In a study conducted among more than 980 American four-year and two-year colleges and universities, including institutions such as the University of Michigan, MIT, UCLA and Columbia, security staff and other administrators identified the five leading goals for their security systems:

1. Preventing unauthorized people from entering their facilities.

2. Maximizing the likelihood that students can comply with the intended access design.

3. Providing real-time notification when problems occur.

4. Minimizing the time it takes to lock down the campus.

5. Finding building occupants quickly in an emergency.

However, students do not correlate schools’ No. 1 concern, ensuring only authorized entry, with a direct threat to their safety. Violence, threats from non-students, and stalking, among others, are the top five items from which they believe the school should be protecting them:

1. Gun and knife violence/murder/shootings.

2. Rape/sexual harassment/stalking.

3. Muggings/theft/identity theft.

4. Protection from non-students/homeless people/outsiders.

5. Crimes committed by fellow students (e.g., fights, hate crimes, bullying, hazing and discrimination).

Indeed, more than 50 percent of all students mentioned numbers 1 to 3 above.

Yet, to make matters worse, when responses were tallied among different departments among the colleges—housing/residential life, facilities management, IT and one-card departments—with the exception of unauthorized entry, there was very little unanimity about the main tasks of their access-control systems (see sidebar).

Different objectives

This divergence can be explained by how different departments view their objectives. Facilities and public safety, the key stakeholders in 57 percent of colleges, are more traditional in their approach; IT, one-card and housing departments are more customer/student-oriented. The focus is evolving from the former to the latter.

When the IT, one-card or housing departments are the key stakeholders, the solutions are more innovative. For instance, the one-card department considers convenience, customer service, improving customer experiences and including the students’ perceptions in the access-control decision as primary concerns. IT’s major focus is measuring the return on investment to the higher-education institution to improve options for upgrading.

Today, facilities and public safety are the primary stakeholders when determined by department on 57 percent of campuses. Following them are IT (17 percent), one-card (10 percent), housing (10 percent) and other (6 percent). In general, the focus on access control on campus is evolving from the traditional security/product-oriented focus of the facilities and public-safety departments to the broader definition of the IT, one-card and housing departments.

For example, when stakeholders are determined by their roles on campus, facilities and public safety drop to 36 percent, while IT grew to 28 percent, one-card to 16 percent, housing to 13 percent and other stayed at 6 percent.

A key finding is that differing mentalities typically do not occur on the same campus as colleges tend to be solely one or the other in their focus.