Late-night studies call for access control

University of Texas secures 65 buildings
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Friday, January 24, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin’s new access-control system prevents students working late at night in many campus buildings from leaving a door “blocked open so their friends can enter,” says Bob Harkins, vice president for campus safety and security.
That was a common practice before, Harkins said, and it concerned him.
Students frequently inhabit campus buildings at night—even around the clock—to do research or study, he said. UT has 51,000 students and 24,000 staff and faculty members.
Even though building doors were locked at a specific time each night, say 10 p.m., graduate students often had keys to their relevant buildings. The students had every right to be in the buildings after hours, he said, but "I worry an awful lot about the number of offices and little cubby holes we've got in buildings. There are students working there literally 24 hours a day."
In September, a man traveled from China to the Austin campus to track down his estranged girlfriend, a student. When he found her inside a campus building, he stabbed her in the nose with a fork and she suffered several bruises and cuts to her face, police said. There also have been reports of laptops and other valuables being stolen from the buildings.
UT deployed an access-control code system for 65 of its 160 buildings, with plans to roll out the system at the remaining buildings in the near future. If a student props open a door that is equipped with the new access control system, an alarm goes off and campus police respond. The system also includes an automatic lockdown capability.
Previously, custodians “dragged around a big ring of keys,” Harkins said. One college on campus would put in one type of lock-and-key system or access control, and another college would put in another. It’s easier now, he said.
With United Technologies’ Picture Perfect Software, integrated by Entech Sales and Service, authorized students and staff need their ID badges to get into the secured buildings after hours.
The university can lock down the equipped buildings by pushing a button, he said.
“We’re still in the process with all our systems,” Harkins said. “Finding the money is always the fun part. We’re working on the methodology to pay for it and the recurring monthly monitoring charges.”