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Key and Access Management Policy

This key access management policy details how the College provides access to buildings and facilities across campus. It includes procedures for physical key and OneCard management, information on the responsibilities for physical key and card-holders and approvers, and information on how the risks associated with building and facilities access will be managed.

This policy specifically regards the management of physical keys. Physical key use is intended to be kept to a minimum and the use of OneCard, the electronic key system, used to the maximum extent possible.  

1. Definitions | 2. Issuance of Physical Keys | 3. Key Security | 4. Returning Keys | 5. Key Audits | 6. Lost or Stolen or Unreturned Keys | 7. Admittance to Campus Spaces | 8. Forms | 9. Related Policies and References

1. Definitions

  • Control key: Used to install and remove all cores in a series.
  • Master key: Operates all locks in a specific series.
  • Sub Master key: Operates a subset of keys in a series by area.
  • Operating Key: Operates a specific set of cores for operational purposes such as mechanical rooms, EVS Closets, etc.
  • Keyway: The combination of grooves and or slots on the body of a key blank that match the core.
  • Series: The name given to a combination of cores, keys and locks operating on the same keyway.
  • Core:  The housing which contains the combination of pins and springs that controls the operation of a lock when the proper key is used.
  • Locksmith: The Facilities Services trades-person responsible for the College’s physical key program. The college locksmith can be reached at  
  • Lock shop - The location in the Facilities Management building within which the locksmith operates.
  • Key software - The electronic platform within which the College’s key records and lock hierarchy is maintained.
  • Key Central - Pick up and drop off location for keys located at the loading dock of the Facilities Service Building.

2. Issuance of physical keys to College faculty, staff and students

The College seeks to provide reasonable access to College buildings and spaces for those requiring access, to perform their College-related functions. Access may be provided via College OneCard or key, or in some cases a combination of both.  

Except in special circumstances, wherever access can be gained by OneCard, keys will not be provided.

In order to minimize risk to College community members and/or physical assets, keys will not be provided to spaces to which access is not required for performance of College-related functions.

Passing keys  from person to person is prohibited—they must be returned and re-issued, following the procedures outlined here, to a new person when necessary.  

Who is eligible to be issued keys

Swarthmore College students, faculty, and staff, including contract or temporary employees, are eligible to be issued keys. Vendors may be issued keys and access cards for daily use at the Facilities service window on an as-needed basis for daily use.

All keys and access cards must be turned in at the end of the workday. All keys issued are logged out and back in at the service desk.

Contractors performing work in campus buildings which are longer in duration than 1 week may be issued keys for the duration of the project and not return them on a daily basis.  Keys must be turned in at the end of the job.

Approvals and Requests

Except in the case of a lost key, students do not have to submit a key request to be issued a key for their room. It will be issued as part of the move in process.  All others requesting keys must submit the appropriate form(s) with departmental approvals to Key Central at See the forms section for the Student, Faculty, and Staff request form (including temporary and contract employees) and the Vendors and Contractors request form. 

Requesters must identify what building(s) and space(s) require access and the reason access is required. The academic department chair or staff department director will authorize the keys requested and sign the request providing their approval.

Any request for a master, submaster or operating key will require authorization by the  President's staff member for the department. A risk analysis will be performed to determine whether a requested key will be issued. See the Lost or Stolen or Unreturned Keys section for more information.

Please be aware that issuance of any keys is subject to the review of the Director of Sustainable Maintenance. The Director of Sustainable Maintenance will confer with relevant campus partners, as needed when making decisions about issuing keys.

Receiving keys

Keys must be received, in person, by the user, and they must show their College or company identification at time of issuance. User will sign the appropriate agreement form acknowledging  their receipt of keys listed, responsibilities required for safe handling of keys, responsibility of and process for reporting lost or stolen keys, fiscal accountability for lost or stolen keys, and commitment to return the key as soon as it is not needed or if the return of the key requested. 

Key agreement forms for students, faculty and staff, including temporary and contract employees, as well as forms for Vendors and Contractors, can be found in the forms section below.

3. Key Security

There is significant personal and property risk and expense associated with lost or stolen keys, especially for master, submaster and operating keys.  For that reason, key holders must follow the security measures below to minimize the risk of keys being lost and to help to reduce the risk if keys are lost.

A system of different core and keyway types will be used to create a hierarchy of master, submaster, operating and individual door keys to minimize the impact of any lost keys.  


Do not, in any way, mark College keys or key rings in a way that:

  • Identifies them as being associated with Swarthmore College in case the key ring is lost.
  • Identifies what space a specific key opens on the campus.
  • Changes the internal identification stamped into the key itself or it’s ring. 


College keys should be considered valuable, especially master and submaster keys. Keys should be stored in a secure location and when not in use, stored in a locked or safe type key box or in a locked desk drawer. Ensure that the keys to the lock box or drawer are not accessible to anyone but yourself. This is especially important for master and submaster keys.

