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New MIT Card to Serve All-Purpose Function

By Garlen C. Leung
Technology Director

The Institute will be issuing each student the MIT card by Feb. 18, according to Kenneth R. Wisentaner, associate director of housing and food services. The MIT card is an expansion of the current Student Services Card. The new card will be used for identification, meal purchases, dormitory access, and library privileges.

Although there have been no major problems with the system, there is some concern about its effectiveness compared with mechanical locks. In addition, the new system conflicts with the beliefs of some Jewish students.

All dormitories will use system

Several dormitories already have electronic access: Green Hall, MacGregor House, McCormick Hall, New House, and Next House. Card readers are currently set up and being tested at Baker House, Bexley Hall, Burton House, Random Hall, and the other graduate dormitories. MIT is also planning to install card readers at East Campus and Senior House.

At Random Hall, the card readers outside each of the two exterior doors are a cause of concern. Some students say that there may not be enough security because the locks will be removed from the interior set of doors.

"In order to check delivery people, desk workers must let people in the outside door. Once they are in the first set of doors, there is nothing to prevent them from going in further," said Erika K. Schutte '95, Random Hall president.

"I would prefer that the card reader was on the inside door, leaving the outside door unlocked," Schutte said. She added that the glass window in the outside door can be broken.

The card key system has also experienced some physical problems. Last semester, soda spilled on a card reader at MacGregor caused enough damage to require replacement.

At New House, the card reader is occasionally not in service. One night, "a night watchman had to stay at desk to let students in," according to Cynthia L. Hayward '94.

At least it "cuts down on the [number of] cards I'll have to carry," said Susan Tsai '97.

Eventually, MIT hopes to add other services to the MIT Card, such as athletic, parking, and photocopying services, Wisentaner said.

Students' photographs will be taken from Graphic Arts, which currently stores them in a digital database, Wisentaner said.

Some Sabbath-observant Jews concerned

The card key system has caused concern for part of the MIT Jewish community. Some Sabbath-observant Jews will not be able to use the card readers at doors because an electric switch is activated when the magnetic card is used.

The Housing Office has approached Hillel with the problem, and "we worked together to produce a solution," said Hillel Director Miriam Rosenblum.

Those students can request to use a key on an exterior door, according to Rosenblum. "The student will have a written agreement to use the key only when necessary on Friday nights and Saturdays," said Ben Gordon '93.

UA investigates card

The Undergraduate Association formed the Committee on Card Key Access "to evaluate and better understand the exact nature and implications of the card key system, especially those related to privacy concerns," said Raajnish A. Chitaley '95, UA treasurer.

Jeremy H. Brown '94, a member of the UA card key committee, investigated the technical aspects of the system. In particular, he wanted to "find out if it was a secure system from malicious hacks" and if it was more secure than the original locks on the doors.

Brown found various problems with the card key system. "The card readers are not as physically robust as the [mechanical] locks," he said. He cited the incident where the MacGregor card reader was damaged.

Brown also expressed concern about the capacity for the readers to log card usage. Only the Campus Police are planning to keep records on campus parking lot access once readers are operational, Wisentaner said.

He added that MIT would not record card users' entrances into dormitories.

Still, it will be easy for the administration to change their minds, Brown said.

"Putting many services on one card is a hazard. ... Some malicious student can wreak havoc on your life," Brown said.

Many students were ambivalent over the use of the MIT Card. "I never had any problems, but it's a bad idea. If you lose it, you lose everything," said Mario A. M. Yearwood '96.

Brown pointed out that the card can only be cancelled during business hours at the card office in Bldg. E32. This lag time defeats the security advantages of the card, he said.