Concern voiced over Wilson security

By Paul Gully

Special Projects Editor

The security system installed in Wilson Hall this summer, restricting access to the offices of top-level Oakland University administration, including the Office of the President, has not been well received by some students and faculty on campus.

The system has elicited criticism from OU’s Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, who, in an open letter to faculty, urged them to “carry out all face-to-face contacts with senior administrators in faculty offices or conference rooms located in the ‘open’ university.”

However, according to Ted Montgomery, OU’s media relations director, much is being made out of a “non-issue.”

Both Montgomery and OU Police Chief Sam Lucido said that the added security for the second-floor hallway was implemented as part of security upgrades that have been in the works for the past few years.

According to Montgomery, a security consultant was brought in prior to 2002, and analyzed several areas of the university. The consultant determined that some upgrading needed to be done and that compared to other universities the security in Wilson Hall was relatively lax, according to Montgomery.

Since 2002 OUPD twice advised the administration to install added security measures, according to Lucido. The advice seemed especially prudent in the wake of several threats Lucido says were made against named Wilson Hall executives during the “past several years” — two of which were deemed “very significant.”

However, at the time of this summer’s upgrade, neither threat was imminent, according to Mel Gilroy, an OUPD lieutenant.

According to Lucido, the installation of the system “should not be looked at in isolation.”

“We have done massive security upgrades in the last two or three years,” he said. “This project is part of an overall, extensive security upgrade across campus.”

Lucido cited several security advancements, including text message alerts, new evacuation procedures, approximately 70 new security cameras, upgraded alarm systems, and planned security additions in the student apartments and dorms, that have been implemented in the past few years.


In an open letter sent to OU’s faculty sent via email, the AAUP took issue with a system that “effectively isolates the Office of the President, Senior Vice President and Provost, General Counsel, among others, from the university.”

Among the issues addressed by the AAUP were the facts that faculty were not made aware of the system’s installation, and that the added measures “completely change” the culture at OU.

“Universities should epitomize the highest traits of an open and free society with respect to unfettered forums for discussions of ideas, respectful interactions between all groups comprising modern American society,” Joel Russell, the president of OU’s chapter of the AAUP, wrote in the letter.

Sharon Howell, Chair of OU’s communication and  journalism programs, whose office is located above the restricted hallway, shares a similar opinion.

“This is sending the wrong message about our educational atmosphere. I think it’s sad that we have this level of security on a college campus, particularly at OU, a small university that prides itself on being a small, safe, open campus,” Howell said.

“I’m right above [OU President Gary Russi] and my door is open all the time,” she added.

Her sentiments echoed those in Russell’s letter.

“Universities cannot respond to isolated acts of violence or even terrorism by denying such free access and becoming examples of closed societies. Universities should remain symbols of a free society,” he wrote.

Responding to the AAUP’s claim that the university did not notify faculty of the system’s installation, Montogomery said that it was “previewed in a web story” posted on OU’s website in May.

“There was a web story on May 16 posted before the work even began,” said Montgomery. “If we were trying to do this in secret, we wouldn’t have posted a web story about it.”

The story Montgomery referred to was posted under the headline “Summer construction projects begin around campus.” A sentence in the story referenced a security enhancement that was to take place in the “east wing of the ground floor of Wilson Hall, which houses the university’s chief administrative offices and official university records and documents.”

Faculty was not notified with an e-mail or press release.

But Montgomery maintains that the “notion that the [administration] is trying to pull something over on somebody is just absurd.” He also said that the added security measures done in Wilson were installed to make sure that “someone just doesn’t burst in” to the hallway while administrators are in their offices doing work.

Lucido reiterated that the measures taken were done as part of a plan to upgrade security on the entire campus.

“We’re trying to upgrade everything and trying to protect people as much as possible.

Unfortunately, it’s the day in age we live in. We have to focus more on safety and security than we’ve ever had to in the past.”


Regardless of the administration’s or OUPD’s intentions, there have been several incidents since the system’s installation.

Heather Koontz, a student employee in the health sciences department was not stranger to the offices in the hall. So when Koontz was sent to the Provost’s Office this summer, it came as a bit of a surprise that access to the hallway had been restricted.

“It was news to me,” said the senior economics major. “Actually, I was kind of shocked.”

According to the AAUP, a similar incident occurred with Lizabeth Barclay, an OU professor and grievance officer of the AAUP. According to the AAUP, Barclay was not permitted access to deliver a formal complaint to the senior vice president (about a matter separate from the security system).

Montgomery did say that, as he understood the situation, there was a minor problem when a member in the Provost’s Office did not initially recognize Barclay. However, Montgomery said that the situation was quickly rectified and that Barclay was permitted in and the grievance was delivered that same day.

And after shooting photos of the security system for this story, Dustin Alexander, The Oakland Post’s photo editor was stopped by OUPD officers and questioned. Officers also asked to review his photos. Alexander complied and after officers checked his identification, he was allowed to leave.

The issue has been covered by in an article entitled “Don’t Think of Dropping In on Your President.” The article, which addressed issues at OU, garnered feedback and comments from around the country. You can view the article at

While the AAUP has not filed an official grievance over the issue, Russell did say that he planned on bringing up the issue at the state AAUP meeting that is to be held on Saturday, Sept. 13 to find out if other universities are implementing similar systems.