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3 Dorms May Get Card-Key System

By Hyun Soo Kim
Associate News Editor

Magnetic card-key readers will be placed on the main entrances of MacGregor House, Next House, and possibly Baker House by the first week of February as a preliminary experiment, according to Lawrence E. Maguire, director of housing and food services.

"It's going to begin as a tentative experiment within three weeks. We will begin to wire and put [card-key readers] on the doors. We will probably keep the key system too, for a while," Maguire said.

The card-key readers will initially be placed on the exterior doors of each of the houses. Currently, residents access MacGregor's nine outside entry doors with a metal key. Similarly, at both Next and Baker Houses, residents open the one main entrance with a metal door key.

The card system will be tried at MacGregor and Next House first, then possibly at Baker House. Residents of the three dorms will receive a card with a magnetic strip that can be used as an ID card, meal card, and access card. The MIT Card that is currently being distributed to MIT employees may be adapted for use as a complete student card encompassing all these functions.

"New cards will be issued that will provide access and food services. We will try using the MIT Card for the houses. [Students] will use this card as a meal card and access card. The end goal is to have one card, with ID pictures for everyone. Now it is a charge card for employees, but it has the capacity to be used for access and as a meal card," Maguire said.

One card will be able to access all nine outside doors at MacGregor. "Whether to open the dorm during certain hours to all card-carriers, or to just restrict it to residents... we need to work these ideas out with the residents," Maguire said.

According to Maguire, the card-key system will enhance security in the dormitories. "Eventually the card system will replace keys. The goal is to provide better security. Keys tend to duplicate themselves, but it's a little harder to duplicate cards," Maguire said. "It's a timely thing to do. Other schools are doing it. It will upgrade security."

Maguire estimated that it would cost $140,000 per house to add card-key readers and change the locks on perimeter doors.

He also said that the new equipment would not eliminate the need for desk workers. In fact, he said, they will become even more necessary.

"It is important for students manning the front desk to watch people coming in and out because people can follow others in," MacGregor Housemaster Judith A. Lippard said. "Just in terms of not being able to duplicate keys, it may be helpful."

Though the exact software package and company has not been confirmed yet, card-readers are planned for all the houses. According to Maguire, Housing Services plans to add card-key readers to all houses by next fall, though he said the exact software package and supplier has not been confirmed yet. He said that most of the requisite work will be done over the summer.

If a student loses his or her card, Housing Services will immediately cancel that card, and after some paperwork, the student will receive another card. The new card should be issued within about two minutes.

"I don't think the pass card will change things that much for us, but what will really affect us is changing the door locks," said Craig E. White '93, a MacGregor desk worker who contacted Campus Police to report three trespassers in MacGregor two weeks ago.

After the outside door locks and keys to MacGregor were changed in September 1991, the rate of theft in the dormitory dropped drastically from a high of 17 thefts the previous year to one or two minor thefts during the next, said White.

"If it's cold, the doors will still stick open and people will still prop them open. If we change outside locks every two years, it would eliminate more crimes," White said.

"We used to be very hot. There used to be one or two people who came in regularly to steal every couple of months. Usually they would walk around for 10 to 15 minutes and take something from rooms that were left unlocked... like jewelry, VCRs and money," White said.