Protecting an Open Campus: How Vanguard University Improved Safety and Security

Located next to a police department, Vanguard has had issues with released inmates coming onto the open campus. Here’s how it was addressed.

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After three people were tragically killed and five others were wounded in a February shooting at Michigan State University, conversations started swirling about how to best protect an open campus. While there are leading practices for improving safety on an open campus, each campus has its own unique challenges and therefore its own unique solutions.

Vanguard University, located in Costa Mesa, Calif., is an example of an open campus with security solutions tailored to its specific environment (1:45).

“Some of the things that we’ve done over time was a process of just evaluating risk,” said Kenton Ferrin, Vanguard’s director of campus safety and a 2023 Campus Safety Director of the Year finalist. “We’re located right next to a police department, so oftentimes, inmates are released and on several occasions, the inmates came into our student housing and were hanging out in our lobby areas. On a couple of occasions, people entered dorms and residences.”

To deter unwanted visitors, Ferrin was approached by the administration about putting up perimeter fencing around the majority of the campus. The university was able to raise funds to complete the project, which was planned and implemented with Ferrin’s guidance.

While not practical or viable for most larger college campuses, Vanguard takes up approximately 40 acres of land, making it a manageable — albeit expensive — project.  Although largely decorative, the fence has helped clearly define campus property and curbed access while maintaining the open appearance campus leaders sought.

Updated cameras were also strategically placed around the campus perimeter.

“We have cameras in those areas so my thought was, ‘No one here for the right reason is going to jump the fence,’ so if we see people jumping the fence, then that would bring it to our attention because of the cameras we’ve placed around campus,” said Ferrin.

Under Ferrin’s leadership, security fencing and gates were also installed around Vanguard Center, a student housing complex. Since the installation, Vanguard has seen a 95% decrease in suspicious activity and trespassing around these apartments.

Additionally, Ferrin worked with Facilities and Residence Life to secure the quads in its Balboa and Newport dormitories. Sliding doors left open by students have long been a security issue with trespassers gaining easy access. As a solution, all sliding doors were replaced with fixed windows.

Other ways Ferrin has improved safety on the open campus include increased lighting in parking lots and controlled access for nearly all campus buildings.

“[These measures] make it more challenging for someone coming on to our campus to be able to come here and do what they want to do,” he said.

During this interview, Ferrin also discussed:

  • How his team developed safe rooms throughout campus where students or employees can quickly secure themselves during an emergency (5:55)
  • The advantage of hiring retired police officers and tips for campuses considering doing so (11:50)
  • Unique ways the Vanguard campus safety team has been able to connect with the student population (15:25)

Watch the full interview here or listen on the go on Apple or Spotify.


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About the Author

amy rock headshot

Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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