Is an Online Sign-In System At Andover Feasible?

In this age of unprecedented world-wide connectivity and convenience located at the tip of our fingers, Andover students have often wondered why an online sign-in system has not yet become a reality. All students except Seniors are required to return to their dorms by 8:00 p.m. on weekdays and initial their names in a “sign-in” book before writing down where they will be studying for the rest of the night.

In April 2008, a pilot program devised to test online sign-in for boarders was designed and implemented by Frank Pinto ’08 with support from Student Council and oversight by Marlys Edward, Dean of Students and Residential Life at the time. After initial excitement, the pilot was stalled due to the system’s inefficiency and lack of administrative support, according to then Stearns residents John Grunbeck ’09 and Chase Potter ’09 as well as School President Malin Adams ’09 in a 2008 interview with The Phillipian.

While the administration currently does not have any concrete plans to digitize sign-in for boarders, the topic of digitizing aspects of student life has been in discussion, according to Rajesh Mundra, Assistant Dean of Students and Residential Life and faculty advisor to Student Council.

“We continue to consider the advantages and challenges of online sign-in for boarders. We are moving towards using technology for overnight/weekend excuses, and after that we will look into online sign-in possibilities,” said Mundra in an email to The Phillipian.

According to John Wilson, Director of Student Information and Registrar, the administration is considering two vendors to facilitate opportunities for overnight and weekend excuses. The paper forms that parents and students currently fill out will be online starting in the next school year.

“The stage we’re at right now is just prior to pilot, [which would] involve requesting what we would refer to… as a ‘sandbox environment.’ We would ask for the vendor to cordon off an area in their systems… so that we would be able to pretend each of the roles — with the [student and parent] — and we would be the faculty member being notified,” said Wilson.

Wilson continued, “The bio-registry piece is slated to be ready for production for this coming term. We just finished the scoping document; it’s a requirement. It’s the administration saying this is what we’d like to do and technology has just assigned resources to it and is getting estimates and quotations.”

Wilson said that the online systems of overnight and weekend excuses could potentially be adapted to address online sign-in as well.

“The overnight excusing has been something discussed for a while… There are two vendors that we have had on campus on multiple occasions now [for us] to interview them, to survey their product, [and] to imagine… how [they] would integrate with other systems,” said Wilson in an interview with The Phillipian.

Techmasters co-head Alex Reichenbach ’18 verified the possibility of online sign-in technology, saying that to build an online domain for such a purpose would be feasible.

“The website would entirely be possible. I agree. One could implement geotagging and all… It makes no difference if there exists a website if the administration refuses to use it… [and] I don’t believe they would endorse an online sign-in,” said Reichenbach in an email to The Phillipian.

ocelyn Shen ’18 believes that using the chips inside of Blue Cards could be a potential way of tracking initial sign-in.

“[The Blue Card chip] registers into the system, so I think that if we were able to get the permissions to have someone access that data, we’d be able to keep track of names of people going in and out of the dorm. I guess in that sense the only problem would be privacy because people might not want other people to know where they are at all times,” said Shen.

Although showing support for the idea as a whole, Jeffrey Steele ’20, a resident of Carriage House, expressed concern for the technicalities of the process.

“I feel like if they work out some problems, such as knowing where the student [is] and making sure that what they’re writing down is valid, I feel like it could definitely work,” said Steele in an interview with The Phillipian.

Chi Igbokwe ’21, a resident of Isham, thinks that creating an online space for sign-in and weekend excuses would increase student proclivity to leave campus more often, and bolster productivity.

“It would be so helpful if I didn’t have to leave the library and go all the way back to my dorm just to sign in… It takes time away from homework,” said Igbokwe. “In [Junior] dorms where it’s stricter, I feel like we’re motivated to not do overnights and stuff like that [because we have to] fill out all these forms…  If it was online, then it would make [it] so much easier.”

Erin Vasquez ’19, a prefect in Double Brick, said, “I think [an online overnight and weekend excuse system] would be beneficial because it would allow us to have more time to make plans and communicate with the other person that we want to have an overnight with… Or, if something just came up that wasn’t expected [in] the system and you need an excuse, [the system] would make it a lot easier.”

According to Rhea Chandran ’19, a prefect in Nathan Hale, online sign-in would be helpful if implemented for upperclassmen only.

“I think that online sign in would be beneficial especially if it was implemented only for upperclassmen because it puts trust in students. Also, it makes students’ lives easier, keeping the students’ workflow uninterrupted. I think that it helps the [Juniors] create a routine sense of what you’re supposed to be doing during study hours,” said Chandran in an interview with The Phillipian.

Some individuals, like Braden Barlow ’21, a resident of Newman House, think that a website or more formal sign-in may not even be necessary.

“I think [changing sign-in would be] a good idea if it’s implemented in an easy enough way for all students. If it was something like texting a house counselor, it would be a lot better than walking all the way back to your dorm, and… students who live far away would probably appreciate [it],” said Barlow in an interview with The Phillipian.

According to Unwana Abasi ’13, Instructor in Biology and house counselor in Nathan Hale, the addition of online sign-in would stall in-person interactions and keep students less accountable for their actions.

“One thing that I think is really nice about in-person sign-in is that, tentatively around 8:00 p.m., it kind of forces people to see each other — actually physically see each other. Even though I think that online sign-in would be more convenient, I actually do value… seeing people. Also, just giving people a greater sense of accountability because it’s not necessarily that you just have to remember to click a button on your phone; you have to remember to physically be somewhere,” said Abasi.