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Chip shortage results in temporary cards for first-years

The global semiconductor shortage has revealed just how essential the tiny microchips are — they’re hidden in your car, your laptop, your electric toothbrush, and even in your wallet. In fact, behind that sometimes unfortunate photo from freshman year, each Notre Dame student ID contains a microchip.

This semester, first-years and incoming grad students were given temporary IDs, instead of the personalized “Irish 1 Card” because of supply chain issues related to the chip shortage.

According to Michael Hovestol, the program director for the Campus Card Office, personalized student IDs are usually printed on blank cards after incoming students submit their photos.

 This year, the shipment of blank cards did not arrive until after move-in, so the card office borrowed temporary IDs that Residence Life reserves for summer use.

Around six years ago, the Card Office switched from using student IDs with a magnetic stripe to the contactless “Irish 1 Card.” Each Irish 1 Card contains a microchip surrounded by a copper antennae. Before the Card Office prints the student photo and information, Hovestol explained, the blank cards have a picture of the dome and gold-foiled letters reading “University of Notre Dame.”

Residence Life has a temporary ID available for each bed in the residence halls, and those cards took on a new importance this school year.

“Since we had literally no cards that we could provide students, we asked ResLife to borrow those cards,” Hovestol said. 

The temporary cards work at all contactless stations, such as entry into dining halls or dorms. However, the magnetic stripe on the back of the card does not work, so temporary IDs cannot be used at Grubhub kiosks or vending machines.

Tim Sloan, a first-year in O’Neill Family Hall, said he had difficulty ordering food at the kiosks.

“I tried to get food at some place in the LaFortune center, and [the temporary card] just wouldn’t work,” Sloan said. “I was with three other freshmen, and none of theirs did either, so we just had to use a regular debit card.”

The semiconductor shortage began in the second quarter of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, the demand for chips increased drastically, as more people were investing in work-from-home technology and other devices. Automakers began to compete for the limited chip supply, causing a rise in car prices and manufacturing delays.

The shortage caused significant delays in shipments from the Card Office’s manufacturer, ColorID, Hovestol said.

“We ordered [the cards], I think a month or a month and a half before to prevent this, but the delays got worse,” he added.

Last year, the cards were similarly delayed, but they arrived a week before move in. As the shortage is expected to continue into 2023, the Card Office is planning to order the student IDs by January at the latest, Hovestol explained.

Hovestol said that students are no longer receiving any temporary IDs. The Card Office received a shipment of 2,000 cards Aug. 19 and an additional 4,000 cards Aug. 29. 

“In a normal August, we print about 4,500 cards. And so we’re obviously over that threshold where we can cover this whole month and then into the next couple of months as well,” Hovestol said.

Students can now go to Duncan Student Center to pick up their permanent IDs and get their picture retaken, if they wish.

Natalie Sekerak, a first-year in Welsh Family Hall, said it was “a process” to pick up her permanent ID.

“They only gave us specific hours we could come, and they were all during school hours,” Sekerak said. “It was a little difficult to schedule around my classes.”

Sekerak waited in a 30-minute line before receiving her permanent ID.

“When I finally got through the line, it was a pretty quick process,” she said. “I was surprised how fast they printed it.”

As of Tuesday, Aug. 30, less than 500 first-year students did not have a permanent ID, according to Hovestol. This means about 75% of first-years have received their permanent IDs. The Campus Card Office began to reach out to graduate students Wednesday. 

The Campus Card office will be stationed in Duncan Student Center W102B until Sept. 9 for students who still need to pick up their permanent ID.

Katie Muchnick

Contact Katie at kmuchnic@nd.edu