An incident involving an alleged gunman at St. Paul College in Minnesota has turned into a lesson in identity vetting for campus card program managers everywhere. On Sept. 23 the technical school went on lockdown when a female student reported seeing a man with a gun in a campus elevator upset over his financial aid.
A secret code was announced over the P.A. system, “paging Mrs. Wobegon to the front office,” that was predetermined as a means to instruct faculty to lock classroom doors. More than 40 police officers and SWAT team members searched each room and then evacuated students as the area was cleared.
In the end, no gun or gunman was found though police did question a man off campus regarding the incident.
Fast forward to November 10. The 42-year old student, Charleeta Brown, who had reported the incident, admits that she made up the story and there never was a gun or gunman. Ms. Brown is charged with falsely reporting a crime.
Two days later police receive a call from a woman claiming that she is Charleeta Brown and that the person on the evening news charged with the crime is an imposter. The student ID card used by the woman had Brown’s name but the other woman’s photo.
In the end, it turned out that Brown had knowingly allowed her friend Vonda Hill to use her identity to enroll in classes at the college because Hill had too many student loans and couldn’t get financial aid in her own name. She received a valid student ID in Brown’s name.
The story is odd but the lesson is clear. We need to do all we can to make sure we positively vet the individual’s identity before we issue them a student ID card. Fortunately no one was hurt in this case but the outcome could have been different. If the woman was trying to hide something more nefarious than bad credit, we would not want her on campus or at least we would want to know her background.
Perhaps it is time to re-examine the process and documents you require prior to card issuance. As the example of St. Paul shows, there are always people that will try to game the system.