When members of the Yale College Council first proposed their “Campus Cash” program in October 2006, they hoped students would be able to sign up by fall 2007. But a year and a half later, it now appears that the program — which would allow students to consolidate various campus payment programs onto their student ID cards and use those cards to charge meals at several restaurants around central campus — is unlikely to launch before fall 2008.
Associate Vice President for Student Financial and Administrative Services Ernst Huff said Thursday that the holdup is due to “legal issues” surrounding a third-party facilitator whom the University hopes to hire to solicit restaurants to join the program.
“We didn’t want to do that ourselves, in terms of schlepping around signing people up,” Huff said yesterday. “There are people who do this kind of business. Just this morning we were assigned a lawyer from the general counsel’s office to help us deal with all the remaining legal work associated with it.”
Although Huff said in an interview with the News in January 2007 that he saw no reason why the program would not be ready to go by the beginning of the 2007-’08 school year, he said in August that Campus Cash would not be ready until the spring 2008 semester because of continuing logistical problems. These decisions included which restaurants to solicit and whether to hire a third-party facilitator, he told the News at the time.
Once the current “legal issues” have been worked out, the administration will begin a campaign to advertise the program to students, Huff said Thursday.
As of now, only Yorkside Pizza and Restaurant and Wall Street Pizza & Restaurant accept student IDs as payment. Carlos Marrichi, who recently purchased Wall Street Pizza, said the program is popular among students who frequent his restaurant, although the technology needed to accept ID cards is often inefficient.
“I think the program is great, but the machines we use to swipe the cards break down every night,” he said. “The kids end up having to pay anyway.”
But Marrichi said the recent reduction from 18 to 10 percent of the University processing fee for transactions at businesses accepting Flex Dollars has made him more amenable to the program.
When the YCC initially introduced Campus Cash, members were in discussions with owners of Ivy Noodle, Bulldog Burrito and Au Bon Pain about getting the restaurants to join the program. When contacted Thursday evening, management at Bulldog Burrito said they were unsure about the program.
At Au Bon Pain, manager Dhiraj Thapa said Thursday that Yale would have to contact the restaurant’s corporate office in order to set up a swipe-and-pay policy. Thapa, who used to work at the Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square, said the franchise there has recently begun accepting a Harvard equivalent of Campus Cash.
In 2004, when the YCC proposed a program similar to Campus Cash that would have allowed the use of Flex Bucks at outside restaurants, Ivy Noodle and Bulldog Burrito declined to join. Au Bon Pain had previously accepted Flex Bucks as a method of payment but declined to renew its contract in 2004 because of financial concerns.
Although many students interviewed said they are excited at the prospect of being able to use Campus Cash in the future, those who were expecting the program to be available when they got back to school this year said they were discouraged by the delay.
“I’m surprised because I did hear it was being worked on,” Jonathan Goldman ’09 said.
“I was definitely looking forward to the program,” Rebecca Nadal ’09 added. “I’m a little disappointed that I won’t get to use it [yet].”
YCC Treasurer Harrison Marks ’10 said he is optimistic that Campus Cash or a similar program will be in place relatively soon, but the YCC cannot do anything else to expedite the process since the administration is still working out the logistics.
“Right now, it’s happening,” he said. “I know that it’s happening — definitely going to happen eventually.”