Not Your Momma’s ‘Gate Card



You may not think there is anything special about your ‘Gate Card, but in fact, odds are there is some new technology hidden in the plastic. Most students’ ‘Gate Cards have microchips and antennae embedded in them to allow swipe-card access to various areas of campus. The switch from traditional magnetic strip cards (like credit cards) to these smart cards is a reflection of the way Colgate is heading: moving from code and key access to swipe-card access.

The process started about two years ago when the University acquired the Greek houses. Because of the confusion about who exactly had keys to those houses, the University switched them to a card-access system, and the Greek students were given smart cards that allowed them access.

When the Townhouse Apartments were completed, a swipe-card access system was installed there, and those students were given smart cards as well.

“As buildings get renovated or as new ones are built, [the University tries] to install swipe-card systems as opposed to traditional hard keys,” Assistant Dean of the College and Director of Residential Life Jennifer Adams said.

Following this, the two new constructions on campus, the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology and the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center both have swipe-card access areas.

“The Ho Center is a card-access facility,” Director of Campus Safety Gary Bean said. “Many labs have card-readers so if students have permission to be there, they can get controlled access. We’re trying to get beyond needing a Campus Safety officer to come and unlock the building every time someone needs access. We’re trying to provide a more user-friendly and secure environment.”

There are also certain areas of the Case Library, including the Hieber Café, that are available to students 24 hours per day, even during the six hours per day that the library is not open. Swipe-card access facilitates this so that, if a student wanted to use the Café space at 4:00 a.m., he or she would need only a ‘Gate Card to do so.

To allow more students access to these areas, and also to prepare for the future, the Class of 2011 was the first class to receive, as a whole and from the beginning, these new smart cards.

However, the migration from door code-access to swipe-access in residence halls will occur much farther in the future.

“We’re in the early phases of research on it,” Adams said with regard to swipe-card access in residence halls. “Our dream for the future is that all room doors on campus in residences have swipe-card access.”

“It’s a slow, incremental process,” Bean said. “We’d eventually like to expand [card access] to all residences but some don’t have the infrastructure to make that feasible yet.”

Bean cited the fact that installing card access would require a lot of work, including digging, to connect readers at the residence hall to a central system, a process that would be very expensive.

“If used properly, it can increase security and it certainly can be much easier to manage a swipe card than a hard key,” Adams said. She also explained that, though it may seem very appealing to students, there would be some lifestyle changes that would come with the new system. “Friends wouldn’t necessarily be able to just walk in. You wouldn’t be able to just tell them the code to let them in, you’d have to actually go down and let them in. If you go into Curtis [Hall], just let yourself in. Don’t let five other strangers in with you. People have to take personal responsibility.”

As of now, there is no timeline as to when swipe-card systems will be installed in residence halls, but both Adams and Bean agree that it will not be any time in the very near future.