The Social Security number at Temple University will soon be eliminated as the primary identifier for students, staff and associates. The university is in the process of instituting policies that are in compliance with federal privacy laws.
In an effort to protect individuals’ identities and to safeguard against identity theft, the use of the Social Security number will change. President David Adamany and his cabinet met on Tuesday to decide on a policy that will govern the Social Security number’s use and its appearance on forms, reports, ID cards and other forms of communication.
“There’s been a lot of concern with identity theft,” Barbara Dolhansky, associate vice-president of Computer Services, said. “People can cause a lot of damage to an individual’s credit rating. … It is a very difficult thing to undo.”
Currently there have been no reports of identity theft or the misuse of Social Security numbers from Temple University. Detective Melanie Haworth of the Temple University Police Department confirmed that although there have been some identity thefts involving students, none have taken place at Temple.
The policy will be university-wide, affecting all Temple affiliates including Temple, Jeanes, Episcopal and North Eastern Hospitals.
As an alternative, Temple University will be replacing the Social Security number method with another nine digit number. Because Social Security numbers are already nine digits it makes the transition easier for older larger computer systems.
“This is going to change how they do business. Social Security numbers won’t even be able to be seen on computer screens anymore,” said Dolhansky.
Temple employees will be forbidden to ask students, staff members and guests for their Social Security number. Instead the new student ID, which will be called TUID, will be issued and requested for identification.
The Social Security number will not be completely gone. It will continue to be used for financial aid purposes, payroll and taxes. The number will be stored in encrypted fields in each system for these purposes.
John Morris, director of Student Financial Services said agencies such as Pell, PHEAA and other loan providers loans will continue to use the social security number. When the information is submitted to Temple it will then be converted into the nine digit number assigned.
“I see no reason why this wouldn’t work,” Morris said. “I don’t anticipate any problems. It’s necessary to prevent theft and we are doing this to protect students.”
Specific communications teams have already been formed to begin the process. More than 20,000 hours of training and converting is expected. An enormous amount of background work is currently taking place just to change central systems.
Over 25 central systems will be affected and a number of departmental systems at a particular school or college that may be storing the number for internal use will also be converted.
The two major systems for students are Olwnet and Diamond Dollars.
All large scale system such as these will change and be converted with the new ID number. Changes to software will take place to accommodate all this, said Dolhansky.
Communication for this project began in February of this year. The target date for completion is September 2005.
Temple University is among some of the first schools to eliminate the heavy use of the Social Security number.
“There is a large trend to move away from using the social security number,” Dolhansky said.
Both California and Arizona have banned universities from using the number as an identifier.
One obstacle for Temple University will be re-carding student IDs. More than 47,000 cards are estimated to be reissued. The Computer Services Department, which is heading up the Social Security Number Elimination Project, are only in the preliminary stages.
Technical design for the project is about 75 percent complete. Once this is done re-carding and conversion will begin. All the work, programming and systems conversions will done in-house by Temple staff.
Raynetta Smalls can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.