Housing working to replace old card encoding system with new master system

Photo credit: Kaylie Stokes
Third-year Hannah Coker tried to open a door with her encoded card.

One of the least talked about problems on campus this semester has been the card encoding system. While in most cases it is only a minor inconvenience – as keys can still be used – the problem is not a small one that can be swept under the rug. There are entire buildings across campus that are inaccessible with encoded cards due to broken card readers.

“In a nutshell, our current system is outdated and the company no longer supports the hardware,” Mark Stier, associate dean of student affairs, said in an email interview. “So when the card readers go out we are unable to repair them.”

The company no longer makes the replacement parts needed for the broken card readers.

“The doors are 100 percent secured still, students just have to use their hard keys instead of their cards,” Stier said.

Mark Stier and Alan Burr – director of facilities maintenance and construction – are working on creating a proposal to replace the current system.

Replacing the current system would restore access to buildings using encoded ID’s, and a new card encoding system would bring several new bells and whistles to the formerly plain security system. One of the possible bells and whistles would give Housing the ability to track which door was accessed and the student ID which accessed it, creating records of who accessed what building and when. A new system may also allow Housing to activate and deactivate encoded cards remotely.

“For example, during the winter break when the halls are closed we will be able to simply cancel all card access,” Stier said. “Preventing access to the dorms until we reopen for ISP.”

Currently, Housing and Facilities are investigating the many available systems and vendors, trying to provide New College with a card encoding system that has the bells and whistles and cost that best fits facility needs. Stier could give no possible price range or estimation of how long until a new system will be implemented, as the narrowing down of possible vendors has not happened yet – but assured that things have been pushed into motion.

“Facilities is currently talking with vendors and trying to determine a budget and a time frame,” Stier said. “Currently Alan Dawson [director of Physical Plant] is gathering information regarding our facility needs and will assist housing in making recommendations as to how to move forward over the next year or so.”

The issues with the current card encoding system have largely been occurring on the residential side of campus, but the new system will be implemented across all of campus as part of one “master plan.” Such a large operation would be just another step in improving the New College campus, following the rejuvenation of Pei Third Court two summers ago.

For such a large operation only in the early stages of development, the details and time frame are unclear and unpredictable. For now, keys will have to do.

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