The Crimson Card: Uniform and Coming Soon

With students scattered across the state, Indiana University has a problem: different campuses have different IDs, which limits how students interact with multiple expensive systems. To combat this, all IU campus identification cards will be replaced with the new “crimson card,” effective next year.

The initiative began when President of IU Michael McRobbie assigned Brad Wheeler, IU vice president for information technology and chief information officer, among a number of other faculty and staff members, to create a single ID for all IU campuses in order to reduce cost and streamline the interactions between different campuses.

Michael McRobbie, Image from IU Website

Michael McRobbie, Image from IU Website

Despite rumors, this change will not be implemented to unify all campuses in time for IU’s bicentennial.

Prospective students on all campuses attending 2017 spring and summer orientations will be the first to receive crimson cards. No specific dates are set, but new students to IUPUI will be among the first to use the new card, as orientations begin in April.

“It’s not anything that we have to say, you know, ‘By Sept. 15 everybody must be re-carded.’ It’s not that kind of urgency at all,” Wheeler said.

Returning students will be able to trade their IDs at no cost once the spring and summer semesters are over. Student accounts such as meal plan and EZ Deposit will not be affected by the change. Staff will also receive new cards, which will be vertical, unlike students’ current cards.

Although the exact cost of new IDs for over 150,000 students and 20,000 staff is currently unknown, the first order of cards is $50,000 less than it would have cost if each campus purchased new cards separately.

The crimson card comes with increased security measures, such as a “more sophisticated” magnetic stripe and stronger security software, and will conform to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards. This means that cards will have a visible expiration date, rather than vague terms like “undergraduate.”

“In addition to improving efficiency and reducing cost, the new card is a SmartCard, which offers enhanced security and allows students, faculty, and staff to use a single card for a wide range of functions, including purchasing, identity verification, and secure entry to IU buildings and residence halls,” Rob Lowden, an associate vice president of UITS, said through email.

One most significant reasons for developing a uniform card was so students of all campuses could share the same commerce. Students outside of Bloomington will receive the same access as IUB students when they visit, for example.

“I think students will be very, very pleased with the capabilities of the new card,” Wheeler said.  “This will enable a lot of common capabilities for students if they’re ever visiting another IU campus.”

With the uniformity comes discussion about branding and identity.

“So, this card is like the parking permits, like the signage around campus. All of this is for the plan to more clearly drive and promote the value of Indiana University and our campus,” Wheeler said. “The card is identity, the card is security, and the card is commerce.”

“The card will look like IUPUI, it will have a jaguar on it, and I think that we’re in a really good place,” Stacy Morrone, the dean of IT for IUPUI, said. “I see no negatives here and only positives.”

Mosopefoluwa Ladapo, image from IUPUI's website

Mosopefoluwa Ladapo, image from IUPUI's website

A point of contention among some students is the loss of complete campus individuality. Although there will still be a jaguar on the card, it will no longer be an official JagTag, which has disheartened some. Undergraduate student government president Mosopefoluwa Ladapo commented that the change was “systematic erasure” of the IUPUI’s campus identity.

“The average IUPUI student recognizes that there’s less IUPUI-specific branding everywhere, and there’s more shift towards IU colors, and at no point are they thinking ‘Now what does this mean about my identity as a jaguar?’” Ladapo said.

Because this is such an undertaking, dozens of groups were represented, including students and staff from every campus, and met on a single committee.

“With a project of this size and magnitude, there are a multitude of decisions, stakeholders, and perspectives to consider. Every effort is being made to ensure the most seamless outcome, with special focus being given to the nearly 100,000 students across IU,” Lowden said, again through email.

Ladapo also expressed a sense of discomfort with the idea of big changes being developed without prior announcement to students, or even broader campus input.

“I think it’s fair that even if they don’t include us in the decision-making process, that we’re the first to know about it if it’s going to affect us. I heard about it in [faculty council]; no one was going to present that information to undergraduate students. Or maybe they were, after the fact in a press release or something,” he said.

But, regardless of its creation, the crimson card is well on its way, and IU campuses can only wait.