Campus security remains a complex issue

January 2013 Integrated Solutions, Education (Industry)

While South Africa has not had the mass murders that some educational campuses in the USA have experienced, our local campuses are by no means a beacon of security for staff and students. Crimes which occur far too often (those that are openly reported) include rape, theft, vandalism, intimidation and the usual assortment of South African crimes. Given that our universities are a hotbed of political activism and, in some cases, freedom of speech and thought, demonstrations and the violence associated with them are also a factor to consider in campus security.

The Campus Protection Society of South Africa (Camprosa) held its annual conference at Sun City late last year to discuss the various issues universities are facing and included presentations on security as well as other pertinent campus topics. Hi-Tech Security Solutions was able to attend some of the presentations and found that South Africa’s campuses face similar problems to those in other countries, the difference is in how these issues are dealt with.

After an opening address by the president of Camprosa, Roland September, the keynote on the first day was presented by Anne Glavin, director of police services, California State University and president of IACLEA, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators ( and Ray Wheatley, IACLEA international regional director from Dublin City University.

IACLEA is an organisation focused on advancing the skills and knowledge, as well as promoting effective campus security internationally. Glavin added that it also strives to enhance the image of the campus security professional while ensuring proper governance of these operations. IACLEA has embarked on expanding the training facilities available to members using the Internet, through mediums such as webinars, and it is also building a campus security portal to facilitate communications and education among professionals across the globe.

To date, IACLEA has 1195 members in 20 countries and is looking to expand its international membership to facilitate more information sharing and effective communications.

Information is vital

Jenny Reid from iFacts was up next, speaking about screening employees. She notes that while companies often screen top employees, they fail to validate contractors and outsourced staff, of which campuses use a substantial amount. In addition, when checks are carried out, they focus mainly on criminal records and not on credit reports, the validity of the person’s ID, driver’s licence or educational qualifications etc.

Reid advocates the use of a single database for the security industry where employees’ employment history is held. This could be used to validate people’s identities and prevent syndicates from sending the same person to various security companies to commit fraud.

The section commander of major events at SAPS took the stage to discuss the safety and security processes involved in holding large events. For events that will have more than 2000 people attending, the organisers need to ask for permission for the event and have an emergency plan in place.

This does not mean smaller events can get away with no emergency or evacuation plan. Even low-risk events need a safety officer and to ensure they have reasonable measures in place to deal with an emergency. For larger, annual events, plans must be submitted to the national commissioner six months in advance and contain sufficient details for it to receive a risk classification. He notes it is always worthwhile giving the national commissioner’s office sufficient time to work through the information and deliver a risk classification.

Sustainable education

Prof Johan Nel, executive manager at the Centre for Environmental Management at North West University spoke on the task of making campuses more sustainable. Sustainability is not simply a ‘green’ issue, but a project to enhance the environment in order to provide for today’s needs while ensuring that the people of tomorrow can provide for theirs.

Nel says sustainability is a journey, not a once-off project and this journey needs to include four elements: environmental performance, social investment, sound finances and good governance. There is no silver bullet in sustainability, but it needs to be an ongoing project that is continually advancing in small manageable steps.

Nel suggests legal compliance and compliance management is the first step to take, followed by efforts to reduce the campus’s footprint on the environment in small, incremental steps – aiming for low-hanging fruit to gain results and commitment. This includes improved energy efficiency, improved water consumption, waste management and enhancing biodiversity programmes and so forth. The first step for any university, however, is to get its own house in order first.

Marius Coetzee, MD of Ideco Biometric Security Solutions was up next, discussing the benefits of biometrics, specifically fingerprint biometrics as a means to positively identify people, whether for access control or transactional purposes. He also mentioned the ability to combine smartcard and biometric identification in sensitive areas to ensure people who are able to access confidential information or that have access to bank details, for example, are accurately identified when going about their jobs.

The future

Dr Theuns Eloff, vice chancellor, North West University closed the final day’s presentations with a talk on what the future holds for South African universities.

Eloff started out showing how higher education played a vital and measurable role in economic growth as well as in the building of social capital. Expanding this thought, he added that any university that is aware of its place in the market will be focused on governing and managing itself with the goal of continuously improving its effectiveness and efficiency so that it can enhance its competitiveness.

He also discussed the problem universities have to deal with in the financial realm, including the decreasing contribution of the state to higher education. Eloff also supports e-learning initiatives which place the student at the centre of the learning experience.

Another aspect of campus success he mentioned was the need to make universities part of meaningful partnerships in order to ensure they become more relevant and responsive. This will lead to a change from the traditional management style of universities to more professional, accountable management that is market driven, proactive and strategic, and has a portfolio of funding options that no longer rely only on the state.

The final presentation Hi-Tech Security Solutions attended was by Paul Ochieng, dean of students at Strathmore University in Kenya. Ochieng spoke about the security issues universities in Kenya faced, which are exacerbated by the fast growth in the number of universities that have been launched in the country (there are a total of 71, with the majority of these launched in the past five years).

While universities in Kenya were traditionally government funded, more people are ready to pay more for private higher learning opportunities because of quality issues. The campuses are also political hotbeds and demonstrations, often violent occur over a host of issues. The sheer number of students serves to exacerbate crime problems. Ochieng discussed the processes Strathmore has put in place to deal with these issues, which local universities can also learn from.

Other presenters at the conference included Dr Craig Donald, the late Terry Scallan and Dr John Tibane. The Camprosa national AGM was also held.

Camprosa has announced that the 2013 event will be held from the 3rd to 6th November 2013 at the Boardwalk Hotel and Conference Centre in Port Elizabeth. More information is available at


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