Time for a Locker Update


In 2008, the campus recreation department at Northern Illinois University replaced dial combination locks with battery-operated, keypad digital locks to secure items in lockers at the facility.

The change came from student-responses and the professional staff noticing the lockers were in “poor to fair condition,” according to David Lochbaum, the associate director of facility operations at NIU, “In order to effectively allow for the continued use of the lockers, Campus Recreation researched different lock options that were easy to use and provided a high level of security,” he said.

At the time, the keypads eliminated the need for students to provide his or her own lock, or rent one from the university. Students were also able to choose their own 4-digit code to unlock the lock, which reset itself for the next user.

But even the digital locks didn’t last long. Lochbaum said several years later, it became apparent the digital locks were not operating as expected.

The university began taking site visits to see what other universities were using for locker security, but “the current financial climate in Illinois has limited the department’s capacity to replace locks and lockers,” explained Lochbaum,

Finally, during the Fall 2015 semester, the Student Association approached campus recreation about the condition of the lockers. After hearing about the budget, they allocated money to replace a portion of the locks.

“SA was very instrumental in developing a survey and offering a variety of delivery methods by which the students could offer feedback about the two different mechanical lock options,” said Lochbaum. To determine the best lock choice, students were able to try two mechanical lock options, then vote via a physical or electronic survey, which was developed by SA.

The campus recreation department has not yet determined the best lock option for their lockers, but Lochbaum explained additional cost has gone into having to repair the digital locks. And advantages to mechanical locks include the elimination of replaceable batteries and it yields to a more sustainable facility.

The changes could not have happened without the students – both those involved in the Student Association and the students attending NIU. “It is imperative that we, as a Student Association, receive student input when making any major purchase, particularly a purchase that can improve the campus experience for such a large number of students,” said Michael Argo the student association director of athletics and campus recreation.

This is not the first instance campus recreation has asked students for their opinion. In the past, Lochbaum said campus recreation has also brought in fitness equipment for students to try. “The student “voice” has been, and always will be, very instrumental in helping to provide future direction of programs and services offered by both entities,” said Lochbaum.

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