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Campus Security

Virginia Virginia Tech Campus Security 2007

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#1 Spectacles

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 07:49 AM

This issue has naturally been raised on the VT massacre thread. Those of us who are college students or professors are probably thinking about our own campus security.

In my case, I teach at an urban community college. We have rent-a-cops, most of whom are notoriously incompetent. None are armed, which is probably for the best.

The college seems to think "security" is mainly a matter of securing college property, which means these security guards are the lockers and unlockers of doors--and often they can't even get that right. Last year during finals, I went to my office to find the doors of all faculty offices on my floor standing open. One of the doors was to the office of a colleague who had died a couple of months earlier, so I surmised that Security had unlocked them for some strange reason and then just left them wide open. That suspicion was confirmed when I found my own office door open. I called Security to report the problem--and it was a problem. An hour passes, and I email the dean. I speak with Security again. Another hour passes and I go to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee and find a half-dozen security guards lounging and flirting, which seem to be their major occupations. Four hours after my initial call, the office doors were finally locked.

So, that's our security situation. I'm curious to know what sort of security is in place in other colleges and universities.

Edited by Spectacles, 17 April 2007 - 07:51 AM.

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#2 Nonny


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Posted 17 April 2007 - 09:17 AM

I just heard on NPR that campus security at mine is very good, due to the multiple shootings of many years ago.  

Oh really?  

Actually, students are targeted for such things as mental disability, brain injury, Vietnam veteran, and no matter how inoffensive and nonviolent the individual student may be, once stereotyped as dangerous, that's pretty much it.  Fear and ignorance rule the administration, but fortunately for most mentally disabled students, the campus police aren't as dumb as the folks in charge.  

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#3 Spectacles

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 09:50 AM

^ Ooooh. Not good.

My college errs in the opposite direction. It was founded in the early 70s, and the administration has long tended to take the approach that it would somehow damage the students' "self-esteem" to see armed guards on campus. At least that's the ridiculous reason I've heard over the years whenever I ask why the hell we have rent-a-cops instead of real security. And I suspect that since some of the squeakier wheels on staff are holdovers from the seventies, they genuinely (and foolishly) believe this. The real reason, of course, is money. The students, who are sufficiently streetwise, would not at all feel insulted to see competent, armed security professionals on campus.
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#4 Nikcara


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Posted 18 April 2007 - 03:14 AM

Yes and no for my alamater

If it was a student, yes.  Antioch only has about 600-700 students, and because of the co-op progam only half are on campus at any given time, so everybody knows everybody to some degree.  We recognize strangers on campus very quickly, and normally keep a bit of an eye on them.  Also, we take certain things very seriously - any type of stalking being among them, so I think my college would have responded to some of the warning signs before it developed into a tragedy.  Building wise, it would be just about impossible to really trap students - there are too many exists in the buildings (with the possible exeception of the theater) and all the doors have deadbolts.

However...someone from off campus I think would pose more of a threat.  While students are normally a little wary of strangers, we don't bother them either.  The fairly tight-knit community wouldn't have had the chance to react to warning signs, and our security guards don't even carry weapons.  In fact, when things go wrong, students normally call the police.  Then again, the police station is about 4 or 5 blocks away from campus, so maybe that's not such a big worry.
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#5 offworlder


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Posted 18 April 2007 - 06:48 AM

I wish I knew what mine are like now, but it's been many years, ;)
I went to a major U, founded in 1807 or something, with a daytime population including commuters of something like 50000; and I lived in a dorm on campus.
We had police, like the VT ones; I guess some facets of them were more like a security company, but they were called campus police, like the VT ones, and they seemed like a real police in a medium town. I remember they cruised in cars, I don't remember them having red or blue lights on top but maybe. And they had uniforms that looked like police as much as private security, I guess they looked like real cops; I think some had pistols and some didn't, like maybe the ones doing parking duty didn't but the ones doing police cruising did? or something? can't really remember that part. I just remember they put out notices, if a young female was leaving the library or a party or some get together at night, she could get a police escort to her car or dorm rather than walk alone at night and get attacked.
I have no idea how many officers we had but I do remember seeing them around, and feeling mostly safe on that campus.
PS- the president's mansion, and it was a mansion with estate grounds, was right across the way from my dorm, and I do remember very often seeing a cop car cruising the area in front of his driveway; so I guess he and his fam were pretty safe ;) (priorities)
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#6 Mr Dust

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Posted 18 April 2007 - 07:32 AM

nobody lives at my collage, but I go to two sites.

The first site you have to have the student card and you have to swipe it to go in and out, they have a guard standing there all the time.

