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LETTER: Removing paper checks harms privacy, freedom

CMU’s plan to eliminate paper checks in favor of direct deposit and debit cards should infuriate everyone that does business with the University.

The plan effectively denies employees and students the compensation they are due. By refusing to cut checks, CMU is demanding that payees either open bank accounts — which some cannot afford — or accept a card that has limited uses.

In short, CMU is forcing them to accept company scrip that circumscribes the ways they may use their own money and restricts their freedom of choice.

The two available options have major drawbacks. With direct deposit, you need a bank account. Opening an account in post-Sept. 11 America is an extremely invasive procedure.

Moreover, bank accounts are not secure. What happens when a bank fails, as so many have in recent years? Although most deposits are insured by the FDIC, the FDIC has no time limit in which it has to reimburse depositors.

And that’s just one way that banks can lose your money. Do you owe any debts, such as student loans? Have you ever made mistakes on your tax return? Have you ever missed a child support payment? Those are just a few instances in which your bank account can be seized — legally — without warning.

The debit card option is even worse. These cards are not accepted everywhere, which restricts your choices on where to spend your money. You may use the card to withdraw cash at ATMs, but as anyone who uses debit cards (or ATMs) knows there is a daily limit on the amount of cash that can be withdrawn, plus the fees that come with doing so.

Not only do you not have access to your money, you actually pay for that inaccessibility.

Checks are a vastly superior method of payment when compared to these alternatives. Checks can be cashed almost anywhere. You don’t have to compromise your privacy and security to cash a check and in return for the “inconvenience” of cashing a check you get actual money.

Unlike debit cards, cash will never be declined. Unlike direct deposit, cash will never be subject to server errors. Cash can be used anywhere, anytime. Cash equals freedom.

It is certain that CMU will save money by banning checks, but who wants their privacy and freedom sacrificed on the altar of cost-cutting?

People may choose to use direct deposit or debit cards if they wish. But why should employees and students be punished for choosing a more traditional and secure method of payment for their services? The labor unions here need to make the check option part of their bargaining platforms. The SGA needs to protest this policy as a violation of students’ rights.

Even those who choose the alternatives need to speak out against this policy. After all, today it’s the paychecks that are being banned. What will be banned tomorrow?

Vince Locke

English Language and Literature Department