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Keys now needed to enter Mills’ Seminary Gate

The pedestrian gate that separates Mills College campus from Seminary Avenue was outfitted with a new lock last week, so that students, faculty, and staff who access campus from the back entrance must now use a physical key to open the gate, rather than entering a code into an electronic keypad.

The coded lock on the back gate bordering Mills College and Seminary has been changed to  a key lock. (Kate Carmack)
The coded lock on the back gate bordering Mills College and Seminary has been changed to a key lock. (Kate Carmack)

The back gate is often more convenient than the entrance on Richards Road for students and professors who have classes in the Education Department, and students also use the gate to get to the stores across the street. Some who use the gate are unfazed by the change to a physical key, while others who use the gate are unhappy with the change.

“I’m not a fan of the key, personally,” said Dr. Connie Robinson, who teaches an education course in Westmore Lodge, a building located steps away from the gate.

Robinson emphasized the swiftness with which Mills has processed the change; she said that while obtaining the key was a painless experience, she does not like the inconvenience of carrying a physical key to maneuver on campus.

“With the key, there’s something for me to lose, something I have to carry,” Robinson said.

And, if she forgets her key, she has to wait at the gate for a security officer to interrupt what he is doing to let her in.

“I’m a woman, I don’t want to wait out there. I don’t think that’s particularly safe,” Robinson said.

Asked if the physical key might be more secure than a code that can easily be shared verbally, Robinson said that she often allows people through the gate with her key.

“I make an assumption,” she said. “I see them standing there; I don’t know if they go to Mills; they look like a really nice person.” Robinson concluded that she was unsure about whether the key would be more secure than an electronic code. “I can’t answer that question,” she said.

O. Stevens, a fourth-year English major, said she overheard one student telling another the code last year, and has used it since then to access the gate. She has many education classes near the gate and prefers the convenience of the  back gate, which has several bus stops nearby.

Stevens found the switch to the key inconvenient, and is concerned about the $25 deposit that is required to maintain use of the key over the summer, which she plans to do.

“For something that was just a code, to now have responsibility for paying back the key if you lose it,” poses a concern for Stevens. “I lose keys all the time,” she said.

Robinson noted that the switch to a physical key that she has to carry is not only an inconvenience for her, it is also a technological regression.

“It has gone backwards in the age of electronics and technology,” Robinson said. “The manpower is very inefficient.” She added that this would particularly affect students who might leave campus through the gate to get food across the street.

Jenny Schurk, who has been at Mills for her undergraduate career and is now getting her teaching credential, lives in a residence hall in close proximity to the Seminary Avenue gate. Schurk said that she uses the Seminary entrance frequently for the facilities across the street, which include food, a convenience store, and an ATM.

“I eat burritos over there all the time,” said Schurk.

When she found out the code had been switched to a physical key, Schurk said that even though this is her last semester, she would probably get a key because, she said, “what if I need a burrito?”

Schurk doesn’t object to the switch from code to key. “I think it’s kind of cool, too, that it’s a key,” Schurk said. “But I’m a  key person.”

Of the 100 new keys that have been made, about 20 have been distributed, according to records kept by the Housing Management and Dining Services (HMDS).

Niviece Robinson, Director of Public Safety, said that the keypad has been replaced multiple times.

“We’ve gone through about three of them,” she said. According to Robinson, the electronic keypads suffer wear and tear in the rain and from “people punching on it,” not from vandalism.