Eastern Washington University plans to change the locks to 3,500 dorm rooms and campus apartments because a key fitting all of them has been missing since spring.
“It is the master key to all of our resident halls and campus apartments, which is 10 buildings,” said EWU spokesman Dave Meany.
Exterior locks to those buildings were replaced shortly after a maintenance worker reported losing the unmarked key, Meany said. And locks were changed to rooms used by high school students who stayed at Eastern for summer camps.
There have been no reports of anybody using the key, Meany said.
Replacing locks to the individual rooms, an effort that will begin soon, will take at least 20 days and cost about $100,000, Meany said. In the meantime, advisers will be talking to residents about safety in general, and about the missing key, said Steve Bertram, manager of residential life operations.
“Most of our thefts occur because people don’t lock their doors when they leave to go to the bathroom or whatever,” Bertram said.
With school starting today, many resident students started moving in during the weekend. There have been extra patrols of volunteer “cadet” officers from the EWU police department, both inside and outside dorms, Bertram said.
The key was lost, not stolen, Meany said.
“It could have ended up in a Dumpster, for all we know,” Meany said.
As to why the locks weren’t replaced before students started arriving for fall quarter, Bertram – who hasn’t been involved in the effort – cited the complexity of the task.
“It’s 3,500 locks,” Bertram said. “That’s not something we’re going to handle overnight or even in a couple months.”
Meany said there also were union issues to work out, regarding how the work should be done and by whom. The normal process of requesting bids was set aside to speed up the work, he said.
At least one parent isn’t impressed with the university’s response. Bob Spurr said his daughter, Jessica, only heard about the lost key through the grapevine, even though she’s a student adviser in a dorm – one of the people who will now be expected to spread the word about the key.
“This is a long time from problem to solution,” said Spurr, who accuses university officials of trying to “sweep it under the rug.”