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The College’s key blunder

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February 22, 2016

10:29 PM

On Aug. 14, the infamous master key that opens every door to almost every residence hall was lost. Remarkably, it took the employee and his or her staff 11 days to inform a supervisor, and then another day for the police to be notified. The student body was then notified the next day.

A grand total of 13 days had elapsed before students were notified that the master key had been lost. The implication of that 13-day time span is huge, as anyone could have had access to every single door on campus, and nobody aside from the people looking for the key would have known about it. Nothing locked by vigilant students inside dorms would have been safe.

However, what is unacceptable is the amount of time taken between the loss of the key and school-wide notification of its loss.  Anything could have happened in those 13 days. Student safety was at risk.

The loss of the master key, no matter the expense it may have caused, should be forgivable, as human error in any situation is a variable that always exists. However, what is unacceptable is the amount of time taken between the loss of the key and school-wide notification of its loss.  Anything could have happened in those 13 days. Student safety was at risk. Those 13 days constitute a lapse in the trust that school security and management have the responsibility to uphold. Two campus law enforcement experts, interviewed by the Flat Hat, said that in the case of master keys going missing, a notification to the police should have been issued immediately.

It is the school’s responsibility to immediately notify students of any sort of potential risk. Naturally, students have received emergency alerts for wintery conditions that might not even transpire. Students themselves are expected to report the loss of their very own room key immediately after it is misplaced. Why shouldn’t the administration be held to the same standard?

Indeed, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires universities and colleges, by law, to establish protocols in assessing risk and the notification of the school and to follow those protocols. The College of William and Mary’s policy is to immediately notify students of any potential risk. It is a good policy, for obvious security reasons. It is especially concerning, therefore, that it was neglected in the case of the master key.

More precautions could have and should have been taken, including the installation of CCTV systems around campus dorms or security at entrances, for example.

It is obvious to school officials that the situation was an important one. A total of about half a million dollars is being spent on re-coring the locks in all residence halls. The police force did increase patrol and surveillance in the days following notification, but this action represents only the bare minimum of what could have been done. More precautions could have and should have been taken, including the installation of CCTV systems around campus dorms or security at entrances, for example.

The process of changing the locks around campus is simply damage control. It is an action succeeding the lapse in security. Students have not been notified of any meaningful precautionary actions taken, if any exist, to ensure that this type of security lapse does not happen again. No assurances of prevention have been issued, and this represents a great hole in security management of the school.

This situation should never happen again. As with many mistakes, this event should be used as a template for protocol reform. Learning from this event can only serve to enhance the safety of students and reinstate the trust that must exist between students and administration.

The staff editorial represents the opinion of The Flat Hat. The editorial board, which is elected by The Flat Hat’s section editors and executive staff, consists of Aine Cain, Isabel Larroca, Miguel Locsin, Quinn Monette, Emily Chaumont and Kayla Sharpe. The Flat Hat welcomes submissions to the Opinions section. Limit letters to 250 words and columns to 650 words. Letters, columns, graphics and cartoons reflect the view of the author only. Email submissions to [email protected].

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The Flat Hat Editorial Board is elected by The Flat Hat's section editors and executive staff. The staff editorial represents the opinion of The Flat Hat.