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CAC Installs New MIT Card Locks

By Harold Fox


After numerous delays, student group offices on the fourth floor of the Student Center are finally being made more secure by the installation of new card locks.

New locks were initially promised by the Campus Activities Complex more than a year ago, after several student groups suffered break-ins. A safe was stolen from the Technique office. The CAC originally planned to replace the old key locks with new ones, but the Association of Student Activities petitioned the CAC to offer combination locks and card readers instead.

Card readers are more secure because, unlike keys, the cards cannot be easily copied. In addition, if a key is lost or stolen, the lock and all keys must be changed to ensure future security. With ID cards, the lost or stolen card can simply be removed from the system.

First locks had glitches

The promise of new locks was delayed in part because the first vendor chosen by MIT did not have card readers that could be customized to work with the MIT card. CAC did not discover the problem until after trying to install them on the fourth floor.

Once this problem was resolved with the selection of Ingersoll-Rand Locknetics card locks, the first unit was installed at the Alpha Phi Omega office.

“The first time they put it on was about a week ago, and it didn’t work at all,” said APO President Katharine A. Reid ’02. “They put it back on [Tuesday], and it works for most people’s cards, and for a few of the people it randomly hasn’t worked.”

Jennifer B. Smith, CAC assistant manager for events planning, said that the locks essentially work with the exception of a few technical glitches. “We are just about there with the card readers,” Smith said. “We finally got it operational. Three people from APO got new cards.” CAC will now work with the MIT Card Office to coordinate authorization numbers.

Card readers different from most

The new locks are off-line card readers, unlike the on-line card readers at MIT dorms, which have a dedicated wire link to the servers at the Card Office. The new card readers connect to a local database which must be reprogrammed every time a student gets a new ID card.

However, the different locks meant that the CAC had to learn to use a whole new technology. “The locks were late, because the final selection of locks involved substantial training of CAC personnel,” said ASA president Alvar Saenz-Otero G. “The CAC went though major personnel changes in the past spring and summer, and that slowed down the training.”

Student groups are glad to see the new locks in place, but are also hoping for more reliability. “If they can get all the bugs worked out, we will be happy,” Reed said.