Safety and Security: Feedback Needed!

As mentioned in Ivan’s posting of Michal’s notes from the Chair’s meeting (h/t’s to both of you for those), there is some potential for significant changes to the HWC Lobby, and the time to get your voice heard is right NOW.

President Don Laackman asked for time with your HW Faculty Council last Tuesday (11/15) to discuss some developments related to campus safety and security, at which he requested faculty feedback and assistance. We, in turn, are asking all faculty, full time and adjuncts, to respond to the Security Climate and Procedures Survey. Details on how to access the survey are at the end of this post.

First, a few of the facts:

1. Harold Washington College is unique among the seven city colleges in that it has an open lobby plan in which people can come and go freely without interacting with security personnel;

2. This set-up is unusual, too, among downtown buildings, most of which have more restrictive ingress control;

3. At the November meeting, the CCC board passed a resolution that approved up to $505,032 for a “Lobby Security Access System with Swipe Card for Staff and Students”  ( );

4. That resolution was passed, according to Vice Chancellor de Lopez (through Don) so that planning could begin, not as a fait accompli (“I will make the decision,” Don said in our meeting);

5. Don stated that his guiding principle for this initiative is to deter “low effort crimes/offenders” while preserving, as much as possible, the openness of our current lobby. He also stated that he comes into these discussions with a bias toward doing something on account of a number of recent incidents. He further stated that he was open to persuasion by compelling arguments, and so seeking input;

6. The process from decision to finalization would take approximately nine months, and so, to have this ready for fall (and to minimize mid-semester disruption), a decision will need to be made by early-mid January, which is Don’s desired timeline;

7. On the Tuesday of our meeting, Don had a preliminary meeting with the District’s Architect, Vice Chancellor de Lopez, Rich Wren, Security Officer Bearden (David Rozell was at court), Chiaka Patterson (DO), and a few vendors to look at the lobby and talk about possible approaches and layouts. Don showed us a preliminary sketch—emphasizing that it was just that—of a layout that would feature eight sliding glass panels, with some sort of swiping mechanism that would allow them to open. The gates would all be ADA compliant and would not restrict building egress in the case of an emergency (relative to the front doors). The Security desk would remain where it is, so visitors and/or people without their IDs would simply go over to the Security desk to get help. There were, apparently, other options, too, but this was the most initially attractive option (see #6);

8. In the course of the discussion, FC raised a number of questions and initial comments/considerations, including: asking how many criminal incidents occur on average and in recent semesters, and of what sort (as in, what would be prevented by this new architecture?); a statement about the hospitality and message conveyed by the lobby regarding our trust and expectations of students, employees, and visitors (and its distinction from the message/architecture that many of them have encountered/received from their previous institutions of learning (i.e. many CPS schools feature metal detectors and strong security at the door and inside). There was concern expressed about unintended consequences, unnecessary cost/expenditure, student perceptions of the learning environment (as documented in CCSSE and elsewhere), and a question about the relationship of this new plan to the requirement for 1600 Professionals to sign in at the security desk;

9. Don also stated that he sees a role for the Space Committee in managing this initiative, and that one of his goals for the building is to provide more open services (labs, equipment, collaborative study areas, etc.) for students, but that goal stands in tension with the openness of the building. The more open the building, the less open the spaces within the building can be and the inverse is also, potentially, true;

So, Don and HW Faculty Council are seeking feedback and information on everything from reasons to leave things alone, reasons to make a change like the one sketched out above, reasons to make changes other than the one sketched out, and reasons to make changes in addition to the one above.

Toward this end, we are asking all HW Faculty (Adjuncts, too!) to take the Security Climate and Procedures Survey (Click HERE ) by DECEMBER 2nd and invite EVERYONE to provide us with your feedback, ideas, and concerns related to any or all of the above.

You may provide that feedback on the Lounge, by email, or by note, conversation, or the means of your choosing to any of HW’s Faculty Council representatives, your Chair or supervisor, or Don himself. We look forward to hearing from you.

8 thoughts on “Safety and Security: Feedback Needed!

