Stolen Keys To Ole Miss Dorm Rooms May Cost Students - - The News for South Mississippi

Stolen Keys To Ole Miss Dorm Rooms May Cost Students

University of Mississippi officials say they could assess students living in Stockard Hall for security that must now be taken after the theft of a lock box containing room and administrative keys.

Housing and Residence Life director Bill McCartney notified Stockard residents after the April 11 theft that they could be held collectively responsible for $20,000 to $22,000 for extra security, under the group billing clause in the university's housing contract.

"Our policies do allow us to assess such damages to residents,'' McCartney said this week. "We've not determined at this time that we will do this.''

The keys were in a large, locked box on the counter when they were taken, a fact that some students characterize as negligence on the part of officials.

"They should have had a glass panel or something across there,'' said freshman John Carr of Pass Christian. "Somebody could just reach over there and grab the box, and finally someone did.''

If administrators assess Stockard residents for a share in the costs, some students and parents will sue, Carr said.

"I'm pretty sure parents will start a class action suit because they (those responsible for the keys) made us unsafe,'' Carr said.

McCartney said $250,000 in costs for vandalism repairs in 1998-99 prompted the implementation of the group billing clause.

"Group billing uses the force of the community to regulate itself,'' he said. "Students do not want to pay for the foolishness of others. It made a tremendous difference in vandalism. Before this (key theft) happened, we had only had about $11,000 worth of vandalism this school year.''

Officials are still seeking the culprit or culprits in the key box theft. McCartney said loaner keys would not be available for the remainder of this semester. Students who forget their keys will have to locate their area resident assistant to gain access to their rooms.

The opened box was recovered in a nearby trash bin. The keys were missing.

New locks will be installed within a week in the 240 rooms of Stockard Hall. The changing of locks in adjoining Martin Hall, which houses women, was completed Tuesday.

McCartney said other security upgrades are in the planning for all campus residence halls. He said high-tech locks will be retrofitted to each student room over the summer and video cameras may also be added at entrances and in elevators.

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