Dorm guests swipe in with new electronic system

By Gretchen Andersen

Students can say goodbye to the long lines of residents waiting to sign guests into their… Students can say goodbye to the long lines of residents waiting to sign guests into their Litchfield Towers and Sutherland dorms.  

The start of the fall semester brought a new electronic swipe-in system to all three Towers and Sutherland East and West. The new setup allows residents to sign in Pitt-student guests by simply having the guard swipe their Pitt IDs.

For non-Pitt students, the process remains the same. Guests are still required to show their license to the security guard and sign in with their name, address and time in before entering the building. However, by spring semester the swipe-in system should read licenses as well.

For student’s with Pitt IDs that do not scan, the traditional sign-in process will continue to be used.

SGB Board member James Landreneau began working on getting the system installed in spring 2010 after former Board member David Gau approached him to sign a petition pushing for an electronic system.

From 2010 on, Landreneau said he worked to make it his own project, using the new sign-in system as part of his campaign for Board elections last fall.

“I told the students this is not an absolutely original idea, but I promise this will happen. I’ve had my feet wet in this project since I was a sophomore … I came into Board knowing what had to be done, and you need that perpetual drive that ‘this is what the students want, and it’s something worthwhile,’” he said.

The new system includes a computer at each guard stand and an electronic card reader.

Now with the electronic system, the resident student will hand his ID to the guard, who will swipe the guest’s student ID. The guest’s information pops up on the computer screen after the swipe.

Landreneau said students will check back with the guard when they leave the building ­­­­­­— similar to the traditional procedure — and swipe their guests’ cards, so that the guards can still keep track of who comes in and goes out of the dorms.

He said the system will benefit Pitt students in two ways: convenience and security.

“If it wasn’t a ridiculous name like Bugs Bunny or Mario signed in, it was a phony address,” Landreneau said. “A lot of times students who lived off campus didn’t want to take the time to write their whole address so they would claim they still lived on campus … and that right there is a huge violation of the signing-in approach.”

Dakota Eggletan, a security guard in Tower B, said the traditional sign-in system left students waiting in line for a long time, and she often couldn’t read their handwriting.

University spokeswoman Patricia White said the swipe-in system will help with these security concerns.  

“Additionally, because the swipe-in process records the information from the student ID, it eliminates issues of handwriting that is illegible,” White said.  

White said the system is also secure because guards, who trained to use that system over the summer, will “continue their normal procedures by checking the students’ IDs and their photos.”

Landreneau said the electronic swipe-in is something that both students and administration have wanted.

For two years he has been meeting with James Earle, director of Housing Services, and Shawn Brooks, associate dean of students and director of Residence Life, about the system.

White said in an email that the electronic system cost less than $15,000, an investment made by Pitt’s Housing Services.

The electronic swipe-in system hasn’t expanded to all dorms yet because Housing “wanted to ensure the system is functioning properly as well as training all the security guards efficiently and effectively,” White said.

Landreneau said that by next semester the program will expand to all of the dorms on campus and will read guests’ licenses.

Eggletan said she thinks the electronic system is a good thing for students, but did mention that it occasionally crashes and requires rebooting.

“It is very convenient with time,” Eggletan said. “It is very accurate, automatically bringing up students’ basic information [on the computer].”

Landreneau said that he spoke with three different guards on Wednesday, and received similar responses.

If the computers crash, a slow system reboot is required before electronic sign in can resume. He said if this happens, the guards go back to the traditional way of signing in.

“It’s really been a collaborative effort to get this project done, and I’m really excited,” Landreneau said. “Hopefully this fall it is a smooth transition.”