By Andrea MacLean
Pitman Hall residents say it’s easy to break into the building’s rooms, thanks to an out-of-date key card system.
Students in Ryerson’s largest residence have found ways to duplicate the cards that open the rooms’ doors, alter their own cards to gain access to other people’s rooms and even open doors without even using a key card.
Cutting an old gift card or another plastic card into the shape of Pitman’s keys and punching holes in the correct places will produce a working copy of Pitman’s key cards.
“I’ve seen people use a hammer and nail [to punch the holes] or a hole punch, as long as it’s small enough,” said Tye Padget, a first-year theatre production student and resident in Pitman. “You just have to have something to make the right-sized hole.”
Alex Brueckner-Irwin, a second-year film student, has lived in Pitman for two years. His roommate last year duplicated his card so his friends could access his room when he wasn’t around. At the end of the year, he kept his duplicate.
“This year, he still had the key and he tried it [on the same door] and it worked,” Brueckner-Irwin said.
Many students who break the flimsy cards forge them to avoid paying the $10 fee for a new one, said Yanna Chevtchouk, a third-year business management student who has lived in residence for three years.
“They shouldn’t be easy to break,” she said. “I know a lot of people who have duplicated their cards so they don’t have to pay [to replace broken cards].”
Glen Weppler, manager of Student Housing Services, said there haven’t been any security issues with card duplication, although it is something that residence staff and security need to be mindful of.
“There are always people looking for different ways to abuse the system,” he said.
Students who are caught with duplicate cards could be punished, according to the contract that all students signed upon acceptance into residence.
However, students don’t need to duplicate their card to beat the system. Brueckner-Irwin discovered last year that people who shared the same apartment could use tape to alter their card to access their roommate’s rooms.
Cards for the apartment-style units are similar so that they can all open the exterior door. However, there is often only one hole difference between keys for the four rooms within each unit.
Residents can tape over the different hole in order to use their key to access their roommate’s room.
“We did it last year when we locked ourselves out of our rooms,” Brueckner-Irwin said.
This way, they avoided being charged $5 for maintenance to unlock their door. “We’d also jimmy them open with a credit card,” he said. “We were able to get three of the four rooms [in the apartment] open.”
Ryerson’s two other residences, the International Living and Learning Centre (ILLC) and O’Keefe House use One-Cards as their keys.
These cards are less easily broken and much more difficult to duplicate. Weppler says that this is the first year that these residences have used the OneCard system and within the next two years, Pitman will be updated as well.
“The system can log where someone’s been, if doors have been propped open or if maintenance has to access a room,” he said.
These changes are part of a five-year plan, which will cost several hundred thousand dollars to install in Pitman.