least some security measures should be highly visible to the campus community. Just as in society at large (think of the police cruiser parked in the median of a busy highway), the right level of visibility can prevent campus crime or violence.