VCU installed iCAM 7100 iris cameras in the dining hall last month, in what Director of Campus Service Stephen Barr says is an attempt to expedite student entry at times of high volume.
The cameras are produced by North Carolina company ColorID, who specializes in biometric products. According to the ColorID website, the iCam 7100 costs $2,995 a piece. RVAmag reported that an approximate $31,500 was spent in-total on the new technology.
“We thought it’d be a nice feature to get everyone through at peak times,” Barr said.
Barr suggested several advantages to the system over the typical ID card entry, which will still remain with attendants as an option for those who do not wish to use the new technology.
According to Barr, the scanners’ use in a food service environment is advantageous due to the lack of necessarily physical contact around food. The fewer students’ hands touch common surfaces, Barr reasoned, the less chance exists for bacteria to spread in the often crowded dining hall.
He also cited the ability to gain entry to the Schafer food court without a physical ID, which could prove helpful for students who lose their IDs on the weekend while the card office is closed.
VCU isn’t the first Virginia school to use this technology, though. Last summer, George Mason University debuted iris scanners in their dining hall, which the school’s student-run news outlet, “Fourth Estate,” said cost $1,500 each.
According to the Georgia Southern University website, GSU implemented a biometric program in 2013, and as of last fall, has 1.2 million registered iris-users in the system.
Despite these positive attributes, the general reaction to the new by VCU students on social media platforms such as Facebook has been plaintively skeptical. With rumors flying about slashed Federal Aid dollars and reductions in grant money, some students quickly expressed criticism of the university’s camera implementation.
“It seems to me to be a thinly veiled guise at extracting more money from students and their families,” said former VCU student Eleanor Johnson.
Johnson said she was slated to graduate class of 2017, before leaving the university due to financial difficulties. “How are kids without swipes left supposed to be eyeballed in by their friend?” Johnson asked.