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Concerns Eclipse MIT Card Benefits

The recent machinations of MIT's Department of Housing and Food Services surrounding security problems with the MIT Card demonstrate the need for outside supervision of the MIT Card. With adequate oversight, some of the perceived problems with the MIT Card could have been addressed earlier, and HFS' absurd attempts at damage control might have been avoided. This week's events confirm that the usefulness of the MIT Card should not obscure the serious security and supervision concerns raised by the expanded use of the card.

The issues raised this week regarding security are significant, and deserve to be discussed. Many students have expressed concern that perhaps too many services will be placed on the card. If students lose their cards, or if their magnetic strips are surreptitiously read by thieves, do they stand to lose significant amounts of money? Should a card key have the pictures and MIT ID numbers (which for many are Social Security numbers) of the person it is issued to, allowing thieves to identify which doors it will open? Should identification, money, and door access privileges all go on the same card, increasing the inconvenience and security risks caused by loss? These are questions that HFS has yet to answer. Their indefatigable rush towards full implementation of the MIT Card should not proceed unchecked, accountable to none.

Unfortunately, the current process of doing first and asking questions later has preempted serious discussion about the card. This week, when a student paper called the security of the MIT Card "laughable," HFS decided that dormitories would no longer accept the card as collateral. House managers at East Campus and MacGregor House announced that they could not implement such a policy change without the consent of the house governments. As resident complaints poured in, HFS quickly reversed course; Director Lawrence E. Maguire issued an apology, and announced that the security problem had been adequately addressed. Exactly how, we are unsure.

Housing and Food Services should abandon their relentless advocacy of everything associated with the card, and adopt a more reasonable approach that includes a wider range of the MIT community. The Institute should also organize an independent process for evaluating and supervising the MIT Card. The card offers many novel improvements to campus services - but the devil is in the details.