Two years later, admin changes ID numbers

By Drew Bonifant

More than two years after the Student Government Association (SGA) passed legislation calling for new student identification numbers, the university is set to enact the change at the end of February.

In 2005, SGA senators Cory Renzella and Nicole Martino wrote a resolution calling for the discontinuation of using the Social Security Number (SSN) as student ID numbers, starting with the next incoming class.

The Faculty Senate approved the resolution and called for action.

“I think the way of the world is that this probably needs to be done pretty quickly,” Faculty Senate Agenda Committee Chair Robert Lowndes said at the time.

Krystal Beaulieu, SGA vice president for administration and public relations, said the organization is pleased the university is following up on SGA’s legislation.

“After we passed it, we knew it was going to take awhile, because of the [necessary] procedures – then we thought it kind of fell off the face of the earth – so it’s really good that they are pursuing it now,” Beaulieu said.

Bob Weir, vice president for information services, said Northeastern is a “leader” in protecting students’ identities.

“We’ve been serious about protecting students’ identities for years,” he said. “Because we’re so serious, we’re far better than the national average, but we knew there was a hole that needed to be filled.”

That hole is the identity numbers, which will change Feb. 17-19. During that period, various features on the myNEU site, including Husky Card and registration transactions, will be down temporarily to allow for the new numbers to be updated. E-mail and announcements will remain unaffected. The site will be back online in time for classes, with a new function revealing students’ new ID numbers.

The nine-digit numbers, all beginning with two zeroes, will replace the social security number. The new ID number will be used in the registrar’s office, health and counseling and advisor meetings, among other areas.

“We have to protect our social security numbers,” said Susan Dye, SGA vice president for student services, “It’s not just a number we throw around.”

MJ Paradiso, SGA vice president for academic affairs, said there may be an adjustment period for students.

“Some students will view this as an inconvenience, but at the end of the day, the department of information services is just protecting students’ identities,” he said.

Weir said the number won’t be difficult for students to remember.

“With the two zeroes, it’s just seven digits, so it’s easy to remember and it has enough numbers to last 100 years before being recycled,” he said.

Weir said the new ID number will be used at all service points where they would have asked for SSN, while forms reported to the federal government, like student employment and financial aid, will continue to use the social security number.

“Everyone’s awareness of this continues to grow, and urgency to take action continues to increase,” Weir said. “While we are pleased we’ve never had a major breach, we never get full of ourselves and think it can’t happen here.”

Glenn Hill, director of information security and identity services, said the new numbers don’t represent a final measure in privacy protection.

“You can never claim victory in these things, but you can always be proactive about it. We always look for better ways to serve the students,” he said. “Security is a journey rather than a destination.”

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