Campus life begins and ends in the residence hall. Students are likely to spend more time there than anywhere else on campus. That’s why colleges and universities are putting greater focus than ever before on securing these central hubs of activity.
In the past, residence hall security consisted largely of metal keys on interior doors and perhaps electronic access control on exterior doors. Where traditional locks had been replaced, we saw many keypads and offline, hotel-style locks. While these technologies have their uses, they are not ideal for the online, networked world with which today’s students are accustomed.
Today, a focus on security and accountability has led more universities to extend online access control throughout the residence hall. Not only are universities outfitting student room doors with online card readers, they are also making access easier with cellphones. Left your card in your room? No problem, you can open your door by sending a text message or by launching an app. This mobile control dramatically reduces the number of lockouts that RAs and other staff members respond to. Plus, the more ways students have to unlock their doors, the less likely they are to prop them open.
In 2014, more universities will realize the benefits of online access control in residence halls. These include:
Reduced Costs: When a metal key is lost, universities take on the cost of re-keying and re-coring the door (perhaps hundreds of doors in the case of a master key). If a card is lost, privileges can be immediately revoked with the tap of a button.
Easier Responses to Lockouts: When students have their phones as back-up methods of opening their doors, lockouts are reduced. When they do occur, resident advisors can send a text message to temporarily elevate their privileges, letting them open students’ doors using their own cards. This process is fully auditable so all occupants of the room, along with selected managers, can receive a text or email notifying them of the access and the reason for it.
Improved Security & Audit Trails: The easier it is for students to unlock their doors, the more likely they are to lock them. This increase in security comes along with greatly improved audit trails for the university. In the event of criminal activity, online access control makes it easy to report on the state of the door during the specified incident (e.g., was the door propped open when the theft occurred?). This information aids investigations and helps manage the university’s liability.
Lockdowns Made Easy: Campus lockdowns frequently make headlines and schools are looking for the most effective ways to handle them. With online locks, the process is simple thanks to real-time communication with the readers. Universities can also exercise greater control over the areas affected by lockdowns. For example, administrators can lock down a single building, all perimeter doors or the entire campus with a single click. Online access control lets universities tailor their responses for each situation.
As campus safety remains a priority for students, parents and administrators, residence hall security will become an even greater focal point. The move to online access control within the residence halls, especially with mobile-enabled methods, will drive home the fact that we no longer need to sacrifice convenience for security.