Security Snafu, Creative Comeback
In the Wake of a Burglary in Mail Services, Director Bill McCart Took Unusual Steps to Correct and Learn from the Situation
By Tamara Keith, Public Affairs
It was 5 a.m. and the staffer on the other end of the phone line, one of the early morning crew, informed McCart that the Mail Services' facility at 2000 Carleton Street had been burglarized during the night.
McCart hurried to work, where he learned that the premises had been entered without force. An inside office had been broken into, and $20,000 worth of stamps had been stolen.
"The police said they thought it was an inside job," recalled McCart. "Upon learning this I was very angry and felt betrayed."
McCart's first impulse was to direct his anger at the unidentified burglar. "But really, I was embarrassed, because part of my job as a manager is to prevent something like this from happening," says McCart. "My embarrassment put me in a defensive state of mind, and that got in the way of seeing what the problem was."
When he stepped back, the issues became clearer. "In reconstructing what might have gone wrong, it soon became evident that our security was not as strong as it needed to be. I had to face the fact that I was primarily responsible for that -- not the burglar, who simply took advantage of the situation."
Instead of hiding his mistakes, McCart decided to talk openly about the incident. In two articles written for the industry magazine Mailing and Systems Technology (MAST), he discussed the security breach and what he learned from the experience.
"One of the things I learned is how easy it is to become complacent about security," said McCart. "I wanted to get other mail center managers to see this, too."
In MAST's Nov./Dec. issue, he wrote: "The improvements I subsequently made were basically closing the barn door after the horse had bolted. It was a bad position to be in, but sometimes that's the price of learning an important lesson."
McCart's boss, Assistant Vice Chancellor Ron Coley, commended McCart's management approach to the security breach, calling it "a model for other campus managers."
According to McCart, Mail Services now has a top-notch security system and is one of the first campus departments with electronic password locks.
"We had staff meetings where I explained what we were doing and why we were doing it," said McCart. "I had to let them know that the changes weren't an action against them, but were being made to help them."
"I think he handled it very, very well," said mail processor Emily Brown, a 15-year veteran of the unit. "The changes were for the better. Our mail services are more secure and more professional looking now."