Accessing the Old College Try
Bryn Mawr began in 1885 as a female undergraduate liberal arts institution, and has grown to become one of the most prestigious in the country. Some 95 percent of students live on campus in 11 halls and houses and other associated housing. The college chose to install an electronic access control system. Before 2004, most access was by use of brass keys.
Key distribution to all students included a front-door key for the student’s dorm and her own bedroom door key. If a student lost her keys, her bedroom was re-cored for a new key, but she was simply given another copy of the same front door key.
As a result, front door keys proliferated. Although there had never been a real problem, no one knew when an errant dorm key might fall into malicious hands. Parents and students expected a better system than that, and the college wanted to be on the leading edge, setting a good impression as well as controlling who enters buildings.
Starting with a committee
In 2000, a committee comprised of 12 Bryn Mawr staff members and students was appointed to investigate a new system with access control as one aspect for the college. Committee members were selected from the various services and departments most interested in a card system: dining services, administrative services, public safety, facilities services, IT and libraries. At that time, each of the three libraries had its own independent access control requiring a separate access card.
The committee was divided into groups investigating different areas: access control, administrative services/dining, cash operations, libraries and IT. The assistant director of facilities chaired the access control group.
Bryn Mawr initiated the system to answer existing needs for visual identification in the three libraries, three dining areas, gym and computer centers and for general IDs. The card was in use, but there was no associated access control.
Part of the committee’s job was to evaluate various access control systems and decide how and where the technology would be applied. There was general agreement that the library side, the administrative side and access control should all be built into a single, complete system.
Implementing access control
The first trial of the Compass access control system was in the Roberts Road student village. This small complex of century-old former faculty houses was being renovated for student use. A pilot installation of the access control system was completed there, and in November 2003 the initial re-carding event was held for students, staff and faculty associated with the Roberts Road project. The pilot installation was a success, and the college wanted to proceed with the overall access control system, to be installed by its own electrical contractor.
Pabec Systems of King of Prussia, Pa., owned by Paul Bevenour, had been working on the Bryn Mawr campus for a number of years. The company’s standards for installation of electrical and control systems exceeded expectations, and the facilities department was confident that Pabec could meet the school’s very demanding deadline for completion.
Installation began in May 2004 as classes ended for the semester. Through the summer of 2004 the system was installed and brought online. When the students returned from summer break in August, the work was done. Every residence hall and the three main libraries had access control systems installed and operational, with a total of more than 180 doors, 90 of them access points.
The fall term began with a re-carding event for about 3,000 on the campus: staff members, faculty, students and affiliates. Most became comfortable with the new system.
Details of installation
Working on Bryn Mawr’s beautiful and historic campus, the installer was meticulous about fitting in with the environment. For example, there are no surface-mounted wiring, boxes or contacts. Everything is concealed, sometimes in three-foot stone walls. Some of the installation techniques are very refined and creative. The installer began the project in March 2004, working with the public safety department on a review and count of every door.
Considering the access-equipped doors, it was necessary to decide if an alarm would be bypassed locally or remotely, the status of the electric bypass lock, request for bypass, and other scenarios. Reader control modules, output modules and how to connect doors without readers were considered. Each door required individual assessment.
When pulling it all together, every alarm input was wired the same in all buildings. This should represent considerable time and money saving for future changes and repairs.
The learning curve
Bryn Mawr’s overall administrative system had to be directly linked and respond to activation of their software. The systems are updated every 24 hours, other updates occur about every four minutes. This facilitates production of new cards and is helpful in turning cards off quickly if the need arises. The college IT department also insisted on a certain type of server, which was fitted to the access system.
The new system made vast changes in library procedures. Librarians and housekeepers were used to carrying brass keys. They had to train themselves to the concept that a computer would now unlock and lock the doors.
A new arrangement was also necessary for vendors who come by periodically, like the beverage delivery person, the washing machine repairperson and the piano tuner. With the new system, all service providers report to the facilities office and sign in and out the access device they need. This also provides a useful record of the visit.
Another problem an institution faces is getting students to understand the dangers of propping open exterior doors. The Bryn Mawr Public Safety staff had installed various alarms and instituted patrols over the years. They were looking forward to the access control system, which could provide a door prop alarm on every exterior door.
The installer recommended a product, which included an allowable opening time, a pre-alarm, a second alarm and a key-switch bypass. The program also gives Public Safety the ability to bypass the alarm for move-in, or to meet the needs of public safety officers, facilities personnel and housekeepers.
Stolen, lost or inoperable cards can quickly be deactivated, then restored if found, or replaced. Not very many cards are lost, however, because they are too important to the students. Without their card they are not able to eat, access the library or enter dorms.
The cultural shift
As the card and access control systems became stronger and more capable, there has been a gratifying cultural shift on campus. Students, faculty and service employees are working with the system and are pleased with the outcome. The facilities department takes great pride in knowing the access control system does what it is supposed to do, with design features that please everyone.
About the Source
Security Magazine thanks Harold E. Maryea, assistant director of facilities for maintenance operations, facilities service department at Bryn Mawr College for this informative information. Maryea started at Bryn Mawr in 1994 as a maintenance mechanic, then maintenance manager and to his current positon as assistant director in the facilities department. He also directs the OneCard office.