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Virginia Tech's multi-year journey eliminates brass keys from campus

Comprehensive reader deployment, emergency key boxes, and solution for 20k summer campers sets course for future

CampusIDNews Staff   ||   Jun 13, 2024  ||   ,


At Virginia Tech, a strategically planned, multi-year process has eliminated physical keys from the campus. Brass keys have been replaced by card access in buildings and residence halls. The only remaining keys are stored in secure key boxes for security personnel and residence hall advisors to access in case of emergencies or after hours lost card situations.

Julie Wessel, Assistant Director of Systems in the Hokie Passport Office, explains that they began the process to eliminate keys in 2016. Looking to the future, the campus worked with Allegion to equip all doors with locks capable of reading both contactless cards and mobile credentials.

If someone is locked out in the middle of the night, security can get a physical key from a key box. They only have access to those they have authorization to use – which helps keep control of the keys.

“Housing has been over the moon about the card readers on the residential rooms because the key situation is now under control,” says Wessel. “We don't get calls from the students, housing doesn't, and key shop doesn't.”

In this video, Wessel talks with Allegion’s Jeff Koziol about VT’s keyless journey, plans for the future of the ID program, and how they facilitate credentials for the 20,000 summer campers that require access to facilities and services.


Check out the video by clicking the image at the top of this page.




This is Jeff Koziol from Allegion, and I am here with Julie.

Can you share who you are and what you do?

I'm Julie Wessel and I'm the Assistant Director of Systems at Virginia Tech in the Hokie Passport Office. I have been there for 30 years.

Can you talk a little bit about what you do for access at Virginia Tech and then specifically what devices from Allegion that you use?

Well, our office is the office that does everything with access on campus. We've been doing that, like I said, for 30 years.

We've been in access since 1994 and in 2016 we knew that mobile credentials were coming so we wanted to make some changes. We worked with Allegion to put in the AD400s in our residential halls. We have MTs that we use, MTBs that we use from Allegion, and any assortment of readers.

Specifically talking about keys because that's the session we just came from. What sort of benefits have you seen from going to the ADs?

Are you distributing keys to students anymore?

No, our office doesn't do that but housing has and that was certainly the emphasis to get away from keys because we know how fragile they are and they don't come home and that creates challenges with security.

So what I can tell you is that housing has been over the moon about having put the card readers on the residential rooms, the key situation is under control.

We have key boxes if we need a key and they over and over again said it was the best decision they ever made to go to that.

Who does get keys or who gets access to keys when you need them?

Well, we have what we call student leaders or RAs you might call them.

If someone is locked out in the middle of the night, they can go to a key box and actually pull out a key and they can only access the keys that they have availability to in those key boxes – which helps with keeping control of the keys.

In combination with the readers that we have and the key boxes, the students and mobile ID, the students really are seamless.

We don't get calls from the students for anything and housing doesn't, key shop doesn't. Because we've got an answer for any of the situations that might come up.

Julie, I would imagine during the summer season you've got a lot of campers and conference people coming in. What do you do for access for those people? Are they given keys? Are they given cards? Are they using mobile credentials?

For our summer, we give them cards.

So instead of giving them a key, we give them a card and those cards are handed out and retrieved after the conference. We do about almost 20,000 on-campus campers, FFA, 4-H, those kinds of groups that come on campus so we're very busy in the summer.

I actually kind of like not being there, you know, the summer is really busy so compared to a nice calm school year, the summers are much busier.

Okay and then what everyone really wants to know from this session, what is a Hokie?

I am. I started school in 1971, and I've been there ever since so I've been a Hokie for a very long time. It has nothing to do with a turkey, that's legend and not true. It came from a fight song that was put forward by a student in 1892, and one of the call words was Hokie, Hokie, Hokie-hi and that's where Hokies came from.

I won't ask you to recite it to me.

I'm not going to, I just did a little bit, I didn't do all of it.

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