Academy of Art U Exhibits Its New Security System

Published: June 10, 2014

Operating a large university campus in an urban setting can be challenging enough. When the campus spans dozens of geographically dispersed buildings that house expensive equipment and high-value student work, the challenge becomes even more complex. The Academy of Art University in San Francisco met these challenges with an access control system that simultaneously delivers the security it needs along with important new capabilities and an improved campus experience.

Some historical background about the university illustrates the compelling need for deploying cutting-edge security technology. Established in 1929 by Richard Stephens, a fine art painter and creative director for Sunset Magazine, the academy opened in a single rented loft. Initially focusing on advertising art, the university soon assembled a distinguished faculty of practicing artisans and design specialists with a shared philosophy: hire established professionals to teach future professionals. Today, the university has more than 18,000 students and 30 areas of academic emphasis, making it the nation’s largest private school of art and design. At the same time, the university boasts a thriving campus life, including clubs, special events, social activities and its Urban Knights athletic program, which competes at the NCAA Division II level.

Let’s take a look at how this esteemed institution of higher education is protecting its students, faculty and facilities with rigorous security measures and systems. Necessary to this achievement is the guiding hand of a trusted systems integrator, Microbiz Security Co., along with vendor expertise provided by HID Global and others.

Scalable System Keeps Doors Locked 24/7

By the mid-2000s, the Academy of Art University occupied about 20 buildings, including classrooms, offices and residential halls that were scattered across the city. Each location had multiple points of access, and was protected only by basic locks and metal keys. The inadequate security of this arrangement became painfully apparent after a daytime burglary at one of the academic buildings resulted in significant property losses. According to the campus safety director, Mike Petricca, this was unacceptable for a university that prides itself in giving students a safe place to learn as well as nurture their creativity while devoting countless hours developing valuable work portfolios.

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To improve security, the university took what previously was a one-man campus safety organization augmented by security guards and replaced it with an organization spanning 130 employees, a 24-hour patrol team, a campus communications center with emergency dispatching service, and round-the-clock safety hosts stationed at most buildings. Additionally, the university embarked on a program to secure every building across its widely dispersed campus, which today totals 50 buildings and counting. Campus officials believe they have established the first university in the nation with the capability to completely lock down with all access controlled through a single, centralized system.

“We found out that locking the doors 24/7 at all of our buildings was the best way to prevent crime. No other university that I know of locks every single door on campus, including residential halls, labs, museums, whatever the building might be. We lock the doors 24/7,” Petricca says. “The most efficient way to do that is with card access control. Partnering with Microbiz and HID really fit that requirement.”

Related Article: ID Cards Aren’t Just for Access Control Any More
In addition to increasing campus safety and security, the university also needed its access control system to be easily scalable without forfeiting earlier investments. Meeting the twin needs for both security and expansion would require a move to a system based on an open architecture that could support multiple card technologies and future enhancements. With this platform in place, the university’s cardholders would eventually be able to utilize credentials for multiple purposes beyond opening doors.

Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series