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The implementation of the Bear Bucks system has been deemed successful by the University, said Scott Thacher, director of information technology for campus life and student services. Bear Bucks, a debit card-like system, replaced the declining balance system in February.

Bear Bucks are used for laundry and are also accepted at campus eateries, the University bookstore and cafe and printing stations. While the Office of Campus Life and Student Services and the Undergraduate Council of Students are still addressing concerns over the Bear Bucks system, Thacher cited reliability, functionality, student access and an expanded use of the swipe system beyond laundry as key advantages over the now defunct declining balance swipe system.

Eight ValuePort III Machines, the vending hub where students can load their ID cards with Bear Bucks, have been installed in various locations throughout campus. This is an increase from the three Card-Value Center machines that were previously available under the declining balance system.

"I put enough money on the card for each laundry swipe, and the (ValuePort III) machines are pretty convenient," said Michael Riechmann '15.

But some students said they still feel more machines could be installed.

"There's a limited number of machines on campus," said Lucy Duan '16. "It's annoying having to pay in cash."

Thacher said administrators were aware that the location of the Bear Bucks machines has been an issue for some students. He said the machines are "pretty expensive," so before ordering more, Computing and Information Services will try redistributing them. Thacher said a benefit of the new system is the ability to track the daily traffic at each machine. CIS will monitor each machine's use and reposition machines as needed, a procedure that was not possible with the old CVC machines.

Another major difference between declining balance and Bear Bucks is the reliability that comes with the new system, Thacher said. None of the ValuePort III machines have required repairs yet, a significant improvement to the mechanical failures the CVC machines often experienced, he said.

"Before we were constantly having the CVC machines go offline," Thacher said. "They used old-fashioned mechanical readers."

 The dependability of the ValuePort III machines has greatly improved student experience and made it easier for students to do laundry.

"Last year I always paid with quarters because my vending stripe didn't work for some reason," said Jacob Laser '15. "Now refilling the card is so easy."

The upgraded technology also allows students to track their balance history for the previous 30 days online through Banner. Because Bear Bucks are managed electronically, if students lose their cards, the money in their Bear Bucks account does not disappear, unlike with the declining balance system.

 An additional perk of the Bear Bucks system is the availability of help for students who are adjusting to the transition. Students can now call the Bear Bucks help line if they are having issues with their account.

UCS is also working to address concerns about the new system. In UCS's annual fall poll, a number of questions focused on student opinion of Bear Bucks. The Admissions and Student Service Committee is the UCS group primarily responsible for improving the system. Though the results of the poll have not yet been released, UCS is aiming to identify the flaws of the system and collaborate with administrators to guarantee a better student experience, Abigail Braiman '15, chair of the ASS Committee, wrote in an email to The Herald.

"We've addressed complaints about the Pembroke printing machine not working, printing station release issues, laundry vending issues, locations of ValuePort machines and the new Bear Bucks support system infrastructure," Braiman wrote.

The most recent initiative the ASS committee completed was implementing the LaundryView system, a wireless program designed to notify users when laundry machines are in use, Braiman wrote.

Switching to the Bear Bucks system prompted the installation of approximately 300 energy-efficient washers and dryers throughout campus over the summer. Tangible benefits from these updated machines can be seen on the LaundryView website, which shows how much water has been saved because of the new machines. As of yesterday, 330,915 gallons of water had been saved since the beginning of the semester.

CIS's most recent initiative was installing Bear Bucks swipe access onto 31 snack machines located around campus. Beverage vending machines will be the next to transition to Bear Bucks access, and Thacher said he hopes this initiative will be completed over winter recess.

Bear Bucks accounts will transition to a portal system similar to Banner that will encompass a mobile component, so students can track their accounts on their cellular devices. Faculty and staff members will also have access to this portal and be able to create a Bear Bucks account, Thacher said.

 "We really want to reach out to faculty and staff because right now they don't have access to Banner so it's hard for them to have an account," he said.


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