Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UCards deplete you of money

Every student at the University of Massachusetts knows one thing – just how important their UCard is. For the first two years of undergraduate education, it is essential. For all students’ undergraduate years, it is required for the dining commons, dorms, busses, late-night vending machine stops, the gym, checking out books, library printing, library entrance after 12 a.m., laundry, signing into other dorms, tickets for concerts and events and convenience stores. The UCard website has listed over 50 venders on campus that accept a UCard transaction. Realistically, students can’t survive without it.

Once a student moves off campus, the demand for the plastic decreases, but it is still necessary. For me, there is just one problem. In my senior year here at UMass, my UCard has failed me. I knew this when it no longer wanted to scan in the machine for free newspapers in the campus center and then when I tried to buy food.

After careful examination I concluded that my card is unscathed and about a semester-and-a-half old. It has my wonderful mug-shot-esque photo, taken in Franklin Dining Commons three years ago where I refused to smile and has less than a few scratches. I purchased a new one my junior year for $6 after the previous card refused to cooperate. Before that I purchased a brand new card, because I had left my first UCard in a sweatshirt pocket – a sweatshirt that I rarely wore – only to find the original a day after purchasing a new one and throwing away $20.

Before that at another school, I threw my ID into the dumpster accidentally and then proceeded to make a security guard dumpster dive for it. Needless to say, he found it. So I’ll admit my luck with ID cards is quite bad. But that doesn’t mean that I should have an undamaged UCard refuse to serve its function and then have to pay for it.

There are a fair amount of hidden costs when it comes to these plastic pests. For most students, the first time they hear about the absurd new card fees is when they walk into the UCard office needing a new one – also, with out cash. The UCard office only takes cash – no credit. The fee is currently $25 for a lost UCard.

Though, they make the throwing away money feeling better; they offer you a new photo.

What a deal. Not.

While attempting to swipe myself and a friend into the dining commons, my UCard once again unsuccessfully swiped. The now visibly frustrated cashier than looked at me, handed over a small piece of paper in which to scribble down my name and Spire ID number, while they hoped I recorded the right number down in a fit of honesty and hunger. I did. I also kept promising to deal with it, and so I visited the UCard office.

This card has found its home on my trusty lanyard alongside my key chain that says, “Keys I have not lost yet.” But losing the card is the least of my worries, rather the card, which is perfectly fine physically, will not swipe anywhere. And my only option is to pay for it. A whopping $10 dollars. But for me it’s principal over payment. Because I pay thousands of dollars a year, some small percentage of that is allocated to the cost of the UCard. I don’t want to pay.

The UMass UCard website states, “UMass covers the cost of all employee and NENS UCards. There are no costs to individual employees or NENS when they receive replacement staff UCards.”

If students are paying to attend the University, how does it make any sense that people who work for the University would not have to pay for lost cards? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Staff and employees don’t have to run to 10 different places throughout the day, swipe for food or swipe to go home. They don’t have the responsibility of perpetually toting the cards around. If they are the ones getting paid, why should they get a break?

The UCard Office website states, “When you receive your replacement UCard, you will be advised to destroy your old card should you find it again. You should do this because you may become confused as to which UCard is actually the working one.” That is true, you may be confused, but it is also so that your non-UMass friends cannot attend events for free, pretend that cards won’t scan to get in to the DC’s or to ride the bus for free or take advantage other various UCard perks.

The UCard office, located in Whitmore, is no longer able to “re-magnetize” cards due to a new system in place at the beginning of this year. Students living in residential areas now have updated cards that feature a different design than last year’s and function differently than pre-existing UCards.

Last year, hard-to-scan cards were not a problem. Re-magnetizing UCards was free. It took a couple of minutes, and then students were free to swipe away.

I suppose my only option for my de-magnetized card and for students like me to fork over the $10, so we can be functioning students on this campus – printing papers, grabbing food and swiping in. Students should also be aware that it costs $10 to replace any damaged card, though the damaged cards needs to be presented before new one can be issued, otherwise, you are required to pay the $25 new card fee. Lost cards are $25. And, if you didn’t bring a face with you to the UCard office for a photo its $100. Well, not really, but I’m sure that will be coming.

Without UCard University fees included in billing, I’ve totaled my contribution to the UCard office in my undergraduate studies so far at $26 and though I wouldn’t like it to go higher than that. I know that if I don’t want to hear the awful sound of refusal to swipe, I’m going to have to pay with money and frustration.

Chelsea Whitton is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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