  1. I encourage all of you to join the Space Planning Committee (SPC). We’ve been discussing this topic for some time. It is inevitable that security needs to change. At first, I was not in favor of the idea. Public buildings should remain accessible. However, after hearing about minor incidents over the past couple of years, I am in favor of the change.
    We have spoken at SPC about possibly making the first two floors open to the public and then securing floors 3 through 11. This would require moving all student services to the first two floors. I am in favor of that plan because it would leave our lobby open. I have to say that since 9-11, all major buildings in the Loop were transformed to prisons of sorts and these visual changes have been detrimental to the architecture. After the remodel, our front entrance was upgraded for the better. Any security changes that are implemented should take the overall design into consideration regardless of the necessary office relocations that would be needed.

  2. I’d like to know exactly what the security issues are that are calling for this sort of extreme (in my eyes) action. I have always felt safe at HW, even when I am the only one on my floor at 10pm. Who would be able to swipe in? All CCC employees and students, or only HW? What about all the non-CCC people who rent out our rooms, or who come in for meetings? I think that a crowd at the security desk checking in would be more hazardous since now someone can sneak in behind a swiper, and security will be too busy signing people in to notice. Not knowing what the crime stats are that are leading to this idea, I think that this will end up causing more problems than solving them.

  3. In order to manage the traffic….we will need three swipe in areas preferably four; stage right, stage left, and two center stage. That means 4 security guards at the front stations not two! So we need to hire more security. If we don’t hire more security, who will walk the floors? We will be using all those resources keeping “stranger danger” out of the building, when honestly the recent attack could have been caused by anyone.

    In the event of a fire, we need the entire security border removed within 30 seconds to one minute.

    My critical thinking question is how was it determined that the contractor will be paid 505,000 to complete a project that supposedly is still open for review yet is slated for completion in January 2012? (November 3rd Board Report, Section 5 Purchases)

    To me that sounds like there really is no room for discussion. This is a done deal. Bring your IDs folks!

    • Regarding your question, in our meeting, Don said (I’m paraphrasing here) he asked the same thing of VC de Lopez and was told that they had to get some sort of approval for money to even bring in the consultants to talk about plans, so they thought it would be most efficient to ask for an amount that would cover whatever the largest version of what they thought might be done, which could be scaled down (i.e. not spent) if plans changed later.

      I believe the consultation and decision making is what is scheduled to be completed by January 2012, not the project.

      As for the fire question, Rich Wren brought that up at the initial meeting and the discussion with the architect/vendor persuaded all involved that the barriers, when opened (which could be accomplished in much less than 30 seconds, I’d think), would do less to impede egress from the building than the front doors already do, so that wouldn’t be a problem.

  4. I took the survey. I’d like to see the results when they are ready/compiled.

  5. I’m maintaining the survey on behalf of Faculty Council. As of right now, we’ve received 79 responses and the survey will be open a few more days. Google Docs does a nice job summarizing the data in chart/graph form, so I should be able to share that with Faculty Council (and the larger HWC community) soon after the survey closes.

  6. Let me begin by saying that I have always felt safe at HWC, and I feel that our security officers provide excellent service. I encountered a scary situation a few years ago and security provided rapid assistance to resolve the issue. I think we can all agree that our security staff members do not cause the need for alarm. However, I observed something this semester that caught me off-guard, making this new system sound like a good idea. While reading exit exams this semester, I noticed a noteworthy amount of students suggesting HWC improve security. [One of the English 100 exit prompts asks students what improvements they would make at Harold Washington College.] The responses in previous years invariably included registration issues and matters of that nature. As a side note, I didn’t read too many of those this time around (Hooray!). Surprisingly enough, the majority of students who selected that prompt wrote about feeling unsafe, noticing odd people wandering the halls (though this could include our students and staff, just saying), and a few suggested that our security officers are “lazy.” I disagree with the latter perception, but I would point out that the students who wrote on this topic suggested that security check identification as each person enters the building. I was under the assumption that because our college only has one entrance, we are one of the safest of the CCC locations. When I was first hired, security stopped me the first few weeks to check who I was. I was surprised at this, but they explained that they are trained to monitor “regular” traffic and when someone unfamiliar to them appears, they will ask questions. Given that our students are raising concerns about their safety, I am open to seeing changes in our security protocol.

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