KU hopes electronic locks will increase security

New electronic locks on Kansas University’s residential buildings will keep a log of who comes in and when.

KU Director of Student Housing Diana Robertson said the log will be kept at the housing office, and would be available in the event of a problem.

Though she said the electronic locks weren’t in response to a request to secure buildings after the April university shootings at Virginia Tech, she did say that incident caused discussions about ways to step up security.

“These electronic locks are something we’ve talked about for some time,” Robertson said. “There really wasn’t a direct connection to Virginia Tech.”

To gain access to a building, students will have to run their KU identification card through an electronic card reader, which will then determine whether a person is a resident. If the person is, the door will unlock. If not, the person needs to enter through the main door and go through the standard guest policies of the residence.

The card readers, which should have initial costs of about $60,000, will not be installed on every door of each residence and scholarship hall. Instead, Robertson said, they’ll be installed mostly on back or secondary doors.

“We’ll be activating them as we get them,” Robertson said. “They should all be in place by the end of the fall semester.”

Once the new electronic locks are in place, all doors but the front will be locked at all times. Certain doors will be accessible with the card readers, while others will allow students to exit only.

The front doors will remain open because of the proximity to a manned front desk.

For that reason, Robertson doesn’t expect any student security or desk assistant jobs to be lost.

Capt. Schuyler Bailey, KU Public Safety Office spokesman, said that the electronic locks and access logs could improve his department’s ability to maintain security.

“This will take away different avenues for access from people who don’t belong there,” he said.

Overall, he said the new locks also would make it easier to secure campus if a disaster or attack on campus occurred.

“Any time you have multiple doors, if you can flip a switch and secure the building, it’s going to be a lot faster,” he said.

KU is actually relatively late in bringing electronic locks to 20 of its largest residential buildings, home to about 4,500 students. Previously, KU left residence hall doors open during daylight hours, and then funneled all entrants toward the front door after 11 p.m. Scholarship halls have long had locks, though they were typically based on a numerical code, which could be shared.

The University of Missouri-Columbia has had card-controlled electronic locks dating back at least to 1994, and perhaps longer, said Frankie Minor, the university’s director of residential life.

“The system has worked really well for us,” Minor said. “The system will even tell us if a door has been propped open.”

Minor said that the Missouri system also keeps track of who enters a building and when. Officials there only access that log if there is a reported problem, and the log is purged at regular intervals, based on storage capacity.