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Residence hall security 101.

Residence Hall Security 101

Officials at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) in Indiana, PA, were hailed as leaders in 1972 when they elected to install a new, state-of-the-art electronic card access system in each of the university's 13 on-campus residence halls. It was an advanced system for the time, with cards that could not be duplicated the way an ordinary key could. It was, as they say, very high tech.

The university has remained one of the most up-to-date in the country in its efforts to provide a safe environment for students, faculty, and staff. By the late 1980s, however, it became apparent that the old card access system was no longer adequate. New technologies were becoming available almost daily, resulting in systems that made earlier vintages look like antiques.

At the same time, a rise in violence on campuses throughout the United States - specifically the brutal 1986 rape and murder of a coed at Lehigh University in eastern Pennsylvania - raised IUP officials' concerns about the adequacy of existing safety measures. These concerns, coupled with increased difficulty in obtaining parts to maintain the old system, spurred administrators to take a long, hard look at the situation.

The director of the Office of Housing and Residence Life conducted a thorough investigation of the security options available and contacted other campuses to inquire about their systems. The detailed research drew in part on lengthy conversations with personnel from several campus police departments and other offices of residence life, as well as visits to other campuses to examine their systems firsthand.

Once all the information was compiled, a meeting was held to explain the university's needs to manufacturers of campus security systems. Of the nine representatives who attended, six ultimately submitted formal proposals.

Guidelines for the proposals were strict. To be considered, each manufacturer had to address, in detail, every topic delineated on the request for proposal, including card reader technology, software, and installation as well as service and maintenance agreements.

The type of card technology to be chosen was one of the most important factors. The old system used a magnetic stripe insertion card, and the university examined Wiegand and proximity card technologies as well. The director of campus physical planning also wanted the new system to incorporate as much of the existing electrical door hardware as possible. Wiegand cards were chosen for flexibility and durability; the cards' construclay operation on the boards. To remedy the problem, an elaborate grounding network was installed and electronic suppression devices were placed on every input and output of each of the two operating panels.

The library's new security system is fully operational and the access control portion of the system got a dry run during the 1990 spring semester.

University officials are confident that the steps they have taken to prevent tragedy have been thorough and that the security system now in operation is top-of-the-line. In a short time, all of the remaining residence halls will be completed. The real test will come in the fall when the campus is back in full swing.

Southern Methodist University's 18 on-campus residence halls house approximately 2,600 students, about one third of the full-time student body. Out-of-town freshmen are required to live on campus. The halls are secured at midnight and remain locked until 7:00 am. An easy means of gaining access to the halls was important because of social activities and the late hours library and computer facilities are open.

When SMU, located in Dallas, began examining methods of key control in campus housing several years ago, the scope of the project did not include card access; the housing department researched card access and felt the cost was astronomical.

Consequently, a key control program was developed in 1987. Students living on campus were assigned two keys, one for the lock to their assigned room and another for the exterior doors to their residence hall. All locks in a hall were changed when a key was lost, and all locks were converted to a restricted key system to prevent duplication.

The recent push for safety and security in campus housing, coupled with the combination of affordable electronics and market competition, prompted housing officials to reconsider a card access system in 1988. The expense and logistics involved in cutting and distributing front door keys every time a key was lost was another reason to consider a change. The goal was to find a system that would provide better security and more efficient operation, with the hope of later expansion.

The new card access system was adopted as the primary means of entering the exterior doors of the student residence halls in the fall of 1988. The doors were also equipped with a key-operated mechanical locking device.

SMU's card access system has proven to be a good investment and a sound solution to enhancing the safety and security of students.

Several questions about operation arose during the initial brainstorming sessions to determine if a card system was needed. University officials agreed a card access system would only be acceptable if it met three needs: It must restrict access to authorized users, allow operators to remove unauthorized cards from the system quickly and easily, and be dependable. The system installed at SMU exceeds these requirements.

Another question that had to be addressed was how students would gain entrance if they forgot their cards, and how visitors would be admitted. Installing a telephone outside the dorm next to the card reader solved both problems. Residents can call a roommate or resident assistant from the phone, call the department of public safety (campus police) if a question of safety arises, or use the phone to report that the system is malfunctioning.

