One stolen set of keys has cost the university an estimated six-figure dollar amount, triggered a review of university policy and left many faculty and staff wondering how they will be able to get into their buildings at irregular hours.
After a tool bag that contained a set of university keys was stolen from a facilities van on Monday night prompting security concerns, the university began replacing all of the external doors in Portland and Gorham, said Bob Caswell, executive director of public affairs at USM. There are around 5,500 internal and external doors on campus in 40 to 50 buildings across the two campuses, Caswell said.
“It’s thousands and thousands of doors that need to be looked at and prioritized,” Caswell said. He said that external locks will be replaced for Monday. Several hundred doors had already been fitted with new locks as of Friday.
The process, he estimated, may cost the university more than six figures, and the lock changes this week are only a temporary fix, he said. There will be more to come, he said.
“The next major stage of the process will be to design a new [university-wide] keying system so that there is a finite number of master keys that work on both interior and exterior doors,” he said. In other words, the process is far from over. By mid-week faculty and staff will start to be issued new keys, but until then, public safety will have to let faculty and staff into university buildings after hours, if it is absolutely necessary that someone enter a building, Caswell said.
Beyond that, Caswell said that part of the process will likely prompt a review of policy, though he stated that he is currently not familiar with what facilities’ policies are currently in place to regulate procedures for the storage of university keys. Caswell was not aware of whether or not the vehicle from which the keys were stolen was left unlocked.
“There were no signs of forcible entry,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that somebody couldn’t have worked the lock.”
Caswell said that he didn’t think that the daily operations of the university had been interrupted; however, he acknowledged the inconvenience of the situation.
“It’s a huge pain. There’s no two ways about it,” he said. “I guess we just ask for people’s patience so that we can get a uniform key system in place.”
University officials estimated that the process may cost the university a sum in the low six figures, not “more than six figures.”