Column: Why now? Actually, there’s good cause

Column: Why now? Actually, there’s good cause

Well, better late than never, I guess.

If you didn’t catch last week’s edition of the Northeastern News (or the week before it) or you haven’t seen the signs on campus, here’s the skinny: Soon you shall be freed of the shackles and hazards of your Social Security Number (SSN) posing as your ID number. At some point between Feb. 17 and Feb. 19, the school will issue you a new nine-digit number, which will start with two zeroes. So, you only have to memorize seven digits.

Yes, yes, we’ve all been wondering since we got to this school why our most valuable identification number serves as our easily-accessible ID number. We’ve all also wondered aloud whether this poses a viable security threat (it does).

So, two years ago, Student Government Association (SGA) did something about it. Sort of. Senators Cory Renzella and Nicole Martino wrote a resolution calling for the discontinuation of using SSNs as student ID numbers, starting with the next incoming class. That would have been a perfect plan – if it had happened. But nothing changed with the incoming class. And now we’re awkwardly switching numbers in the middle of a semester – not the beginning of a year, not at winter break, not even during summer sessions.

As my esteemed News colleague Bobby Hankinson – a senior who will spend all of nine weeks with his new number – pointed out: Why now?

Like me, you may be surprised to learn that, incredibly, there is actually a good reason for a mid-semester change.

Think of all the times you use your ID number – registration, student employment, financial aid, filling out housing forms and so forth. Most of them take place at the beginning or end of the semester. If you were issued a new number at those points, you’d probably be pretty confused. This way you can learn your new seven digits and get comfortable with it before you need to throw it around.

Plus, by doing the job over President’s Day weekend, Information Services (IS) is hoping not too many people will be logged into the myNEU system and weighing it down.

“President’s Day weekend was a strategic choice,” said Susan Dye, SGA vice president for student services. “It’s just more convenient for us not to have everything out when we’re trying to register or check our grades.”

All of this was carefully thought out in advance by an IS team that has been quietly working on the switch for longer than we realize, even before the SGA decision. After taking office last July, Dye met with IS to follow up.

“It’s not that they ignored the SGA,” Dye said. “It’s just that it’s such a massive undertaking and, in order to do this, it had to be done right. There’s really no second tries on this.”

She said she quickly learned how complex the switch is.

“Over 200 systems in the school are tied in based on SSN, so in order to change the basis for ID for all those systems, it’s a huge project,” Dye said.

So, was it even possible to accomplish this task two years ago when the resolution was passed? Apparently not.

“Our resolution stated that we wanted it to be up and running for the next incoming class,” Dye said. “But that was just our recommendation. Obviously, we weren’t educated in what it takes to do a project of this size. If anything, it just stressed the immediacy we wanted.”

We’ve all been clamoring for the same change. Putting our SSN at risk always seemed a bit ridiculous, but most of us just dealt with it. And even though learning a new set of numbers is an inconvenience to the select few who will only use them occasionally – like Bobby and myself – this is for the greater good. I’m thankful this project was seen through to completion.

It’s about time.

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