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Articles: Security

The look of instructional technology is changing rapidly, as are the roles and strategies of the IT professional. Higher education technology’s legacy was characterized by six key areas: a strong sense of faculty ownership; hidden costs of free systems and networks; content and delivery mechanisms that were not well-differentiated; unstructured innovation; systems that would neither scale nor integrate; and service levels that were little more than “We’ll give it our best”--all with security being a mere afterthought.

The tornadoes that ripped across the South in April devastated everything in their paths. Some institutions had to close their doors before semester’s end.

Some of the scariest risks on campus remain hidden until the moment that students, teachers, and staff experience them. Until the shooter kills, the funding disappears, or the opposing party files the lawsuit, everything seems fine. Then, the overwhelming grief takes hold or the power to educate diminishes due to lack of resources. That's why, as campus leaders know, action must be taken before the risk occurs.

The federal Dream Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for immigrants who obtained a college degree or had two years of military service, did not include provisions for in-state tuition, but it is still a flash point in the discussion. State legislatures in Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Colorado, and Georgia, among others, have been debating laws allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition.

When most people think of video surveillance, they think of a Big Brother scenario, where their every move is being monitored. And after a campus tragedy, such as the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, pundits debate whether video surveillance might have prevented the tragedy. But at colleges and universities, these electronic eyes do much more.

We spoke to three security experts to discuss how video surveillance technology has changed to make surveillance far more intelligent and effective. Our panelists are:

The campus network is home to thousands of student residents while at the same time hosting key administrative servers containing private personal information. Yet in most universities the network administrators are expected to maintain an "open network environment" that allows free access in and out of the campus.

Digital signage has existed on campuses in some form for decades. Originally, it was standard television sets embedded in the wall with a slow crawl of text showing campus news. Now, high-quality flatscreens display live TV, text, and information tickers all at the same time.

Very few--if any--components of campus life are as important to the institution as emergency planning. A college's reputation and, more importantly, the public safety and security of its campus community are at stake.

Four feet of snow in a week might be awesome if you run a ski resort, but it causes havoc if you run a college or university campus. That is just the quandary campus leaders in the mid-Atlantic were dealing with in December 2009.

"We couldn't open campus," says Joy Hughes, CIO and vice president for information technology at George Mason University (Va.). "You couldn't drive around."

When developing and refining a business continuity plan, "you have to look beyond voice and data," urges Bryan Mehaffey, vice president of technology at Ave Maria University (Fla.). "You have to think about facilities and life safety." Campus buildings and the equipment they contain are worth millions of dollars and shouldn't be forgotten once students, faculty, and staff are safe.

Campus security

When Paul Ominsky is asked what the future might hold for campus security, law enforcement accreditation comes to his mind first. With a 35-year span in this field, Ominsky can easily cite benefits of being accredited, such as that it raises a department's external credibility, helps clarify procedures, and enhances working relationships with state and municipal peers.

  1. Curb assessors' travel costs. Wake Forest University (N.C.) lent their assessors a university vehicle, organized work-related meals, and housed them at one of the institution's hotels. "Get creative," advises Police Chief Regina Lawson. "I'm sure if you have an empty residence hall, they are not above staying [there] or in a guest apartment."

Here is a glance at what a campus law enforcement agency pursuing accreditation through a national organization can expect. The publications Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies, 5th Edition, and CALEA Process and Programs Guide, provide more details.

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