Next fall, students will have to keep track of one less key. Facilities staff have started putting infrastructure in place so that students will use their ID cards to unlock residence halls and several academic spaces. Implementation will continue through the end of the summer.
According to Director of Facilities Nathan Lief, Residence Halls and academic spaces without access, like Olin-Rice and the Link, will be accessible by showing a Macalester ID. Facilities staff are putting new wiring in place to allow each door to have card access and attempting to work around student sleep schedules.
“We are working in the academic buildings in the early morning while most students are sleeping,” he said. “Then we move over to the residence halls between nine and 10. We’re trying to be as respectful and unobtrusive as possible.”
Once the necessary infrastructure is installed, Lief said, the departments will test the systems and develop policies by the end of the summer. Then there will be two months to work out unforeseen obstacles.
Dean of Students Jim Hoppe said he and members of several other departments including Information Technology Services (ITS), Student Affairs, Residential Life, Card Services, Facilities Services and Business Services have supported the switch for at least five years. He expects students, staff and faculty to view the switch positively.
“Part of the reason I’ve been an advocate is the continued pressure and interest from students,” Hoppe said.
He added that the switch will bring Macalester on par with its peer institutions. He said prospective students and their families regularly ask about card access when they visit.
“Almost every college has [card access], so we’re the outlier,” he said.
According to Director of Safety and Security Terry Gorman, there are several benefits to the switch. After the switch, Facilities will no longer need to produce 1,500 new residence hall D-keys each year. This number does not include the additional key requests made by faculty and staff.
“[Faculty] really don’t want to leave a space open all the time,” he said. “With card access, [the space] can be locked all day, but students can still get in and out to do their studies.”
In some cases, he said, card access could save up to seventy keys for a single academic space. Additionally, the new system will reduce costs of processing key orders.
“Requests for keys take a while because they come from the professor, to the department, to the office, to us, back,” Gorman said.
Card access also makes it easier to keep buildings secure. If a student loses their ID card, then facilities can just “turn the card off” until it is found or the student is issued a new card. There will also be loaner cards in place in the event that a student lost their card over a weekend while the Card Services office is closed.
Additionally, Hoppe said he thinks students will be less likely to lose their ID card since it provides so many other services.
“I think people have a different relationship with their IDs,” he said.
Gorman added that the switch also saves in the cost of changing locks when students lose keys to academic spaces.
According to Hoppe, Residential Life will make the decision about whether or not to provide all students with access to the residence halls. Currently, off-campus students must request and put down a deposit on a D-key.
“We’ve not yet made final decisions on [off-campus access],” Director of Campus Life Keith Edwards wrote in an email. “The new system will give us lots more options but we’ll need to think about how to best manage this and what is the best in terms of safety for students (both residents and non-residents).”
According to Lief, $400,000 is allocated for this project in Macalester’s budget. According to Gorman, all involved departments researched extensively before vetting the project.
“Technology is changing very quickly,” he said. “You don’t wanna get ahead of yourself.”
Associate Vice President for ITS Jerry Sanders said that his department researched several options for implementing card access. These included card swipe and proximity card scanning technologies, as well as a smartphone software designed to serve as an identification software.
“We just wanted to make sure we weren’t overlooking anything on the horizon that might have affected us,” he said.
Gorman added that there were no foreseeable infrastructure changes to card access technology, so it would be easy to convert the system in the future.
“The backbone and infrastructure is pretty flexible,” he said.
Facilities will implement the proximity readers, which will read IDs placed nearby.