Gopher GOLD system to be upgraded

The upgrade idea was in the air for more than five years before being approved.

Kelly Gulbrandson

A change in the way students pay for services such as printing, copying and buying food on campus is already in progress.

The Gopher GOLD program, which allows students, staff and faculty to load up to $50 at a time on their U Card, is upgrading its current offline system to online.

The idea was discussed for more than five years before finally getting approval from the Board of Regents in October 2006.

Heather Powell, application systems manager in the U Card office, said that while the week of July 14 will be the “big push” for the upgrade, some services will be completed before that week.

The current system is “extremely antiquated” she said, and is one of the main reasons for the upgrade.

“The system is mechanical in nature,” Powell said. “There are gears involved that are pulling your card into the reader and spitting it out.”

The new online system will be able to identify the card holder, thereby allowing the user to add money to their account through the Web site, Powell said.

Graduate student Kevin Wendt, who serves on the U Card Services Committee, said that with the new system, if a card is lost or stolen, the money value on the card won’t be lost.

If someone loses or damages their U Card currently, any money that is on that card is lost, since there is no way of tracing how much money was on it, Everson said.

However, one element of the new system could be riskier for users.

The new system will allow people to deposit up to $1,000 per account, Powell said – meaning a lost U Card could, potentially, be more valuable to a thief.

Without notifying the U Card office of a stolen or lost card, money on the card could be used by anybody, Wendt said.

Since the majority of the transition will occur over the summer, students can transfer their money to the new online system by coming into the U Card office, Powell said.

In the future, other University vendors will be able to install their own card reader machines, Wendt said.

“Places like The Harvard Market could install their own reader and allow students to pay for things at Harvard market with their system,” he said.

Despite the excitement, some students said they use the system infrequently and probably wouldn’t use it more often after the changes.

Computer science sophomore Safris Suresh said she wasn’t pleased with the service the few times she used it. She still doesn’t plan to use the new one.

First-year genetics and biology student Estee Mizarachi said she also has had a few problems with the system before.

“One time I had to print out a long paper right before class and the card reader got jammed,” she said. “They finally got my card out and I was able to get my paper, but I was late to class.”

Psychology senior Lindsay Lien said she only keeps two dollars on her card for emergencies.

“I just don’t have much of a reason to use it,” she said.