The Wise Owls

Hoot Loot identity card helps secure Southern Connecticut State University

Can an owl keep a 12,000-student university safe? It can when it’s designed into the identity card program at Southern Connecticut State University, whose mascot is the Fighting Owl. SCSU— spanning 168 acres in New Haven, Conn.—is in the midst of a $230 million campus renovation.

University officials believe campus security is a critical component of the renovation. At the heart of its security is the SCSU Hoot Loot card, a multipurpose identification card for all university students, staff and faculty. Named for the school’s mascot, the Hoot Loot card is a far cry from the paper cards with laminated photos that once represented the university’s ID card program.

Give a Hoot The university hired Mark Waters, director of financial business applications, as the card office coordinator in 2000 to set up the ID card system. Today, that system includes seven part-time student employees who are trained to verify identity and produce ID cards.

Because SCSU is a state institution, it has an added level of security before cards are issued. Students must present an official photo ID, such as a driver’s license, as well as their academic schedule or proof of enrollment. Faculty, staff and others must present a photo ID and a letter of authorization to verify affiliation with the university and entitlement to an ID card.

Today, the cards serve multiple purposes.

“First and foremost, the Hoot Loot card is a mandatory ID card for everyone on campus,” Waters said. “It is important that we be able to identify who actually belongs here and who doesn’t.”

There are several versions of the ID card, identifying undergraduate, graduate, full-time and part-time students; administration; faculty; staff; faculty emeritus and contractors.

After the Virginia Tech shooting incident in April 2007, SCSU changed the orientation of its cards. Student cards are printed horizontally because they are carried in purses and wallets. Faculty and staff cards are printed vertically, in a badge format, and are expected to be worn at all times.

“We want our faculty and staff to be easily identifiable as authority figures on campus,” said Jordan Jones, card office assistant. “This is important on a campus with 35 percent adult learners.”

Smart Money The SCSU Hoot Loot ID card can be used on and off campus. For the 2,600 students living on campus, a magnetic stripe on the card provides access to their residence halls, where users enter a preprogrammed PIN after swiping their card in the card reader for two-factor authentication. For all students, the card can be used to access the university’s computer labs, as well as health services, laundry machines, the bookstore, the fitness center and vending machines. A bar code on the card enables users to check out library books at the Hilton C. Buley Library, while the magnetic stripe enables them to pay library fines or use self-service copiers and color printers. Hoot Loot cardholders also can access SCSU’s online Web service, BannerWeb, thanks to each person’s unique eight-digit card identification number.

Off campus, students can use Hoot Loot cards at a variety of locations, from Greek restaurants to gas stations and UPS stores. Hoot Loot cardholders also can receive nationwide discounts through a student discount membership that can be incorporated into the card.

Not only does the Hoot Loot card lessen the need to carry cash, adding to a student’s personal safety, but it also helps students avoid credit card interest fees and the possibility of overdrawing a bank account. Students, faculty and staff can add money to a card at five locations on campus or through a secure online center, called MyCard Online, where they also can check the card balance, print out their card history or change their PIN.

Ahead of the Curve Hoot Loot cards are printed in the card office using the Fargo DTC500 Series direct-to-card printer/encoder with a lamination option. When it came time to upgrade the printer, Jones knew where to go.

“I’ve worked with ID Wholesaler for some time,” Jones said. “They directed us to Fargo because they knew our needs. We knew that Fargo received good reviews, especially in higher-education applications.”

Jones and Waters chose the Fargo printer for several reasons.

“We knew we wanted to print on two sides of the card,” Waters said, “and we also wanted a built-in encoder for magnetic stripes because the campus has many legacy devices that use magnetic stripe technology. We also wanted it to be a network printer. It was important that it be a stand-alone device and not tied to a desktop computer or server.”

The Fargo printer is kept in a secure office in a secure building to prevent tampering.

Jones, who manages the day-to-day operation of the card office, which includes customer support, also wanted a printer that could handle the pace of output he needed.

“We were impressed with the speed of the DTC500,” he said. “It cut our card production time in half or better. There are no cumbersome parts. I like the what you see is what you get version of installing new ribbons, card media and laminate. The lamination capability was important in providing durability for our students. We issue one card for the entire length of a student’s education here, which might be as long as five or six years. We want it to last.”

A $10 replacement fee is assessed for the first card that is lost or stolen. After that, the cost increases to $20.

Waters knew back in 2000 that schools looking at ID card programs should view their primary purpose as providing a service to the students, faculty and staff.

p>“If they always keep that in mind, everything they do will at least stay even with the curve,” Waters said.

About the Author

Steve Blake joined Fargo as product marketing director for secure systems in 2006.

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