Students found themselves locked out of their buildings when a One Card outage hit the hilltop last week. The outage, which primarily impacted residence halls, left residents and community advisors (CAs) with the task of ensuring people could safely enter their dorms and access things they needed.
On March 26, the University sent out an alert to inform students that building access had been impacted and to encourage them to reach out to Public Safety for access support. Though there is no comprehensive list of verified impacted buildings, Lone Mountain East (LME) and Loyola Village were among the buildings that were inaccessible due to the three-hour long outage.
Ilisha Graham, director of One Card and Public Safety Systems, explained that the vendor that is used to manage the One Card campus access system had a database file that reached capacity and lost some of its ability to process campus transactions, eliminating reader access around campus.
Nikita Thomas, a second-year psychology major, found herself locked out of her apartment in LME as a result. “A friend from home was visiting, we got back to my room around 9 p.m. and were locked out for what was probably 45 minutes,” she said. “None of my roommates were home, our cards weren’t working, and it was dark outside so we just waited in the lobby and talked to the CA on duty about our mutual frustration with what was happening.”
“It was hard because there was no communication about when the issue would be resolved, or that the issue was even happening,” Thomas continued. “Had we known we would’ve been more careful about leaving our room or putting a stopper in our door or something.”
Thomas was not the only student to experience this. “We logged approximately 60 requests for lockout assistance throughout the duration of the outage,” Graham said.
Unobold Munkhbold, a fourth-year architecture major and CA at LME, explained how the CAs managed the outages. “We sent out announcements in our Slack channels and all other formats, but that was about all we could do while waiting for updates,” he said. “There were two scanners that had gone back up then shut down again, so we had no choice but to let students through.”
Munkhbold said that his residents’ issues spanned beyond building access. “It was more an issue of students not being able to access anything important to them like medication or disability accommodations,” he said.
Graham said that outages like this are rare. “We were informed of an outage that occurred over five years ago during USF’s Thanksgiving break,” she said. “It was resolved with extremely low impact to the campus community.”
In the future, Graham said that One Card will take the following steps to limit the likelihood and impact of potential future outages: send out system alerts to users when One Card has received a “near capacity” notice from the vendor, conduct bi-annual file reviews to assess for quality and error, and work to ensure that One Card readers on campus will recognize building access privileges of cardholders even if scanners fail to operate correctly.
“Though the resolution for this outage was overseen by the Public Safety department, specifically the Public Safety systems team, we are also very much a part of the wider campus community and work with departments campus-wide to communicate outages,” Graham said. “We relay the potential impact, and provide all necessary details post-resolution to ensure we all stay on the same page. Public Safety is a part of the body of USF and in the spirit of cura personalis we work to care for the whole body of our community with our campus partners.”