Case Study: UT Arlington’s 1-Card System Does It All

This Texas university has spent more than a decade adding functionality and upgrades to its one-card system. Now, students, staff and sponsored affiliates are issued ID cards that allow them to access appropriate buildings, make on- and off- campus purchases, and clock in and out of work.

The color scheme on official UT Arlington student ID cards is the opposite of the scheme on cards issued to faculty and staff, but “when you talk about any sponsored affiliate, like guests, vendors, contractors – it’s a drastically different card design,” explains Robert. “These people are actually sponsored by the department that utilizes them. If you have a general contractor, the people who will be on campus from that company have to be sponsored by, [for example], facilities management.

“The card looks different so campus police can identify [outside personnel] easily. They are also categorized differently in our system for ease of management,” he says.

Locks Can Provide Varying Levels of Security

Each UT Arlington ID card issued allows for different levels of access to the cardholder based on their preferences or position. New students will automatically be granted access to the library and the Maverick Activities Center but must apply to gain access to most other facilities, including secure areas such as chemical or radiation laboratories.

Department heads must request access for specific staff, students and sponsored affiliates; these requests are then processed by the administration and campus operations office. The data is stored in a data warehouse and periodically audited to prevent students and personnel from gaining unwarranted access to any campus facilities.

UT Arlington restricts access to sensitive areas by using locks that can only be opened by ID cards with the correct access levels. The university recently introduced Schlage AD-Series locks into the campus security system, which can be equipped with many credential entry interfaces. The university uses locks with a combination magnetic stripe reader and numeric keypad.

“We actually have about 1,300 offline access points on campus,” says Robert. These points are safeguarded by Schlage locks that require a pin and ID card to disarm. This prevents stolen cards from being used to gain entrance into secure areas. “I believe we have close to 60 wireless access points and probably in the neighborhood of 600 online access points. Our building perimeters are mostly online.”

The university participated in the beta testing of the AD-200 Series locks, which replaced the Schlage Legacy Computer Managed (CM) locks around campus.

Robert believes the CM locks will be slowly phased out, and “that’s why it was a good thing for us
to be involved in that beta process,” he said. “We have a chance to have a front seat to testing these locks and defining how well they will work as a replacement to the legacy equipment.”

IT Department, Planning Integral to System Implementation

Robert says the most important part of implementing a one card system is to make sure that the different systems on campus can be effectively integrated. UT Arlington uses a database provided by CBORD to manage access levels, declining balances and other card privileges.

“We have the CBORD system as a base system, and basically every time we want to add a branch to our tree, we make sure that it’s going to integrate well with CBORD,” he explains. “We also want to make sure that the provider is involved and that specific enterprise will all be onboard to support the endeavor. So I would say that when you choose a product, make sure that you’re going to be able to have it supported by whoever is involved in that relationship.”

Robert advises further that each stakeholder being affected by the implementation of a new system should be involved in its evaluation process. Also, after a product has been selected, it should be introduced at a time that generates as little interference as possible with peak campus activity.

“Make sure you have a plan B and a plan C, because an unknown surprise will appear no matter how well you plan, that’s just the way it goes – especially with technology,” says Robert. “If you know you’re going to have to shut down the server for 24 hours, you don’t want to do that in the middle of orientation.”

The relationship between UT Arlington’s administrators and its IT department has been integral to campus security. Robert points out that there is a standing meeting between administrators, representatives of different branches of the IT department and Campus Card Operations, in which current security needs and future plans are discussed.

But no one system can best address every single security need on a university campus. UT Arlington has spent many years adding functions to the one card system it implemented 15 years ago.

“I’ve been in this business for over 10 years, and what I’ve found is that you have to pick the [system] that is the closest to what you need,” he says. “The bottom line is that there are so many offerings that can do a lot of things; it’s very important to understand what your organization’s needs, goals and missions are and then look at the technology that’s out there and will best fulfill those.”

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