The second site, anyone can just come and go as they please, but I think they are going to do something about it.
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#7 Chipper


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Posted 18 April 2007 - 09:27 AM

My college is pretty lax when it comes to heavy security.  It isn't gated for pedestrians except for right in front of the main entrance, which is the only place you have cops always standing by at all hours of the night, but it is open the entire time.  There are checkpoints for vehicle entrances but only two are manned.  
As for the dorms, you have both student guards during the day and hired security either during the day or the entire 24 hours.  You have to scan to get into dorm buildings but students have free access to any facility until 10 on weekdays and 12 on weekends.  The security guards sit and eat or do work the entire time, so they aren't too effective.

We are supposed to have working emergency phones but they have malfunctioned since they were installed.

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#8 Lyric of Delphi

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Posted 18 April 2007 - 10:13 AM

I think security on my campus is okay. We have campus police, and you need an ID to get into most of the buildings and often many rooms. This can get irritating sometimes, as my ID card refuses to work at the piano lab, so I'm left knocking until someone lets me in. You also need an ID and to be a resident of your dorm in order to open the door, and there's always a snotty desk worker in the dorm lobby to make sure no sketchy people get through. I feel safe when I'm in the main campus or around the dorm areas.

That said, we recently lost a freshman who had been keeping drugs in his room and had been expelled. He disappeared. I'm not sure if he's been found yet.

Plus, security can't be too great when students can manage to put large objects...like fire engines, police cars, and airplanes, to name a few...on top of one of the tallest buildings right in the middle of campus. Maybe I shouldn't feel safe.

Edited by Lyric, 18 April 2007 - 10:14 AM.

#9 SparkyCola

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Posted 18 April 2007 - 10:50 AM

At my uni there are security people about the place, but for main sites like The Information Commons and the various libraries you need your u-card to get in and out and there are signs which say "report anyone or thing looking suspicious". Same goes for the Student Union after hours but anyone can get in there during the day. In all lecture theatres there is one entrance/exit only and free access into the lecture buildings.

Our uni put one of the new self-catered accommodation right in the middle of the red light district, which wasn't so smart, and the girls there frequently get propositioned. They're hoping to develop the area, but I think it was a stupid and dangerous move.

The halls of residence have swipe cards to get to the rooms and you need your u-card in the evenings and night, and the rooms have their own keys. Of course, there's a no-girls-on-the-ground-floor policy throughout uni accommodation.

I think that sums it up. So the major student areas are protected, but lectures and most buildings have lax security.

Somehow you feel safe on campus, even though the difference between on and off campus is just - walking down some steps.

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#10 Captain Jack

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Posted 18 April 2007 - 06:09 PM

No matter how "secure" a place may be, one should never be naiive and think nothing will ever happen there.  History has shown that nothing is unsinkable, unthinkable, impossible, and impregnable.  There is nothing more dangerous that a determined individual bent on causing death and/or destruction.  All we can do is prepare the best we can, and try to keep things, people, and places as safe we can.  This isn't just the job for security or police.  It is also a responsibility for every person with a pulse.  You, me, everyone, to be aware of your environment and not be afraid of reporting any suspicious activities.
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#11 Balderdash

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Posted 18 April 2007 - 07:31 PM

Locks on class room doors would have been a big help in this situation.  Also, if Professors and students knew about the first shooting they could have opted to lock the doors (if they had locks) or they could have opted not to attend class that day.

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#12 Lin731

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Posted 18 April 2007 - 07:40 PM


Locks on class room doors would have been a big help in this situation. Also, if Professors and students knew about the first shooting they could have opted to lock the doors (if they had locks) or they could have opted not to attend class that day.

I've been wondering if the lack of locks on the doors have anything to do with fire codes?
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Posted 18 April 2007 - 08:04 PM

My campus has around 16,000 people between students and staff.  We have 39 full time armed professional officers who are trained to the same level as the State Troopers.  On top of that we have 31 Security Guards who are unarmed other than pepper spray IIRC.  To top it off the campus is adjacent to the New York State Trooper Academy.  You can look out from the podium on campus on any nice day and you'll usually see 20 or more Troopers or Trainees on the grounds.  Plus the Troopers have further offices and responsibility over the State Office Complex.  

So we have a fair amount of police presence on campus and around it.
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#14 tennyson

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Posted 18 April 2007 - 08:50 PM

West Virginia University has its own university police but I've never interacted with them in any capacity. They seem well equipped from thier vehicles and uniforms and WVU is within three blocks of the headquarters of the Morgantown city police while the State Troopers barracks is right next to the WVU Colesium on the Evansdale campus. (We have two campuses, a downtown and the Evandale Campus across town.) The university itself is home to 26,000 students.
I do remember one act of violence on the campus several years ago when a guy shot himself and his ex-girlfriend in the Towers dormatories on the Evansdale campus but that didn't have the potential to spiral for obvious reasons. If things ever got really bad we have a detachment of National Guard in the city.
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#15 Pallas


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Posted 18 April 2007 - 10:23 PM

