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A story with no point.

Every time we hire a new faculty member in CS, we argue with Facilities Management about keys [1]. The latest argument seems to be fodder for a musing. So let’s go.

When I started at Grinnell, they gave me three keys: an entrance key to the science center [2], a key to my office, and a key to the building classrooms and storage closets. I used those keys for a number of years. At some point, I also got a key to faculty house [3].

Things shifted a bit when they completed Phase II of the science building renovations. At that point, CS moved to the third floor and split from the Mathematics department [5,6]. I gave back my office key, a key which was somewhat pointless given that they had torn down my office, and I received a brand new CS submaster, which let me into the offices [8], research labs, teaching labs, and other common spaces in the department.

That worked well for the next few years. Then I accidentally dropped my keys by my car and they made their way to Facilities Management. The folks at FM asked why I was carrying my submasters outside the building. It took a while for me to understand what they were saying, since, as far as I know, all the faculty in the Science Division carried their submasters at all times. But they were insistent that I should keep my submasters in the office and use them only within the Science building. I argued that it was inconvenient for me to have to go up to my office when I just needed to do a quick errand in the Science Division office. And so I got two new keys, one for my office and one for the Science Division office. My submasters are supposed to live in my office, and they generally do.

However, as far as I know, I’m the only person with this restriction. Everyone else hired before Phase II has an entrance and appropriate submasters and carries tham on their normal key ring. But that’s not what we argue with FM about; they seem perfectly comfortable giving our new faculty a CS submaster without giving them a separate office key.

So, what do we argue about? FM doesn’t think faculty should have building keys because we can use the Pioneer One Card (PCard) system. Given that the College is no longer willing to stand behind its prior commitment to keep building entrance data confidential, I think faculty should have building keys. FM is worried that if those keys are lost, they will have to rekey. Unfortunately, I’ve lost this battle.

When PM and Charlie started a few years ago, I got to fight a new battle with FM. FM thought that CS faculty should only get a CS submaster, and not a classroom submaster. I thought that was a problem because the CS submaster does not open rooms 3821 and 3820, both of which are classrooms that the CS faculty use. The CS submaster also did not open the Science Division office, but FM was able to fix that issue. But the need to get into other teaching spaces was clear, particularly since the second floor CS storage closets are not keyed to the CS submaster, and so FM gave PM and Charlie a second key.

We assumed that FM would do the same for our new hire. But it appears that policies have gotten even more conservative. They refuse to give our new hire a classroom submaster. They have managed to make sure that the CS submaster now opens all the rooms on Noyce 3rd [9]. They’ve promised to rekey the two second-floor storage rooms so that they work with the CS submaster. But they don’t think new faculty need to get into the other classrooms. What’s the rationale? I’ve heard two. First, they want to restrict the number of submasters because they might have to rekey and issue a lot of new keys if someone loses their submaster. Second, they seem to believe that all of the classrooms are kept unlocked. I have trouble understanding the second, since I’ve regularly had to let people into 3821 [10].

I managed to lose the argument big time today. How? Well, I’d accidentally brought my submasters home last weekend. I was intending to bring them back today, and I put them in my pocket when I got out of the car. But somehow I managed to drop them almost immediately. And yes, the keys ended up at FM. Of course, it took a few hours for me to find out where they were, time I spent looking through the Science building and outside.

To make matters worse, when I called FM, they said something like: Sam, we knew that you had three of the keys on your keyring. But you also have keys to another building. Why do you have those keys and how long have you had them? I indicated that I’ve had them since my last sabbatical [11] and that their use was authorized by the chair of the relevant department [12]. Surprisingly, all they said was Ok. We’ll just add them to the list of keys you have. Even more surprisingly, they didn’t take away my building entrance key or my classroom submaster. But boy, I felt silly.

What’s next in the adventure of the keys? I’m going to see if the new faculty in other departments have submasters that let them into, say, 2401 and 2402. If so, I’m going to forward the information to my new chair, and let him deal with it. But it’s a low-priority experiment.

Is there a point to this? Check the first sentence.

[1] More precisely, we argue through our ASA, since we don’t get to talk to the key people directly.

[2] Back then, the part that housed Mathematics and Computer Science was called the Bowen Hall of Science and the rest of the building had just been renamed the Noyce Science center after the completion of Phase I of the renovations.

[3] Once upon a time, faculty actually got to use faculty house. We had coffee in the morning, lunch once a week, and family time [4] on Friday afternoons.

[4] With beer.

[5] Okay, we split with the Math department a year or so before we moved upstairs. But it’s worth thinking of it as one big change.

[6] That department is now called the Department of Mathematics and Statistics [7].

[7] Both Mathematics and Statistics use numbers. They are no more the same discipline than Mathematics and Physics are.

[8] Mathematics was a department in which each office had a separate key; Computer Science decided to be like most of the rest of the Science Division and have a common key for all of the offices in the department.

[9] Well, not the greenhouse space, but all of the CS and common spaces on the third floor.

[10] My office is across the hall from 3821. Lots of faculty from outside the department and even outside the division use 3821. I’m the one they ask for help when they can’t get in, or have computer troubles, or whatever..

[11] I have.

[12] It was.

Version 1.0 of 2017-07-19.