DukeCard goes fully digital, citing environmental impact, security reasons

For the first time, first-year students did not receive a physical DukeCard when they arrived on campus.

Beginning fall of 2023, the DukeCard went fully digital for students and faculty. The DukeCard Office gave the green light for a complete transition from physical cards to digital cards following a successful testing period. 

“After having the mobile DukeCard for several years and seeing how well received it was, especially during COVID, we decided it was time,” wrote Debbie DeYulia, director of DukeCard and program management, in an email to The Chronicle. 

While the switch to mobile use can be partially credited to its positive reception during the COVID-19 pandemic, the DukeCard Office website also lists the cards' environmental impact as a key factor in the decision to go digital, writing that “mobile credentials reduce the impact of plastic badges, printers, ink, storage and handling on our environment.” 

The website also states that mobile cards are “93-98% more carbon efficient” and that switching to digital DukeCards saves over five tons of plastic. 

Incoming first-years set up their digital DukeCard during the summer before arriving on campus for orientation. All students submitted a photo of themselves and set up a personal pin code associated with their new mobile ID.

“First-year students came with their DukeCard ready to go and could access buildings, flex and meal plans right away,” DeYulia wrote.

Some students said that they enjoy the benefits and convenience of having a digital card. 

Students are rarely without their cell phones and are much less likely to lose them compared to a physical ID. As first-year Rae Rackley puts it, “the only thing that college students bring more than anything everywhere is their phone.”

“I know I would lose the physical card because I have a key for my dorm, and I've already lost it three times,” first-year Tatum McKinnis said.

The DukeCard is compatible with the Apple, Google and Samsung Wallet features, allowing students to have immediate access to their Duke credentials. 

However, some concerns may arise from the exclusive use of digital DukeCards. 

“My phone is always tethered to me, and sometimes I wish I could live ‘phone-less,’” first-year Sarah Schulze said. “I find it especially annoying for laundry because I just don't think to bring my phone to do laundry.”

Although physical cards are still available upon request, there are some limitations involved. Chosen or preferred first names currently cannot be printed on physical DukeCards, while preferred name choices made on DukeHub are updated on the digital DukeCard within two hours.

Duke’s decision to go digital this year, according to DeYulia, has mostly been met with enthusiasm from students and faculty alike. Regardless, the switch certainly reflects the continuously growing importance of technology while on campus.

“This is a transition away from plastic, is less high-touch and most importantly, it’s more secure,” DeYulia said.


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