Two halls’ interior master keys missing

by Staff

LOCK DOWN: Business freshman T.J. Brown, shown here keying into Tenochca Residence Hall, says the extra security makes for a safer environment but is a hassle when he has to show his keys every time he comes and goes.
ADAM HARJU/Daily Aztec

After a year without key problems, the Housing and Residential Life Office again is being forced to buff up security and adjust locks in two residence halls at San Diego State University.

Two keys, which access every interior room in Chapultepec and Tenochca residence halls, were discovered missing last Wednesday when a private contractor working on the two halls failed to return them when the work was completed, said Mike Hoctor, director of Housing and Residential Life.

The missing keys have left about 450 rooms vulnerable, he said, although no problems have been reported as a result. The private contractor, which Hoctor declined to identify, told Housing and Residential Life it had unsuccessfully searched for the keys for an undetermined amount of time before reporting them missing, Hoctor said.

Hoctor said a new key-core system will be installed in each of the locks tomorrow and Friday. The cores of the locks will be replaced, he said, and all of the residents will receive new keys ? a $35,000 process that will be billed to the private contractor.

Since Thursday, Hoctor said, security in the halls has been dramatically increased. Residents are being required to show their keys to the desk clerks every time they enter the halls, he said, and although the keys for the exterior doors weren’t lost, they will remain locked 24 hours a day in order to emphasize security.

Under normal circumstances, the exterior doors at some residence halls remain unlocked during the daytime, Hoctor said.

Residents also have been reminded not to let strangers follow them into the halls and to escort their guests at all times, Hoctor said.

Although hall residents recognize the need for the enhanced security, some say this sort of thing shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

“They can’t provide adequate security, and now we are suffering as students,” said business freshman T.J. Brown, a resident of Tenochca. “With the troubles we go through every day, (an additional inconvenience) is not what we need at San Diego State University.”

Brown added that he’s glad extra security measures have been taken because the residents are safer, but he considers it to be a hassle when he has to show his keys to the desk clerks several times a day.

But the situation could be worse. This is the third time master keys have been lost in less than two years; the last two times ? which occurred within six months of each other ? the lost keys affected about 1,500 residents because they allowed access to every door in five residence halls, according to The Daily Aztec archives.

In September 1996, a master key for Maya, Olmeca, Tenochca and Zura halls, and the Villa Alvarado apartments was lost by a student night-safety staff member. All of the locks in the residence halls had to be replaced, costing the university an estimated $35,000, Hoctor said.

In March 1997, another master key for the same halls was lost by another SDSU employee. This time, adjustments, rather than replacements, were made. Notches were added to the keys, and extra pins were inserted into the locks. This method was slightly cheaper than replacing the locks, Hoctor said.

As a result of the two incidents, the master keys were eliminated, Hoctor said. Now, instead of having one master key for every door in five residence halls, he said, each hall has two keys ? one for the exterior and one for the interior doors.

“We made the changes to try to limit our vulnerability,” Hoctor said. “I never thought we would lose two of them. I feel like I’ve been snakebit. But the changes helped. There’s less exposure because of the re-keying … and we feel as if the new system is working as it’s supposed to be.”