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Articles: Security

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.

  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.

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.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR, President Obama called for a 60-day review of national policies and structures related to cybersecurity. The denial-of-service attacks launched against some government and commercial websites here and in South Korea over the July 4 weekend probably proved the necessity of such a step to any remaining doubters.

THE DANGERS PEOPLE MIGHT encounter on a college campus are the same as those on a city street. Since there is no way to know when a security incident might occur (unless, say, someone calls in a bomb threat), campus leaders are relying on proper training to enable their security personnel to predict such incidents and respond appropriately.

While security personnel at community colleges deal with the same challenges faced by their counterparts at four-year institutions, there are some twists presented by the more fluid nature of the population at two-year institutions.

With more than 50 percent of all identity-related security breaches occurring on college campuses(1) and high profile cases making headlines nationwide, security and identity management are top concerns for higher education institutions. Breaches carry grim consequences—including potential loss of thousands or even millions of dollars, not to mention negative publicity, which can result in lost funding or decreased enrollment.

Educational institutions have very special requirements when it comes to security. They must maintain a difficult balancing act between open communications and secure networks while meeting the diverse needs of students, faculty, staff and alumni and their host of autonomous desktops, laptops, and handheld devices, all with limited IT personnel and budgets. To make matters worse, the movement toward Web 2.0 has driven more people and applications to the web where hackers lie in wait to take advantage of new vulnerabilities gained through the largely unprotected port 80.

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