My university has its own campus security but they don't seem to be particularly competant unless they're responding to a call. I've been reading the campus crime beat in the student newspaper for 4.5 years now and every week it's something. Things get stolen all the time and it is advisable that you don't leave your valuables alone (especially in the libraries, which I always thought was kind of sad). If it's not bikes getting stolen, it's laptops or computers, bags, textbooks or we get vagrants sleeping, dealing, having sex (a couple of times!) or fighting in the 24 hour SUB (Student's Union Building) or in the train station (which is unfortunately right on campus grounds). That also brings in a lot of shady people but there's nothing that can be really done since loitering in a public area isn't a crime. Security always seems to respond to calls very quickly but don't seem to be there preventing although they're apparently great at chasing down drunk drivers and holding people who have criminal records until the real police arrives.
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#16 Raina


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Posted 19 April 2007 - 03:28 AM

My campus is completely, totally not secure. There are several vehicle entrances and countless foot entrances, and absolutely none of them have anything resembling a gate. The dormitories do require keys to get in, but all you have to do to get into a building you don't live in is stand around and wait until someone comes in or out. The only classroom buildings that need cards to enter are the ones with the high tech computers and stuff; the rest of the buildings are wide open. I've never seen campus security doing anything other than strutting around looking important, lounging around the cafeteria, or hassling my ex (the same officer hassled him twice without reason).

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#17 JadziaDax


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Posted 19 April 2007 - 11:35 PM

Well, let's see...

I am one of those "snooty" desk people at the residence halls. I've also been the "big bad resident assistant" and to be honest...we're just students, like everyone else. I've never received any training as a desk clerk to deal with anything other then morons locking themselves out of their rooms. My job isn't to sit and watch every person who walks by, nor is it to stop people I think look like they don't belong. My job is to essentially give the illusion of security. If anything major happens we call the campus police, and/or RA's/Hall Director/Assistant Hall Director on duty (depending on the situation).

As an R.A. we are given little training to identify students who may be a threat to others, as we aren't professionals. I've taken diversity training, suicide prevention training, drug/alcohol confrontation training. I've initiated suicide watches, called in hate crimes, and "busted" people for drugs and alcohols. The few times I did have residents who needed mental help, I was to refer them to the university counseling center, then follow up with them (sometimes this involved going there with them-but they have to be receptive to the idea of help in the first place). I've been threatened, punched and all sorts of not-so-fun stuff. But we just really don't have the resources to deal with a lot of it. People who cause problems are relocated to other residence halls or placed in discipline rooms.

As for campus safety: When I was a member of the resident staff, I was in the emergency phone tree (but they had my number wrong- the morons, so I found out about a man holding people in a grocery store hostage by driving by it because it's my main store, and I couldn't go in that day. But that's beside the point). So that is somewhat effective-if numbers are right. But we can't call everyone (meaning residents), R.A.'s are then expected to pass out information. We, as a campus, are notified by email for anything that happens (like last night when a man tried to jump off a resident hall).

Our residence halls can be placed into lockdown rather quickly. Everything is electronically controlled, so locking the doors would be easy. Main campus buildings are another story. We're a state school and don't have the funding to have the same systems in place (not to mention how bloody annoying it would be). Some of our buildings are huge, and no central offices in any of them: it would be hard to put our campus in lockdown, also there's no P.A. system, it would just be difficult to get any word out across the building at once.

The point is, many college campuses just don't have the funding to make their schools overly "safe". I also feel it's pretty unnecessary. Even in lockdown, someone could still do significant damage. The doors are wood, and easily kicked in. Even the high security doors in the halls have a sweet spot. I know this because the police told me when working one night, but he wouldn't tell me where the sweet spot was ;).

We want to make our campuses safe? Great, how are you going to do it without punishing students by raising tuition? Buildings are bigger, campuses are huge. There is no "entrance" to my university, no natural barriers to force you to enter from a certain direction, and I certainly hope there's never any metal detectors..that's something I don't need to feel safe. I don't think they need to make any major improvements, I already feel fairly safe on campus, I don't want to feel paranoid.

My campus isn't any more or less safe then it was on Sunday. The fact that we are now more aware of the lack of security doesn't change anything. I will continue to go to class as I have everyday for the past few years.

Then again, right now, I'm too busy to care about campus security....which isn't to say I don't care....I've just got other stuff on my mind.


I should also mention that my university has an emergency perpardness plan for a freakin' hurricane. Mind you, I live in a VERY landlocked state. If a hurricane hit us, we'd have more things to worry about.

We also have one for pandemic flu..I can even tell you what halls we'd transport sick residents to die in (morbid, I know...but it's part of the training I got to go through).

This leads me to believe that they probably have a pretty good plan for other stuff including a gunman on campus.

Edited by JadziaDax, 20 April 2007 - 12:33 AM.

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