In order to attend a fraternity or sorority party at Cornell University, students must have their university student ID cards electronically scanned by iPods at the door of fraternity and sorority parties at Cornell University.
Cornell administration implemented the scanners this August. On Oct. 6, Maclean’s reported on the initiative, meant to be enforced alongside a policy forbidding first-semester freshmen from attending fraternity and sorority events during first semester.
Fraternities and sororities are required to borrow one of the 10 card scanners for all registered social events, limiting the number of possible events per night.
The scanners display each student’s name, class year and whether or not they are 21, the US legal drinking age.
Though the scanners are intended to keep freshmen out of parties, it’s troubling that the scanned information is indefinitely stored in a data server.
The Cornell Daily Sun reported personal student information can then be accessed by executive board members of the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and staff members of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.
Since no explicit plan for the information has been proposed, the notion of recording party attendance is questionable.
There is no need to store the information if the purpose of the scanners is to allow or deny entry at a party. The President of the IFC told the Daily Sun this month that the electronic guest list can’t keep track of people’s continued presence at an event.
This means if an incident occurred and authorities needed to know who was at the party at any given moment, the scanners would have no legal bearing.
The storing of information is an inappropriate breach of privacy. A student’s personal history of party attendance isn’t information that a university needs on hand.
Fraternities and sororities have complained about the efficacy of the scanners. They are prone to malfunction and are slow to process information or connect to the server. Scanners also cause large lineups at the door of events, increasing the chance that students will simply attempt to avoid them.
The implementation of these ID card scanners is another example of technology-induced tension between personal freedoms and regulation. The policy of storing information goes too far and the collection of personal data should always be regarded warily.
A university administration needs to firmly oppose any policy that could erode at personal freedom, instead of implementing it.
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