Updated: Jan 26, 2021
I've had the privilege of working several Universities and Colleges in several states. Some campuses I knew well, some campuses I had never visited before, and some I had an extremely short time to get familiar with. This article, as in the case of many of my articles, is to be used as a guide only and provide information to our industry. It is not the only way to do things and it is certainly not indicative of ALL campuses. Institutions of higher education are certainly no different than any other business or corporation. They are guided by their own set of policies and procedures and budgetary constraints. We can find ourselves working on a campus for a variety of reasons. It could be a sporting event at a stadium, a concert at an arena or concert hall, a lecture in a classroom or auditorium, and other venues as well. It really just depends on the principal. The scenery and landscape of a campus seems to always be changing. There may be a plethora of distractions so it's up to us to FOCUS on our detail and our principal.
The Traffic Choke Point: Construction is a common factor on campus. New buildings are consistently being built and road construction seems to be continuous. If you are not familiar with the one way roads, the "Do Not Enter" routes, the traffic circles, the congested parking, both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, then navigating the campus can be, to say the least, frustrating. In conducting your route surveys one of your primary concerns is to go from point A to point B in a timely and safe fashion. Don't expect the traffic conditions to show up on any campus map or your own personal navigation system. The addresses on campus might not be hard addresses. For Instance the College may have an address. This address is often used as the business address but building F28 might be very difficult to locate. So really your best bet is to drive the route and if you can go more than once I recommend it. Once you locate the venue then walk it. You'll be surprised with the intelligence you can receive from walking the route. If your advance is a couple of months prior to the detail then check the area again closer to the time of your detail as well. A parking structure can be built in two months and a new building erected that you did not know about can be confusing and a little embarrassing. Conditions can change drastically on campus. Find primary and secondary routes to the venue to avoid any interference with your travel.
The Changing of the Seasons: On your larger universities the summer season can be your quietest season. With the exception of the local student base, many students may have went home for the summer. The point here is if you do your advance in the summer and your detail is in the fall then the student traffic is going to be a lot more populated. Getting from point A to point B will take longer and this certainly varies depending on the time of day. Because many students have graduated just prior to the summer the fall season is extremely busy with new enrollments.
The Campus Intent: When we think of a college or a university we think of diversity. Even the religious and military themed campus have ethnic diversity. With diversity brings different ideologies. These ideologies can be similar to our own or vastly different. Know the campus you are going to and know your principal. If your principal is a controversial figure then research the campus student base. How public is your event? The student activities center is a good place to find that information.
The Backpack Dilemma: Backpacks, book bags, duffel bags are a part of college life. Thousands of students have them. Of course we remember the Boston Marathon bombing where pressure cooker bombs were placed in backpacks and left at the scene of the bombing. These incidents can make us hyper-vigilant, paranoid, and on edge definitely. Perhaps you try to make a no backpack rule but the reality is there are going to be bags around you in one form or another. This is where your K-9 contacts, your pre-visit sweeps, and most importantly your focus and discipline come into play. Behavioral indicators will be huge in this environment, but that's another topic.
Law Enforcement/Security: Some Universities have a police department and a security department. The difference is the police department will respond to calls for service just like your local police departments, make traffic stops, etc. The security department will secure doors, provide student escorts, and respond to the less crime oriented calls. Some universities have only law enforcement that will respond to calls for service similar to police departments but because of less crime they also do the less intensive calls; such as locking and unlocking doors, student escorts, etc. A college who just has a security department relies mostly on the local police agency to respond to emergency calls on their campus.
Parking Services: In my experience parking is often considered a revenue department. Having your vehicle parked close to your exits so that you can get your principal out of the area conveniently and safely is a big part of our job. In doing so it is often needed to be parked in areas where we may not be not permitted to park; sidewalks, red zones, permit parking, etc. Of course we naturally seek assistance from the campus law enforcement or security, but if they are unable to assist you I have found that Deans or administrators are your best bet to get you a parking pass.
Closing: In the land of higher education and academics some of your best resources are the academic leaders themselves. Understanding their priority can help you better relate to them. Their priority is to have an event; it might be for revenue, for stature in the community, or for the experience for their students. They may not consider safety at all. The Law Enforcement leaders answer to the administrators. Although, law enforcement is your best back-up tactically they may not be your best source for your detail logistically. Your Intelligence and your advance will determine that. Use all your resources available to make your principal's visit convenient, safe, and enjoyable.