Card access implementation complete

The installation of Macalester’s card access system is complete, and students and staff are now able to use their Macalester ID cards to enter select campus buildings. Although the system’s technological capabilities and ease of use have been impressive, the system has been slowed down by installation and software problems.

Director of Security Terry Gorman said that unexpected updates to the software made installation of the system, which started in January, take longer than expected.

“It kind of just never quit. One phase quit, and then we put the locks in and were testing, and at the same time what’s coming in — and we didn’t plan on this — is there was a major update to the software” said Gorman. “A couple things that came in that we weren’t expecting.”

Director of Campus Life Keith Edwards said in an email that “we are still working on all of the software integration with other systems on campus, like the housing management system and ID card systems.”

Although these small glitches in the plan have occurred, they haven’t deterred staff such as Edwards and Gorman or students from getting excited about the ease and security of the touchless system.

Ellis Davenport ’18 said his first experience with the card system left him waiting outside his residence hall until another student was able to let him in. After reporting the issue to his RA, along with a good portion of his floor, Davenport’s card was fixed and working seamlessly in a few days.

Despite his rocky introduction to the system, Davenport said “I thought it was a cool idea! Easier than keys for sure. I think it works really well and it’s super convenient.”

Dan Wang ’17 found out about the change to the touchless system in an email sent to students and staff last year. He initially found the new technology exciting.

When Wang returned to Macalester for pre-Orientation training as an RA, he found his excitement was well-placed when his student ID began working as a key as soon as he arrived on campus.

Experiences like Davenport and Wang’s are what Gorman and the staff are working towards. Once the vast majority of students are able to successfully use their card access to enter residence halls, the plan, according to Edwards and Gorman, is to install core blocks into the locks of the residence halls so that card access would be the only way into the buildings. Both said they hope this can take place within the coming month.

Gorman said a key part to moving on to this step is to have more students report their access issues either to an RA, their residence hall director, or directly to facilities. Both he and Edwards noted that some students may not want to take the time to report any access difficulties.

“Since students’ room keys have allowed them to access the doors if their cards are not working, I expect that there are some issues that students haven’t reported to us since it has been only a minor inconvenience to them,” Edwards said.

For students that do find that having a bad card is more than an inconvenience, there will soon be a website that can help them out.

From their phones or laptops, students will be able to log on to the site and let facilities know about their card issues by filling out a help form. From there, facilities can look up the students’ information and identify the problem with either the students’ cards or the card reader.

The transition to card access and core blocks are just the start of Macalester’s plans for the system. While Gorman said his first priority is getting a better understanding of the system as it is now, he also said that there are plans to expand the system to more academic buildings, move entirely to touchless card readers, and begin automatically logging when visitors enter and leave buildings.