The Benefits and Challenges of Clery Act Compliance for Contractors

The Benefits and Challenges of Clery Act Compliance for Contractors

Educational institutions can be difficult for contractors to navigate

Every environment poses its own challenges for organizational leaders and their contractors to ensure safety and security. Educational institutions in particular can be difficult for contractors to navigate. The various rules and legal restrictions must be worked into project planning and execution. As a third-party entity, colleges and universities must ensure contractors are reputable and trustworthy, and do not pose a threat to students or faculty. The Clery Act is an important piece of legislation for all colleges and universities to abide by to ensure the safety of students, staff and visitors.

Established in 1990, the Clery mandates that all colleges and universities receiving federal funding must share information about crime incidents on campus and report their efforts to improve campus safety. In addition, the institutions must inform the public of crime in or around campus through an annual security report which is due on October 1 of every year. If the institutions fail to report the necessary statistics, they are fined and their federal funding can be withheld.

Impact on Contractor Clearance

Just as the Clery Act increased expectations for colleges and universities, it also added guidelines and restrictions for contractors employed by those institutions. When an institution hires a contractor or third-party to conduct work on campus, they assume responsibility for how that individual acts and behaves. Thus, educational institutions must have comprehensive security and safety policies in place to mitigate potential misbehavior and ensure all third-party contractors remain compliant and in ordinance with school regulations. Before any work begins on campus, educational institutions should be proactive about providing contractors with compliance resources that clearly outline what is and is not permitted on school premises.

Similarly, contractors must conduct thorough background checks on their employees before they can be admitted on site. This ensures that contractors are trustworthy and there are no red flags on their record that pose a risk to students or faculty. Additionally, these employees must complete child protection forms and adhere to related policies. In some cases, escorts are required to bring contractors across the campus, into the dorms or other sensitive facilities requiring maintenance.

Before the Clery Act, an employee could walk on campus without officials from the school knowing anything about the person’s history or possible public record. Now, many higher education institutions utilize preapproved contractor lists to increase worker background visibility. This helps reduce risks and more accurately account for all parties involved. It also simplifies insurance processes as pre-approved contractors’ insurance coverage is already verified within the college or university’s system.

Impact on Contractor Accessibility

One of the ways in which higher education institutions ensure compliance with the Clery Act is by implementing advanced safety and security technology on campus. Colleges and universities aiming to lower their crime statistics often seek access control and visitor management technologies, to help protect against break-ins and unauthorized visitors.

Access control can regulate who is permitted to enter specific buildings on campus such as dormitories, sporting facilities and libraries. It can also be integrated into main entrance points throughout the perimeter of a campus as this must be considered the first layer of defense. To deter unwanted intruders from entering a campus, access control strengthens perimeter security and helps to regulate the flow of people and vehicles that enter and exit a campus. As a result, contractors and faculty need to be entered into the management system to obtain badges for both campus and building access. Furthermore, it’s also important to evaluate what buildings and facilities a contractor can enter. For example, granting access to lecture halls or sporting facilities, but not dormitories.

Once permitted on campus, advanced visitor management solutions let you track visitors and monitor where they are within the school premise. Beyond authorized entry, badges or barcodes can track usage statistics by specific visitors, and provide documentation of visitor locations within a facility. This allows property managers and security personnel to know who is on campus, and when and where they are at any given time. Businesses can collect and easily recall real-time accurate data of current and pending authorized visitors and track visitor information to help monitor employee, visitors and campus safety. Likewise, campuses can leverage visitor management solutions to ensure contractors are onsite, on-time and projects are moving along accordingly.

Video surveillance solutions are another technology that institutions take advantage of to keep track of visitors. This technology is an important security component to keep watch over the diverse assortment of facilities and buildings that comprise a typical campus community. In addition to monitoring building exteriors, pathways and student quads, video surveillance can also monitor activity that occurs inside a building or facility to detect unusual behavior or identify an intruder. Coupled with access control, surveillance can be useful in monitoring activity throughout a campus and identifying visitors who are not registered within the management system.

Increased Opportunities for Contractors

Though the Clery Act poses some challenges for contractors, including added processes and lengthened project timelines, it has also improved business for them in a few ways. Because the legislation mandates certain levels of security on campuses, contractors are needed to install and maintain the necessary systems. Electricians, network security staff and more are all tasked with ensuring that the institution has the most robust and upto- date systems in place.

This is a departure from previous attitudes about how a campus should operate. Prior to the passing of the Clery Act, some people disapproved of locked-down campuses with heavy security in place. The act brought increased awareness to the rate of crime at educational institutions, largely altering public opinion about implementing additional surveillance and access control technologies to help mitigate crime, and subsequently growing the market for contractors in this vertical industry.

The Cost of Non-Compliance

There have been many publicized examples of well-known universities found to be noncompliant with the Clery Act following incidents that have occurred on campus premises. This year, the U.S. Department of Education issued the largest fine ever levied under the act, $2.4 million, for upwards of 10 findings of Clery Act noncompliance from one university. A key contributor to many of these incidents is a lack of reporting by the university on the criminal activity taking place on campus, including failure to notify law enforcement after becoming aware of misconduct. Increased security technology would be beneficial in cases like these to formalize reporting processes and provide more accurate records of who is on campus, where, and at what time. Regardless of whether the threat comes from a faculty member, student, contractor, or otherwise, a secure campus is key to preventing an incident.

Moving forward, it’s critical that colleges and universities develop guidelines and regulations that outline compliant practices to be followed by all contractors. These terms must be contractually agreed upon before access is granted. Furthermore, education will likely be a priority vertical for contractors as institutions work to maintain compliance with the Clery Act. Being informed on the latest Clear Act regulations will streamline the relationship between contractors and institutions, and help contractors to know what to expect when working on college or university campuses.

While the legislation has made work for contractors more complex, it has helped give them visibility into institutions’ needs, particularly during the fall, ahead of the recurring October 1 deadline for Clery Act reporting. Staying abreast of the latest regulations for educational facilities can help contractors improve their service and secure new opportunities, ultimately helping make colleges and universities a safer place to be.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

Digital Edition

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    May/June 2019

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