A costly, but necessary, system

As reported in the Daily Kent Stater yesterday, the Board of Trustees approved $23 million to be spent for the Enterprise Resource Planning system, which would establish a new system for student identification, as well as reorganize the university’s network. The system should be fully implemented in about three years.

Vice President for Administration David Creamer said the university already has 75 percent of the money, some of which came from tuition increases in 2004 and 2005. The remaining 25 percent will come from budgets in future years.

Regarding the change in student identification, this move is great news for the Kent State community. Who hasn’t felt weird that our Social Security numbers are all over the place, exposed to anyone who cares enough to take them? It’s used as our login on Web for Students, and some professors require it on final exams.

As the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a letter to the university last semester, the university “demonstrated several other ways that the dissemination and display of Social Security numbers was treated in a cavalier way.”

It’s about time the university recognized that a change was needed and put forth some effort to make it happen.

Numerous reports of laptops with student and faculty information being stolen have arisen since last summer. According to information from the Akron Beacon Journal in August, four computers contained information about 100,000 current and former faculty and students. Another three computers were stolen in November. The most recent theft occurred over break, during the New Year’s weekend.

To their credit, university officials did say that the information on several of the computers was password protected, and so far, no one has come forward to say that they were affected.

However, just because people weren’t affected those times doesn’t mean that changes don’t need to be made. These computers that were stolen weren’t all in the same location. Some were stolen from Bowman Hall, Taylor Hall, the MAC Center and Michael Schwartz. If anyone could just steal them from various locations around campus, how secure can our information be?

Kent State needs to improve its system of student identification, because as we all know, identity theft is on the rise. Information from the Federal Trade Commission shows that in 2005 consumers reported losses of almost $700 million due to identity theft. $700 million is nothing to sneeze at.

Yes, it’s true that $23 million is a lot of money, especially for a school like Kent State, which is suffering with financial uncertainty. But it’s necessary for data to be secure and for students and faculty to feel secure about the university’s use of their information.

It’s hard to swallow more tuition increases every year while improvements remain to be seen. But at least we can say that we are finally seeing some benefit, even if it’ll take a few years.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.