If you lost the key to your room, the University would charge $46 to replace the lock on your door. But what if you lost the key to half of East Campus?

The University was faced with this $12,400 nightmare when, just before freshman move-in, a temporary employee of the Office of Information Technology lost the master key for six dorms on the main East Campus quad-a key that fit more than 1,400 interior locks.

Tony Bumphus, facilities manager for East Campus, said OIT needed the key so it could put information about signing up for phone service in every freshman dorm room. At some point during the process, the employee lost the key.

"With all the paperwork and the shuffling back and forth between dorms," said OIT Director of Finance and Administration Angel Marlowe, "he just couldn't find it."

Last week, Housing Management began the Herculean task of reconfiguring all the locks. Each day, two locksmiths were sent to a single dorm and were responsible for recombinating the locks.

Meanwhile, one locksmith was stationed in the East Campus Housing Management Office to refile the keys for that dorm's residents.

Housing Management completed their task last Friday.

"It was a huge deal," said Pat Lloyd, manager of residence hall operations. "Not just getting locksmiths on site, but getting 900 people to bring their keys to the service office."

Divinity School student Pam Butts, the area coordinator for Wilson Dormitory, said the process worked "pretty well" for her dorm. Despite her fears that certain unaware students would return home to find themselves locked out, she said none of her residents had problems.

Because OIT lost the key, Housing Management policy makes OIT responsible for funding the lock replacement initiative. Marlowe said the office offered to pay "up front" and has already received a copy of the estimate.

Although OIT has accepted financial responsibility, Bumphus said the key was only issued to a supervisor and that a temporary employee "should never have been given the key."

Marlowe said this was the first year OIT entered freshman dorms to leave information, so it did not have a policy detailing who could use the key. "In hindsight, we definitely would have handled it differently," she said.

Housing Management's policy calls for immediate reporting to the police when a master key is lost. After attempting to lo*cate the key, Lloyd said, "our policy is to change locks as quickly as we can."

John Duncan, facilities manager for the West Campus II housing office, agreed, saying, "We don't take any chances when we lose a master."

The day before the locksmiths were sent to any particular dorm, Housing Management notified that dorm's resident advisers and posted flyers. Bumphus said he only notified one dorm at a time, and only one day in advance so there "wouldn't be any unnecessary panic."

Butts also said, "I don't think it raised a big safety concern."

Maj. Robert Dean of the Duke University Police Department said Campus Police monitored the situation and continued their "regular-type patrol procedures."

No thefts have been reported from those dorms since the key was lost, he said. "If there had been any situation where it appeared that a key had been used, we would have had to take additional precautions."

All in all, Bumphus said, the process went very smoothly. Because students were so cooperative and meant that the Housing Management could limit overtime, the cost of the project dropped from a previously estimated $30,000 to less than half that.

"It ended up not being a big ordeal," Bumphus said. "Still, it was a master key and we need to be more cautious with them in the future."

The current caution also stems from past events.

"We've had some similar situations in the past-every two years or so," Lloyd said.

For instance, one time the key to a large portion of West Campus was lost, Duncan said. The offending employee borrowed a metal detector, searched the area where he thought he might have lost the key but came up short.

Subsequently, Housing Management embarked on the lock-changing effort. A week after it was completed, the employee found the mangled key in his driveway.

The entire campus is divided into nine areas, with an unlabeled master key for each section. There are several copies of each key, but for security reasons Bumphus would not say exactly how many or who controls them.

Bumphus said the keys are usually signed out only when the dorms are vacant and are only given to supervisors.

Lloyd stressed that the occasional losses pose only a limited threat to student safety. "In the last 10 years, I can't think of a situation when a key was lost or stolen where we thought some bad person would be using it to enter the dorms," she said. "But still, we change the locks as soon as possible."