Making Data-informed Decisions

Access control is key driver for campus building entry

At the University of New England, access control is a piece of a larger puzzle helping to connect each person to the institution and campus. Every student, faculty and staff member receives an ID card, plus there’s a card option for community members who are interested in using our athletic facilities.

We partner with Transact to provide easy, convenient and credential-driven access to buildings, events and transportation. Students can also use their ID cards to access their meal plans, borrow materials from the library and use printing services.

As ID Card Systems Manager, I oversee access control and card services for the university’s Portland and Biddeford campuses, serving the needs of our students, faculty, staff and community members.

To best meet those needs, data is king. Instead of making guesses, we use access control data to make data-driven decisions to keep facilities secure, streamline processes and enhance the on-campus experience. A reliable credential program partner for IT and card management leaders is crucial. Partnering with Transact has allowed us to transform our ID cards into an ultra-convenient tool that gives us data-driven insights to better manage our campus.

Advocate for Access Control

The ID card services office is housed within the security department and we work closely with our IT and facilities departments too. Management of many of the physical security tools is a collaboration with our security team to coincide with access control protocols, like surveillance systems, panic buttons and parking systems.

Collaborating with other departments is essential. Stakeholder buy-in can make or break a strategy. Working closely with our facilities and safety and security directors has helped grow our access control program and use it to strengthen physical security on campus.

Make Data-driven Decisions

Every campus is unique, and access control initiatives should vary accordingly. For example, the Portland campus is located in a populous, urban area, and has a lot of people coming and going throughout the day. The Biddeford campus, on the other hand, is situated in a more rural, coastal location.

Safety, building access and transportation are important considerations for both locations. But, our access control is not one-size- fits-all. Instead, the university considers the needs of each community campus, using the data that’s providing insights to adapt our initiatives as needed.

Here are some examples of how the school leverages ID cards across campus.

Safety. When one thinks of access control, security often comes to mind first. The Biddeford campus has an osteopathic medical school and a large marine science program, which require heightened security protocols for lab and storage facilities. Access control links with physical security tools, such as cameras, to give a deeper view into who is accessing facilities, and when. It is a proactive way to stay informed.

Having university-wide access control in place also allows us to offer benefits to the Portland and Biddeford communities. Community members can sign up to use campus fitness centers, and receive fitness center-specific ID cards to gain access. This helps us keep campus buildings secure, while extending our campus resources to non-students.

Events. Student ID cards are an extremely effective way to manage campus events and activities. The Biddeford campus has an ice rink, which requires students to fill out a safety waiver before using. To streamline the process, we are implementing a credential reader at the ice rink, where students will tap their ID cards and staff members are automatically notified if a waiver needs to be signed. Instead of rifling through a binder to see if the proper forms have been signed, an automatic alert pops up – making the entire process easier for students and staff.

Transportation. Reliable transportation is an essential part of the college experience. We have equipped our campus shuttle with a Transact credential reader so students and faculty members can easily tap their ID cards to ride, which also enables the university to collect usage data on peak time and overall ridership. We can then use this information to make cost-effective decisions.

For example, if university staff is seeing an uptick in usage during the winter months, expanded hours are offered. If usage from a student population living further away from campus, the university can consider adding another bus and creating a new route.

Dining. Biddeford’s main campus dining hall is located on the third floor of a building. We were experiencing challenges with the line getting backed up during lunch time, and needed a solution to make things easier on our staff members, and more convenient for students.

The old process required a staff member to accept each student’s form of payment at a terminal, which takes time. Working with Transact, the university rolled out a ‘fast pass’ system for students with board meal plans to use their student ID cards to gain quick entry and bypass the cashier.

Collaboration is key. University staff coordinated with the dining hall team to make sure they were looped in on the process, making sure they knew that the fast pass update was meant to alleviate stress and pressure – not replace the work they do.

An educational awareness campaign was undertaken for students but the ID card systems staff, teaching them how to use the new system which was critical to a successful initiative.

Get creative. Good advise is to not be afraid of using technology in a new way, or a way that it’s not necessarily designed. Creativity is key, and data can be used to back up your plans. Don’t be afraid to fail, and instead, focus on the improvements that can be made from your ideas.

This article originally appeared in the July August 2020 issue of Campus Security Today.


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