Painting A Secure University Education
City by the Bay even more secure with university’s enhanced security system
- By Mary Wilbur
- Nov 01, 2011
The Academy of Art University in San Francisco
has evolved from a loft studio for a handful
of students in 1929 to become the country’s
largest private school for art and design. The
family-run institution understands that parents
want to be assured that their children
are in a safe and secure environment.
Academy President Elisa Stephens, the granddaughter of the
school's founder, Richard S. Stephens, has committed the academy to
an ever-expanding curriculum in order to stay current with new
technologies and trends.
Closed Campus, Interactive Relationship
AAU leaders speak to the parents and students about safety in an
urban campus environment, where they have access to the design,
graphic, Web, photographic, architectural and environmental beauty
of San Francisco. While the campus itself is a closed environment,
the academy nurtures an interactive relationship with the
It’s not the same campus that grandfather Stephens established,
and it likely has different concerns. Richard Stephens was a fine-arts
painter and creative director of Sunset Magazine. He and his wife,
Clara, opened their new school in a rented loft at 215 Kearney St. As enrollment grew, so did the distinguished faculty, which comprised
art and design professionals. By 1933, the curriculum had expanded
to include fashion illustration, and three years later, a fine art department
Today, more than 17,000 students call the academy home, a place
where they can earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees and participate
in certificate programs or continuing art education courses with
more than 30 areas of academic emphasis.
Similar to their counterparts of yester year, students today have
access control throughout all the facilities, where there are state-of-the-art design facilities, galleries and collections.
Security on Foot
Roving patrols that provide security are as much a part of the academy’s
philosophy as its commitment to being “student-centric,” meaning
staff members will do what they need to do to benefit the students.
On a day-to-day basis, the academy’s security team makes the
decisions that will affect positive outcomes for student security. This
includes video surveillance, campus safety hosts at buildings and
desk guards in buildings where students must be buzzed-in to enter.
“Video cameras are our best crime-fighting tool,” said Mike Patricca,
head of AAU security. “Video has solved the majority of problems
with teams of thieves stealing projectors and students’ computers.
After we got hit a few times, we got video to help us solve the problem
as evidence, catching them in the act. The thieves were arrested, then
came back a second time and are now doing time thanks to video
What brought it all together was implementing a video management
solution from Salient Systems of Austin, Texas. Security officials
and AAU staff alike knew the old legacy system had to be replaced, so
when a DVR went down, the transition from analog to digital began
to take shape.
Not an Overnight Process
Upgrading the security systems didn’t take place overnight. The academy
lists 29 properties as part of the university. Last year, it added 30
cameras in the Del Monte Cannery area of San Francisco. Security
officials selected ACTi megapixel cameras, running all of them on
Salient Systems’ video management software.
“The amazing thing about this school is how they take care of their
students,” said Dave Chritton, partner and owner of MicroBiz, a San
Francisco integrator. “When it’s time for the students to go home, the
Academy wants to make sure they make it there safely. AAU manages
a 24-hours communication center and has issued access control
badges for the students.”
The Cannery area at Fisherman’s Wharf is AAU's latest contribution
to its campus and the city. Academy officials selected Complete-
View video surveillance software as a force multiplier, which monitors
and manages every camera in the network. The software allows
the cameras to capture activities that officers may not see, and it is
available and accessible 24/7.
The Cannery landowners were excited to see the academy move in.
They instituted a revitalization plan for the area and added a security
system that not only protects their own interests but also benefits the
surrounding business owners.
CompleteView is proactive, with live video available to provide
real-time information for crisis management. Officers can know what
is happening before they enter a building or facility, resulting in
reduced risk in parking areas, cafeterias, lecture halls, large social
gatherings and athletic events.
“This is an IP-based system with a large server and recorder that
sends images back to the communications center,” Chritton said.
“AAU is the largest real estate owner in the San Francisco area. They
want excellent service, and security is a top priority.”
Security is critical on every level at the academy. The basic level
provides cameras and surveillance for the safety of staff and students
and includes on-premise guards and alarms for many properties. The
facility also employs a card access system and a high-tech IP backbone
developed by AAU's IT group. The academy has 20,000 active cardholders.
Some 18,000 students access the campus.
“This really is about the students and their safety. When the
academy does something, the San Francisco community at large
benefits,” said Susan Toland, strategic initiative executive, Office of
the President. “By keeping our students safe and secure, we are able
to graduate talented and educated students who enhance the talent
pool by adding to the design and art economy as an emerging business
Because AAU has deployed such an extensive camera and software
system, San Francisco police officers have come to rely on the
academy’s video of the perimeter and the properties the academy
uses. In one instance, a couple on vacation were walking on an adjacent
property, and the woman was shot and killed. An important
part of the incident was captured by campus video surveillance, and
the video assisted San Francisco police in prosecuting the killers.
The Salient solution has been used throughout the academy and
has been tested at the Jerrold Bus Center, where it tracks busses and
monitors the perimeter of the bus barn. It also helps record the detail
of license plates, and vehicles’ entry and exit times. Other selling
points of the solution were search and playback, and monitoring
screens in real time.
“We needed to replace the legacy system,” Patricca said. “The current
video management system provides a higher-resolution image
from the megapixel cameras, both inside the facility and on the exterior
of the buildings.”
This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Security Today.