Students and Faculty React to RFIDs


As the fall semester begins, students at Fordham College Lincoln Center (FCLC) are adjusting to ways of using the new radio-frequency identification cards (RFIDs).

New card readers, which have been installed at every public entrance of the Leon Lowenstein academic building and McMahon Residence Hall, are designed to receive students’ information, when ID cards are held within three inches of them and flash green when a particular student is allowed access to a particular part of campus.

“I’ve heard from a lot of students that they think it’s pretty cool not having to show their ID card to the security guard now,” Sunny Khahera, FCLC ’14, who is a student worker in the ID services office, said. “Before, you had to show the security guard your ID, then he’d look at you, you’d look back at him—now you can just swipe it and keep moving.”

“The new ID system did form a line at the front desk in the beginning of the year when people were figuring it out,” Paolo Perez, FCLC ’15. said. “But as time went on, the line slowly disappeared to the point where I didn’t even notice it anymore. It’s become the same as past years pretty much.”

All of the card readers will eventually send student information to corresponding computer monitors, but, as of yet, the monitors haven’t been installed at the security stations in the main entrance of Lowenstein or in the law school. According to John Carroll, associate vice president of safety and security at Fordham, these stations won’t be fully outfitted until sometime before the end of the academic year. Until then, security guards will watch for the green flash as students enter.

“There have been a couple of hiccups, but by and large, it’s been going very smoothly,” Carroll said, referring to the system as a whole.

With the RFIDs, some students disagree, and wonder if there will be proper regulation of who enters and leaves the school.

“The only thing that concerns me: [the security IDs] feels like only part of the system has been updated,” Jeffrey Cipriano, FCLC ’14, and member of the Residence Hall Association  said.

According to Cipriano, a turnstile should regulate a student’s coming and going into the buildings. “We have a swipe system now, but without a turnstile, we’re not actually controlling who goes in and out of the building, which could become a security issue,” Cipriano said, comparing the ID system at Fordham with the one he’s seen at New York University’s campus. “[Here,] you could have someone who wants to get into the building, come in with five or six friends, and if everyone else takes out their real IDs the [non-student] could potentially take out something that looks sort of like a Fordham ID, pretend to hit the scanner and walk past. You couldn’t shove two people through a turnstile without somebody noticing.”

Responding to Cipriano’s concern, Carroll said that Fordham’s security department would introduce virtual turnstiles in the future. “[Fordham] will be using what are known as virtual turnstiles, [which create an invisible radio field and sound an alarm if someone without an RFID enters] in our new law school,” he said. “We’re continually evaluating how to best proceed with existing buildings such as McMahon Hall. Turnstiles may happen there, but not at this point.”

In addition, students did not react positively to the appearance of the RFIDs. “My personal opinion is that the design is a little bit bland,” Khahera said. “You know it’s just white and it should probably at least be maroon for Fordham’s colors.”

However, some students appreciated the appearance of the new RFIDs. “The IDs are more official-looking now, which I think is kind of cool,” Cipriano said.

“I was actually very smart, and submitted my professional senior [high school] headshot. I’m wearing a purple shirt and suit and my hair is, for once in my life, okay. It’s also the one picture where I actually look happy when I’m smiling as opposed to in-pain,” Cipriano joked, noting that showing ID cards can be an annoyance for students with unflattering photos.

Anne Souder, FCLC ’14 and resident assistant, is confident that the RFID cards are a step in the right direction.

“I think the new IDs are really beneficial for security, and security here in McMahon Hall is extremely important,” Souder said. The IDs will make it easier for administrators to keep track of who is and who isn’t allowed inside of McMahon and they’ll also allow us to do our jobs the best we can as RAs, because we’ll now know who is supposed to be here and on what floors, especially during winter housing and other breaks when people are in and out of the dorms.”

FAQs about RFIDs

When will my card be deactivated?

The new ID cards will be deactivated during the winter and summer breaks. Once deactivated, cards will not be able to gain students’ entry into the academic or residential buildings. If you plan on needing access to the academic building during either break, you can request that your card remain activated by going to the ID Services Center. Residents who wish to remain in the dorms during break will need to complete the necessary forms available on the Office of Residential Life website. Since students will now keep their ID cards for their entire tenure at Fordham, deactivation will replace the old system under which students were required to turn in their cards at the end of the academic year and have their name put on a list prior to break to enter the residence hall.

Why doesn’t my card work sometimes?

One common reason that the RFIDs will not function properly is if students punch a hole in the card in order to attach it to a lanyard or keychain. While this practice didn’t present a problem in the past as long as students didn’t punch a hole through the black strip on the back of the nonRFID cards, workers in the ID Services center who have seen this problem very often in the last few weeks say that the new cards are more sensitive to this type of damage. The best way to carry your card is in a clear plastic holder attached to a lanyard or keychain, as another problem students have experienced is magnetic-interference from credit cards when they try to swipe their cards inside of their wallets or purses.

Does the new system store my information when I swipe in and keep track of where I am?

Associate Vice President of Safety and Security John Carroll assures The Observer that student-use of the cards will not be logged to track activity or stored long-term in the system.

How do I use my ID card to pay for things? 

Just like with the old ID cards, all accounts will still be separate. For example, the money you put on your card in the library to print and photocopy will not work in the bookstore, and money you add to your card in the bookstore cannot be used to buy food in the Ram Café. A major difference is that now if a card is lost or stolen, the money on it will be connected to a student’s account and not just the card itself. As soon as the card is reported lost or stolen it will be deactivated and the money transferred onto the replacement card. Students can also use the RFID cards to make purchases at CVS Pharmacy and the Bread Factory on 58th Café on 8 Ave. between 55th and 56 Street.