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MIT Card Upgrades Lead To Expansion

Laverde’s, LSC, May Accept Card in Future

By Dana Levine

The Campus Activities Complex recently announced a round of upgrades to improve and broaden the scope of the MIT card system.

A new MIT card computer system was installed by Diebold Corporation this summer, at a cost of $297,000, said Peter Cummings, CAC Business Manager. The system includes a new central server and new cash registers at MIT dining facilities.

There were several reasons for the installation of the new system, the foremost being that the old system wasn’t year 2000 compliant, Cummings said. Additionally, the old system was being used to capacity, and was no longer supported by its manufacturer.

The declining balance system provided by the MIT card is supervised by the Office on Campus Dining. This allows organizations to receive money from a student’s account after accepting the MIT card as payment.

“We’re trying to expand the use of the card to student groups,” said Richard Berlin, Director of the Office of Campus Dining.

Cummings said that the MIT coffeehouse currently does 45 percent of their business through the MIT card. “Our goal is to get as many services on campus as possible on the card. It would be nice to reduce the amount of cash on campus,” he said.

“While we don’t create policy per se, if the business proposal goes through the right places, we make it happen,” said MIT Card Office Director Lawrence Maguire.

Upgrade expands card use

The new system allows for much greater upgradeability and will allow for additional groups’ use of the MIT card. These groups may include student groups such as the Lecture Series Committee and on-campus businesses such as LaVerde’s, Cummings said.

“We’ve been trying to get the MIT card for 10 years,” said LaVerde’s store manager Mark Semon. “It’s frustrating. Each year we get new students in, and they want to use the MIT card. We speak to [CAC Director] Phil Walsh every year, and each year he tells us that it’s getting closer and closer.”

There are, however, some logistical concerns that need to be worked out before putting LaVerde’s and other on-campus businesses on the card system. “Do you want people spending their meal money, which may be obtained through financial aid, on cigarettes and lottery tickets,” Berlin asked.

Although the system is currently under development and the bugs are being worked out, Cummings expressed much enthusiasm about the new system. “Previously we haven’t had room for expansion, but we can now begin serious discussion with campus groups,” he said.

New groups which are added to the card will pay some sort of service charge to support the administrative infrastructure which controls the card. Student groups would probably pay a lower fee per transaction than independent businesses.

According to Cummings, there will probably be some sort of grace period while the kinks are worked out of the new system.

Berlin is currently investigating how to best integrate new organizations into the MIT card system. “We need to evaluate their interests and figure how logistically we can roll it out,” he said.

Future upgrades planned

Cummings said that the upgrades performed this summer are part of a two phase project. The second part, which will be completed some time next year, involves installing a new Windows NT server and migrating the system to the MIT network.

The upgrades, which will cost a total of $350,000 after the next server upgrade, should provide a drastic simplification from the previous system.

The old system, which relied on a point-to-point protocol, required a wire to run from the server in E32 to each register. “This [upgrade] creates lots of potential. We’re all kind of psyched about it,” said Cummings.