Keys are not permitted to be loaned, transferred or possessed by someone else. They must stay in the possession of the person who signed acknowledging receipt of the keys.

Duplication or Modification

The college locksmith/lock shop is the only entity authorized to duplicate keys, and keys shall not be misused or altered. Key holders are not authorized to have keys duplicated by any means except via the college lock shop.   


Documentation of the status of all keys will be maintained in a key software database provided by Best, the manufacturer of the key/lock hadwater the college uses. 

4. Returning Keys

If a key holder no longer has use for a specific key it must be returned to the Key Central immediately. The lock shop will remove it from the key holder’s list of keys. 

Failure to return keys will result in a $50 key loss fee that covers the cost of changing the lock and producing new keys.

Please be aware that the College has the right to rescind key access at any time, for any reason. You may be required to return your physical key when OneCard access has been added to a space. 

Any person separating from College employment, for any reason, must return all College-issued keys to the lock shop prior to the end of their employment. Keys or key rings are not permitted to be held and re-issued to a new employee by a College department. If keys are turned into HR or Public Safety as part of a non-voluntary separation, the supervisor, HR or Public Safety must turn in the key ring to Key Central.

Students must return all room and mailbox keys if they change rooms or if they leave College housing before the end of a semester. Please refer to the Student Handbook for end of semester/year student key return instructions.

5. Key Audits

Auditing individual key rings is a critical component in maintaining the integrity of a campus key system.  Periodically, the lock shop may require your key ring to be audited. Key audits may be performed at random intervals or in concurrence with milestones like position changes, moves or facilities enhancements.

During a key audit, the shop will compare the keys on the ring to the list of keys for which the key holder signed. Missing keys will be identified and risk assessed if they cannot be found. Additional keys not on the inventory list will be either removed or added to the inventory. Keys that are unnecessary for performing College-required functions will be removed from the ring (for example a key to a door that now has card access).

Please be aware that possession of unauthorized keys may result in disciplinary action in accordance with College policies.

6. Lost or Stolen or Unreturned Keys


Keys that are lost or stolen must be immediately reported to the lock shop by submitting the Lost Key Report Form to Key Central at The Lock Shop will identify keys that have not been returned within 24 hours of the expected return date.

Risk analysis

Facilities Services will perform a risk analysis, in consultation with necessary College partners, to determine whether the key can be replaced or whether locks need to be changed.  Risk analysis will consider the following factors:

  • What is accessible by the missing key(s)?
  • Are any of the keys master keys or submaster keys?
  • Where were the keys lost or stolen, if known?
  • What markings were on the keys or key ring that identify them with Swarthmore College or with what the keys access?
  • What is the risk to people from the missing keys?
  • What is the risk to property from the missing keys?
  • The key security history of the campus community member.  


Lost or stolen keys will be replaced and replacements will be provided to the key holder. If the risk assessment identifies a high risk, facilities will need to reevaluate the replacement process. This evaluation may cause a delay in receiving a replacement key. 

Please be aware that keys that are determined not to be necessary for the key holder to perform their College functions will not be replaced.

Fines and Fees

Lost or stolen keys can pose a significant expense to the College if locks have to be changed as a result of the risk analysis.  Lost master keys can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars if all of the locks associated with the master or submaster have to be changed and all new keys made and issued to everyone requiring access to the affected spaces.

Students will be assessed a minimum of $50 for each missing residence hall key and $20 for each missing mailbox key. Certain circumstances may result in higher charges, including If the loss requires a lock core change, or if the lost key opens multiple spaces and requires multiple lock core changes or issuance of new keys to other people.

Faculty and staff will not be charged for lost keys in most circumstances unless there is gross or repeated negligence.  In this case, the loss may instead be treated as a disciplinary issue.  Departments will not typically be charged for lost keys.   

Outside entities such as Contractors and Vendors  will be charged the direct cost of key and lock core replacement.

Please be aware that the cost of replacing locks and cores for master and submaster keys can compound rapidly.  Here are some estimated costs:

  • $100 charge for one change key and core
  • $350 charge for one change key and four cores
  • $5,000 charge for one master key, 6 change keys, and 20 cores
  • $10,000 charge for one master key, 20 change keys, and 60 cores

With this in mind, simply producing and reissuing the same new keys when a key is lost will no longer be acceptable. 

7. Admittance to Campus Spaces

Public Safety can be contacted to admit a College community member to a space if the member is authorized to be in the space but forgot a key or OneCard. 

If Public Safety does a repeat admit for a student, Public Safety will notify OSE.  OSE will contact the student to determine if a key or OneCard is lost. If lost, please follow the notification and replacement protocols above.

If the admit is required because the College community member does not have key or OneCard access, Public Safety will instruct the member to fill out the key request form.

8. Forms

The following forms can be filled out electronically, but must be printed, signed, scanned, and emailed to key central at or dropped off at Key Central. 

9. Related Policies and References