It’s Good to No Longer Be the ‘Problem Child’ on Campus

Campus administrators now respect the value of security, police and emergency preparedness.

Let’s face it, 2010 wasn’t easy. Although economists recently proclaimed that the recession was technically over in June 2009, many of you – as well the nearly 10 percent of Americans who are currently unemployed – would probably beg to differ. The reality is that most campus law enforcement, security and emergency management departments continue to be required to do much more with much less. 

And with 38 percent of respondents to Campus Safety’s “How Safe Is Your Campus?” survey expecting to have even fewer resources dedicated to public safety in 2011, the road – at least financially speaking – isn’t going to get easier anytime soon.

But these statistics don’t tell the whole story. There is a big reason why campus protection professionals should be hopeful: More than four in five of our survey respondents (82 percent) say their institutions’ top officials take safety and security on campus seriously. Top campus executives seem to finally understand the value and importance of law enforcement, security, risk management and emergency management.

Could it be that public safety is no longer considered the whiney problem child on campus? Will our inconvenient truths no longer be ignored? I certainly hope so.

You might think I’m crazy to be rejoicing over something as intangible as administrator and C-suite support, but this trend bodes well for the campus protection community.

Why? Because buy-in from the top is crucial for any security, communications, law enforcement or emergency management project to succeed.

Undoubtedly, the spate of high-profile incidents that have occurred over the past few years is one reason for the change in attitude of campus executives. I do believe, however, that there is another important force at work here: Campus Safety readers seem to be doing a much better job of convincing important stakeholders of the need for campus protection improvements.

You are participating in more planning meetings, community meetings, construction design meetings and other meetings involving local agencies, HR, IT, faculty, nurses, the school board, residence life and more. The stakeholders you are networking with might not be making specific decisions involving your projects. They do provide, however, the environment where security, safety and preparedness can flourish… or flounder if you don’t keep doing the political footwork.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget that there are many aspects of security, technology, safety and policy that need immediate attention. According to Campus Safety’s “How Safe Is Your Campus?” and “Effects of the economy” surveys, here are a few:

  • Active shooters and bombers at hospitals: 40 percent of hospital respondents disagree somewhat or strongly with the statement, “If an active shooter or bomber came onto my campus, my department and my institution would be able to respond effectively.”
  • Officer weapons: 45 percent of all respondents don’t believe their departments have enough and the right type of lethal and less lethal weapons to appropriately respond to an incident.
  • Access Control: 44 percent of university respondents and 39 percent of K-12 respondents are not satisfied with the quality and coverage of their campus access control systems.
  • Mass Notification: 39 percent of hospital respondents are not satisfied with the number and quality of mass notification systems they currently have on campus.
  • Video Surveillance: Half of university respondents and 42 percent of K-12 respondents are not happy with the quality and coverage of their campus video surveillance systems.

Despite this disturbing data, the current state of the economy means that you’ll have to work even harder for every dollar. Hopefully, you’ll continue to leverage your newfound status with administrators to discuss not only your institution’s safety and security vulnerabilities but also the operational inefficiencies, academic challenges and customer service issues that improved public safety can address.

Then, if an incident does occur at your institution (heaven forbid), your campus and department will have the tools and training to respond appropriately. Who knows? This former problem child might one day become a golden child.


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About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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