The Cashless Campus

by Paul Pfeiffer | 5/27/96 5:00am

A couple days ago, students were mailed a glitzy, little booklet introducing the new and impressive "Your Card."

Through this new program, which uses that same cards we already have, we are promised to be able to purchase more goods and services than ever before. This will be done through access to a new "discretionary account."

Impressed? In actuality, the only real change is that nearly every college-recognized organization will be able to charge to a student's discretionary account. For example, students will now be able to use their cards to buy raffle tickets from the Order of Omega. The Chess Club could use this account to charge its members for dues.

Here's what the booklet didn't tell us. The balance on the discretionary account will never be "billed." It's a debit card system, like the Green Card, that stops working once your account goes negative $100. Unlike the Green Card, the balance will never go home, it will never show up in your Hinman Box. The balance will carry over from term to term. Your account could remain inactive at negative $100 from freshman fall until you graduate.

So it's next fall and you charge $100 to your discretionary account. Now you are faced with a dilemma. You could put an undetermined amount of your own money into the account for the convenience of not paying cash. Or you could call home and explain to your parents that you need them to put an undetermined amount into the account so you can go to concerts and play video games.

Theoretically this shouldn't pose a problem. If your parents are already paying for these things as they're billed now, they shouldn't have too many qualms about putting money into the account when it gets too low. In reality, things may work very differently. In the event that money doesn't get put into the account, you'll probably be even more likely to pass on going to see Anthony Clark, and the Chess Club will be without dues.

In addition, all coed, fraternity, sorority, undergraduate society and senior society social dues "get" to be billed to this account. This has the potential to cause major problems for the CFS system. Getting people to pay "slush" dues is hard enough. Getting people to keep their discretionary account in the black may prove to be as difficult. This will undoubtedly affect the size of houses' social budgets, which will probably result in further limiting Dartmouth's already one dimensional social outlet.

The College has several reasons for making the changes. One is that they no longer feel it is ethical to have discretionary charges go out on the same official college bill as the essential charges such as tuition and room rent. Second, if they are to expand the uses for Your Card, they can no longer have it be an unlimited billing system as it is now. The College also wants to teach us accountability. They also want to appease our parents.

While the intentions may be good, the changes are a disservice to the CFS organizations. All CFS organizations must uphold a set of minimum standards. The standards are many and include community service, providing social events for the entire campus, and exhibiting responsible behavior. That's what makes us administratively different from the Chess Club. In return for maintaining these standards, the College offers us a few certain services, the main one being college billing, specifically "assisting with receivable collections."

If that assistance is no longer there with the discretionary account, and it appears it won't be, then the College is backing out on its contracts with 27 organizations.

We have a couple proposals for the College to consider that will benefit all students. First, students should be able to choose to have the balance on their discretionary account sent home or to their HB every term. One of the reasons why the College doesn't want to send the bill home is because $100 is only a "Mickey Mouse" charge. It may mean nickels and dimes to the College, but to us it may mean not being able to participate in all the "discretionary" activities that make college more enjoyable. The account shouldn't go inactive at $100. If that is the limit, many students' accounts will go inactive after the first week of classes when houses bill their members for social dues. The limit should be more like $400 and it should also go inactive if the account is negative at the start of the next term. The proposal also helps insure that the account gets paid off every term.

We urge all students to think about how the new system will affect you and the rest of campus. We urge the College to sincerely consider these and any additional alternatives.

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