When a master key to the Mass Row dorms disappeared almost three weeks ago, the College acted quickly to order thousands of dollars worth of replacement individual door locks for the entire cluster. A week ago, however, the key was returned, leaving the Office of Residential Life with a non-refundable $17,000 purchase for now-unneeded locks.
This money will come directly out of the ORL budget and may limits funds allocated for ORL work on student dorms, according to Directory of Residential Operations Woody Eckels.
"$17,000 in the grand scheme of things is not a lot of money," Eckels said, "but it's $17,000 worth of work on the dorms that we're not going to be able to do because of this."
Eckels said that almost three weeks ago, a master key "was left in a door by a custodian and when he came back 15 minutes later, it was gone."
This master key had access to all student rooms within the three Mass Row dorms.
Even though the Office of Residential Life was uncertain as to whether the master key was stolen or simply misplaced, Eckels said that it went ahead with its purchase of the new cores just to be safe.
"It's a scary thing for us to know that a key is missing," Eckels said.
ORL scheduled the lock changes for this past Thursday. However, Eckels indicated that the key was returned anonymously to the cluster last Wednesday night, which halted ORL's plans.
According to Eckels, Safety and Security has dismissed the possibility that the key was misplaced by the custodian because of the time at which it was returned, and is now is concentrating its investigation on the possibility of theft.
"I don't think that that is likely [that the key was misplaced]," Eckels said. "After the e-mail message went out that we were changing the locks, someone scrambled and turned in the key."
At present, ORL is not concerned that the master key may have been copied by its thief.
"It is not possible," Eckels said. "Other locksmiths and other colleges don't make these keys because of the patent."
The key core system that the College purchases is non-refundable and now lies dormant in storage, Eckels said.
Eckels also said that the ORL has no use for the locks in the immediate future. ORL usually only replaces the lock cores of entire dorms and clusters once their specific patents run out.
Eckels said that the patent for Mass Row's cores does not expire for at least another 10 to 12 years. He also said that the cores could not be used to replace those in certain clusters once their specific patents run out.
For example, "we couldn't use them in Topliff because it has a lot more doors," Eckels said.
Eckels said that ORL would eventually use the new shipment of cores, however.
Safety and Security has been investigating the Mass Row incident since the keys were lost.
College Proctor Harry Kinne said that Safety and Security had several leads and is currently investigating the circumstances in which the keys were returned.
Kinne indicated that it was a definite possibility that Safety and Security would turn the culprit over to Hanover Police, if apprehended, because of the sizable costs that the College incurred in purchasing new lock equipment.