Staff Spotlight – Public Safety Systems and Services Team

All active students, faculty, and staff at Yale have an ID badge. These badges control access to University buildings, dining halls, parking lots, printers, library services, and more. Yale’s Public Safety Systems and Services (PSSS) is the team that creates and manages photo ID access, maintains the building alarms, cameras, and thousands of interior and exterior card readers. This is no small feat, even during normal times.

Over the past couple of months, the team of six has adjusted to working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While there was no interruption to services during the transition, there was a lot of work behind the scenes to keep operations running normally. This meant supplying everyone with laptops, installing software, lots of Zoom chats, and online training to learn how to keep this critical operation running virtually. While this was happening, the campus was identifying buildings that needed to be quickly shut down and secured. In addition, plans had to be made to allow card reader access to those who remained on campus, including some students, researchers, and other essential individuals.

This team, led by William Goldbach, Assistant Director, Public Safety Systems, his direct reports Stephen Donnelly, Manager Access Control and ID Centers and Jacqueline Killips, Public Safety Systems & Services Administrator, worked closely with building administrators and the Yale Police Department concerning continued access to specific individuals during the campus shutdown. Now, two months later, the team is working with its partners to plan and implement the reopening of some campus buildings. Basically, reversing what they did when the shutdown began.

Brian Pagan, a Technical Assistant on the team, talked with us about this transition, how the team is fairing, the Wizard of Oz, and appreciating the little things in life.

What does this team do regularly?

PSSS or Access Control (as we used to be called) is responsible for programming ID cards, including a person’s digital record so that they can have access to buildings and other services. We also green or red-light buildings or spaces as needed and maintain building alarms and cameras. If you work or go to school at Yale, we have touched your record, ensuring that your ID gets you where you need to be safely. Besides IDs, we provide passport photos and notary services. There are six of us behind the green curtain, like in the Wizard of Oz, working the controls.

What was the first thing the team did to ensure they could work from home?

Bill called us together to figure out everyone’s needs so that we could function remotely. This included the issuance of laptops and new software. Next, we reached out to all the Operations Managers and access authorizers asking how they’d like their buildings or areas programmed. As information came in, we worked on updating access per door or person for the specific building or department. There is no one magic switch, we program areas using individual card reader numbers, removing and securing access as necessary. And now we are doing it from laptops in our kitchens, learning new software in a constantly changing situation. At first, it was a little crazy, but we’ve all acclimated.

What was the hardest thing about doing all of that?

Understanding the severity of the situation, at the same time adjusting to the limitations of working from home. At the office, we have phones, supercomputers, lots of monitors, and each other. Now at home, things move at a more reserved pace; we work alone, learn on the fly, and discovered how to Zoom. Almost overnight, we were dealing with the needs of the entire university going into lockdown. It was hectic, trying, and exhausting. Everyone’s house or dining room became a mini command center. We never strayed far from our phones or emails because of the rapid pace of requests.

What is your pandemic advice to everyone out there?

Appreciate the little things and the freedoms that we enjoy. Let’s all strive to get it back! At the same time, maybe shifting away from the “me” society. Possibly adopting a different and better business or personal model. We need to gear ourselves toward that.  

It’s been eight weeks; what is the most significant difference you notice?

It’s not just about having morning or evening sweat pants (he chuckles). I’m happy that I’m healthy and that my family is healthy. I’m happy to be alive, to be talking to you right now even via Zoom. People seem more relaxed, less critical, more caring, but also, I think our society is more divided.

What positives do you see at work or in the world coming out of the pandemic?

Reducing our carbon footprint. All of us working from home, not commuting in–as our cars sit idle. The air is clearer; I’ve seen aerial maps. Maybe we can shift our business model to help the environment. That would be a big positive in all of this. Also, appreciating all those freedoms that we take for granted. We are very fortunate.  

What is the first thing you are going to do when this is over and we can move freely about.

Sounds silly, but I’d like to hug my mom. She is 80, and I haven’t seen her since January. She lives in New York. I got her to learn Zoom so that she could see her grandchildren. Wonders never cease.

Special thanks to the whole team:

  • Neil Carney
  • Stephen Donnelly
  • Sheldon Gatison
  • Bill Goldbach
  • Jacqueline Killips
  • Brian Pagan
  • Deborah Rodriguez
  • Frank Squeglia
  • Jason Tucker