By Katie Weitkamp/Managing editor
Identity theft is often the furthest thing from most college students minds, but if students received their identification cards from Eastern more than two years ago, identity theft might weigh a little more heavily on their thoughts.Currently Eastern students use their Social Security number for their college identification number, however a committee is planning to change that within the next six months.
“I’m very sensitive to the accessibility (to Social Security numbers) and the need to protect privacy,” said Lyle Cook, provost and vice president for academic affairs .
Cook said the banner system, which is used by students and faculty, runs off of social security numbers now and will continue to do so, but in the future it will be transparent to the user.
Students and faculty will be assigned an identification number, however how that number will be determined is still not known. That number will connect through a computer to a Social Security number, where information about a student will be stored.
“There will be a very limited number of people with access to Social Security numbers,” Cook said. “It won’t be apparent that Social Security numbers are used.”
Cook compared the system with how bank systems work. He said the number will be used in the banner system, for meal plans and in the future possible locking systems for residence halls.
While student identification cards now have full or partial Social Security numbers, in the future the new numbers will be on them.
“We are in the process of putting together a group to implement the transition from Social Security numbers as ID numbers,” said Doug Whitlock vice president for administrative affairs.
Cook said work is starting as soon as possible to make the change, which could take up to six months to get the new identification numbers worked out.
Cook said while many people were aware of the risk with having Social Security numbers on student identification and as a means to access records on the Internet, he did not hear too many complaints.
“People at Eastern don’t complain,” Cook said. “We are aware of the liability and needed to move away as quickly as we can.”
But the change is welcome with many students.
“I think it’s great,” said Kimberly Wethington, a junior from London. “It’s so easy to get a hold of a person’s Social Security number. It puts your personal security at stake.”
Changing student identification numbers will cause a change in the registration process, but since banner has been up and running for a couple years, the change should be smooth, Cook said.
When identification numbers change, faculty, staff and students will need to get new ID cards, however how the new numbers will be distributed is not yet known.
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