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Expired ID Cards Affect Current Students, Staff

By John A. Hawkinson

Last Friday, June 30, several thousand MIT cards expired. While many of those cards belong to recently-graduated students, a substantial number of current students were inconvenienced, some of whom were still waiting in line when the Card Office closed last Friday afternoon. Next year, the Card Office expects to send out e-mail reminders in advance of card expiry.

When MIT cards expire, they can no longer be used for access to restricted spaces on campus or public doors that are locked after daytime hours.

According to Daniel L. Michaud, manager of the MIT Card Office, card expiration dates are based on information provided by the Registrar at the time the cards are issued. Michaud said that more than 3,000 cards expired at the end of June, including those of students and employees, as well as spouses and partners.

When asked why the Card Office did not warn cardholders via e-mail, Michaud explained that the Card Office just changed database systems, and that it had been very difficult to offer features like that in the old system. Michaud said that “next year, a reminder will be sent out via e-mail to all students [whose] cards expire on June 30th.”

Last Friday, the day many cards expired, the Card Office had difficulty keeping up with demand. When they closed, slightly later than their regular 4:30 PM closing time, several people waiting in line were turned away.

The Card Office does not stagger expiration dates, or spread them out, which could avoid this problem. According to Michaud, they simply use the “Earliest Likely Separation Date” from the MITSIS database maintained by the Registrar.

The Card Office is part of MIT’s Enterprise Services division, and reports to John M. McDonald, associate director for Enterprise Services. McDonald said that a change to stagger the expiration dates of cards, such as over the course of a week, would have to be approved by MIT’s “Card Council.” The Card Council has representatives from a variety of MIT card stakeholders, including the Registrar, as well as undergraduate and graduate student representatives, McDonald said.

McDonald expressed the concern that some parts of MIT that offer services, such as the athletics department, might not be comfortable giving some students an additional week of services, which would happen with a staggered system.

Some students have asked why MIT cards can’t be automatically renewed as long as student status is still valid. Michaud, the Card Office manager, offered two explanations:

Some service providers use the printed expiration date on the card to determine current MIT affiliation. If cards were renewed automatically, Michaud said, “there is no motivation to get a new piece of plastic with an updated expiration date printed on it.”

The Card Office does not “have the resources … for as simple an operation as automatically renewing cards,” Michaud said, referring to the complexities associated with interfacing with the Registrar’s database.