However, St. Olaf will make no final decision until after consulting vendors of one-card systems at the end of April. A final decision would not be made until the end of this school year, but if St. Olaf decides to implement a system, it could be in place as early as next fall.
St. Olaf is considering the purchase of a one-card system with Carleton College that would serve both institutions and give students limited access to the other campus. For example, while Carleton students would not have access to St. Olaf residence halls, they may have access to Stav Hall or the Cage through the debit functions on their cards.
"There will be negotiations on who gets to use what, when," said Seth Heringer '05, president of the Student Government Association (SGA).
The decision to collaborate with Carleton was made for several reasons. Heringer said an administrator at Carleton formerly worked for a one-card vendor and is an expert on one-card systems. His expertise on the subject has pushed Carleton towards the system, and St. Olaf is hoping to "piggyback on his expertise," said Mark Gelle, assistant treasurer for St. Olaf.
Cutting down on costs presents another advantage of the one-card system. It may be less expensive for St. Olaf and Carleton to come together and buy one system for a greater number of people than to buy two separate systems for the individual schools. The two schools could also share a one-card office to save on staffing.
However, St. Olaf needs to address potential complications before the one-card system can be put in place. Since Carleton and St. Olaf do not use the same food service, an agreement would need to be made between the two services to allow students to purchase food at either campus.
Also, the key cards that currently allow access to residence halls connect to computers that only monitor that individual residence hall. If the one-card system were to be used, the main doors to the residence halls would need to be rewired to connect to a central server that would monitor all the residence halls. The server would not only be able to notify Public Safety that a door to a residence hall is open, but it would also keep a log of who opened the door at what time. Implementation of such a feature could be a precursor to keycard access to academic buildings for certain students.
SGA formed a committee to investigate the possibility of switching to a one-card system after student opinion seemed in favor of such a system. "We have seen huge student support," Heringer said.
But the one-card system idea began floating around St. Olaf long before this year. Gelle said the idea has been around St. Olaf for almost 15 years, but has never been seriously considered for fear the technology would quickly improve or become cheaper. "There is always a feeling that the technology is always improving," Gelle said.
The SGA committee complied a list of one-card features and ranked them in order of importance to St. Olaf students. The "essential" features of the one-card system would be for the card to function as a photo ID, a meal plan access card (Stav Hall and the Cage), a residence hall front entrance keycard, a library card and a debit card for use at places like the Pause, the Bookstore, the Print Center and the post office. Along with the debit function, students would have the ability to check their balance online and add more money.