The telephone is also used by visitors, who are only allowed entry by a resident student, who is responsible for escorting the visitor to and from the rooms. Residents are encouraged to report any unknown people in the hallways.

The students are issued an identification card when they enter SMU and keep the same card for their entire stay at the university. The card is only changed if it is lost or stolen, in which case a new one is issued and the missing card is rendered inoperable.

The housing office assigns each student to a residence hall, and the student can only use the card to enter the residence hall to which he or she is assigned. If the dorm assignment is changed, the information is manually updated.

All data entry is handled by the cashier's office, which is also responsible for all repairs and replacements necessary to keep the system functional. A brief training session given to campus police officers and the student management of the residence halls helps them know how to reset the system and recognize problems and when to call for help. If maintenance is needed, designated members of the cashier's office respond, no matter what the hour.

The installation of any card access system requires a monetary commitment from the campus administration, and the promoter of such a system must be prepared to justify its need. At SMU a magnetic stripe identification card was already in use for library privileges, debit card functions at the campus convenience store and bookstore, and at the various cafeterias for meals. This card was carried by every full-time student and faculty and staff member of the campus community.

In SMU's case, being able to use the existing card with no conversion expense went a long way in selling the change to the administration. The card-reading equipment was installed by the campus physical plant, further reducing the cost. Software modifications had already been planned to update the existing system, so the software changes necessary for the conversion could be included economically. These were all important factors in convincing the school administration of the need for a card access system.

The card system has many advantages over the old key system. It enhances hall security because a lost card can be removed from the system immediately and a new card issued. Changing the locks and issuing new keys extended the period of vulnerability because of the time involved. The card system also does not inconvenience a student's roommate or others when a loss occurs, and it allows the operator to track when a door is propped open, when an unauthorized card is being used, or when someone is tampering with the card reader.

One factor that lowered the cost of the total installation and allowed the system to comply with local and almost universal fire codes was that none of the locks or doors were replaced or removed to install the system. Fire code requirements mandated the locks be mechanical, not electric, with one operation allowing exit from the building.

The system was put in place by converting the strikes (the holding portion of the locking system) to electric operation, meaning the locks operated as usual. The card reader moves a small flange in the strike, which normally secures the bolt, into a release position for 30 seconds.

University officials were informed by the fire marshal that if the locks did not meet fire standards, the university would have to change all the locks back to the original type, an interesting suggestion since none of the locks had been changed. The fire marshall was asked to visit the campus and observe how the system operated.

After review, the fire marshall approved the system. Moreover, when another card access system was proposed for use in a campus museum, he told the installers, "Go look at the system in the dorms and do it the same way."

While the new system meets all of SMU's requirements, it is not without problems. Most card access system manufacturers have more security features included in the basic operating system than the one chosen by SMU. The company - basically a meal debit card company - was willing to modify its system to allow for access use, but the features routine in most access card systems had to be added over time.

Another issue that had to be faced was having to give primary control of the system's supervision to the cashier's office and not the department of public safety. This concession was made because the cashier's office had a data base already established, as well as the computer hardware necessary to operate the system. Its software tracked all members of the campus community by social security number. Establishing and maintaining a second data base was not feasible for SMU because of the cost and labor involved.

Another problem was (and continues to be) the time necessary to process ID cards. After a roll of film with ID photographs has been exposed, it is mailed to the contract company, which processes, encodes, and returns the finished card in approximately four weeks. In the meantime a temporary card - without a picture - must be produced, encoded, and given to the student so the system can be used in the interim. This means double work and a long delay, and if there is a problem with the card, the process must be repeated. Many current systems allow for the immediate presentation of the ID card with either a bar code or a magnetic stripe as the reading system.

Access control is an important factor in campus safety and security. A good system will incorporate card access with key control to reduce liability and vulnerability as well as provide improved security for students and fewer operational problems for the school.

About the Authors . . . Charles Townsend is director of sales and marketing for Northern Computers, Milwaukee, WI. E. Floyd Phelps, CPP, is access control manager for Southern Methodist University, Dallas. He is chairman of the North Texas chapter of Asis.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:security systems at Indiana University of Pennsylvania & Southern Methodist University
Author:Townsend, Charles; Phelps, E. Floyd
Publication:Security Management
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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