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Misovec Criticism of Card Key System Is Flawed

While I am not a proponent of the card key system, I feel that guest columnist Kathleen Misovec's analysis of the system ["MIT Card Puts Student Safety at Risk," Nov. 18] is flawed in many respects.

If anyone is to fight against the card key system, they should do so with carefully reasoned arguments. Misovec enumerates the flaws of the card system, but never compares it to the current system of keys. The relevant issue is not whether the card system has flaws but whether its flaws make it less secure than keys. Students' privacy is an equally important issue, but not my concern here.

One of Misovec's concerns is that the card key takes longer to use than a normal key. While this may be true, it should not constitute any additional risk. Though the Campus Police can offer us little protection off-campus, the safety of our front doors is probably a very high priority. If you feel that it is reasonable to walk to your dorm, the thought of standing for a few seconds in front of your dorm should not petrify you.

And, yes, it is a flaw of the card key system that the same card which provides access to a dorm identifies its owner explicitly. Remember, though, that the current system relies on keys labeled for each dorm. The labeling is certainly more cryptic than a name, but any intent criminal could find the dorm which corresponds to a given key. And if a criminal does acquire a key and determine where it goes, what can the Institute do? Replace the lock and the keys for everyone in that dorm? You must admit that the ability to invalidate any single key is a great benefit.

Another of Misovec's concerns is that card keys may be duplicated. This is simply wrong. The current system relies on keys which can be and often are duplicated at any hardware store. There is currently no widely available method for duplicating card keys. In this sense, card keys are much more secure than typical keys.

Misovec goes further, implying that putting card readers on Institute buildings would somehow reduce security over the current system of leaving exterior doors unlocked all the time. I think professors will welcome the placement of card readers between the outside world and their lab equipment.

Misovec goes on to explain that unauthorized use of one's meal card causes financial loss. This is the case with any debit card, whether it is also a card key or not. The only new concern is that consolidating the meal card and card key means that losing one card inconveniences you in many more ways.

Finally, Misovec is concerned that students will have to carry both a card for exterior doors and keys for interior doors. Again, this is not a change. Before the card key system, we had to carry our IDs and two keys. Now we only need to carry our IDs and one key.

A card key system is as secure or more secure than metal keys. It is not at all surprising that MIT's administrators would like to adopt card keys. It is only disturbing how little they have considered the students' privacy and how little they have sought our input. If we are to influence the administration, we must approach them with rational arguments.

Brad J. Bartley '96