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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Columns

Time to leave the Dark Ages: We need virtual IDs


I say it’s high time we go toward the light. | Sonny Singh/The Cougar

Have you ever sat in the Student Center downing a Big Mac, complaining that you can’t go to the cafeteria because you lost your ID card and couldn’t go to the dining facility for your pre-purchased meal plan?

I have spent endless hours walking to the Cougar Card Office wondering why the University of Houston is so far behind the times.

Each trip to the Cougar Card Office costs me $10, a little bit of my pride and a repeat of the same question: Why can’t I keep my ID card on my phone? The technology already exists and is being used by institutions like Silicon Valley University, Mount Holyoke College, and Auburn University.  

If you are like me, then you have spent at least $100 replacing your ID card. As students of 2017, we no longer need nor have the skills to keep track of wallet-hindering trash pit fillers. So how do we help the University catch up with the times?

Well, we need to demand to be taken out of the dark ages. UH stubbornly hangs on to the past by issuing laminated ID cards that will take 10 generations to biodegrade in a trash pile somewhere. 

UH could build its own mobile app like it has done with UH Redline. The University even has a division in its information technology department for mobile development and coding.  

There isn’t much downside to converting our ID cards to phone IDs, except for students without a smartphone. For them, a physical ID card can be printed.  But there are a lot of downsides to staying in the 1950s-era ID card world. If I lose my smartphone or it quits working, then a remote erase will save my private information.  

But if I lose my ID card, it has my picture, full name, and student ID number. What can I do with that information? I’m no IT genius or hacker, but I can deduce that a thief could use your name and find you on Facebook, where your email address is listed.  

A password-hacking software will give them access to your email. Then with your PeopleSoft number, they can go to Access UH and log in using your student number and a new password sent to your email.

From there, it’s an easy cruise to your myUH Self-Service account, where all your personal information is listed, and a hop, skip and jump over to credit cards, giving you a whole new look and credit score.  

This is completely hypothetical. I am pretty sure I do not have permission to test this, but logically, the scenario works.

If you are wondering how we would use an uploaded ID at dining locations, then go to Starbucks or check in at a Marriott. The technology is out there.  

So, since there’s minimal downsides to jumping into the 21st century and a whole lot of upsides, why haven’t we? Well, I am not sure. I reached out to a member of the University IT department, who said that no one has asked for the mobile app.

Then I reached out to the Cougar Card Office and heard crickets.  

At a walk-in visit, I was told to email Tramaine Davis, the Cougar Card Office manager. One week later, with no answer, I emailed her again, only to get an out-of-office notification advising me to email Deborah A. Johnson, Cougar Card Office director, and another week went by.

Since stopping my efforts at a stonewalling job is not my style, the next step is to remind all the students that Paula Myrick Short, the provost, works at the appropriate office at which to bring up this major issue.

Opinion columnist Cari Netemeyer is a creative writing senior and can be reached at [email protected]

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