When I was distributing issues of the Voice two weeks ago with a headline about the College installing security cameras on Beall, I was surprised by how quickly people reacted to the news. Some students were excited, saying it was just what the campus needed. Others were vocally displeased, saying things like “this is what we’re wasting our money on now?” To me, this should not be such a divisive issue — assuming the system is implemented properly.
I doubt that there is any spot on this campus where students feel more unsafe than Beall Avenue. We’ve all had somebody yell at us from a passing car. Racial and homophobic slurs abound. I’ve known people who have been hit by projectiles ranging from an orange to a blowdart while walking up the street. Students have been jumped on the sidewalk in the past. This is no way for the school’s most trafficked area to be.
Cameras obviously won’t improve town-gown relations or stop all forms of harassment from happening, but they can do a lot to lower the frequency of these incidents. If a camera can get the make, model and license plate of a car driven by someone who repeatedly harasses or throws things at students, I am all for using it. If some form of assault is caught on camera and the footage can be used against the perpetrator, that’s fantastic. Anything that makes students feel safer is a positive thing in my book.
What I’m guessing students are worried about is a sense of privacy invasion. This is a reasonable irritation. I think most of us have felt that the College has interfered with our lives in one way or another over our time spent here, and nobody likes to feel like they’re being watched. If Security and Protective Services (SPS) uses camera footage to punish a student over some inane policy, like an open container violation, hours after they walked by a camera, that is a waste of time and completely unhelpful to the student body. Nobody will feel safe if students are targeted for anything that doesn’t directly victimize someone. Then again, the alternative to cameras would be having the increased physical presence of security on Beall, and if you are dumb enough to violate open container or vandalize property in the busiest part of campus, maybe getting written up will be a valuable life lesson.
So I suppose one’s feelings on cameras might depend on one’s trust in SPS. I know quite a few students feel that SPS creates an Orwellian dystopia, but, while they do overstep their boundaries on occasion, that is far from the truth. Until the cameras are actually installed, SPS’s use of them is entirely speculative. I for one believe that the cameras are a spectacular idea that should have been put in place years ago, but hopefully SPS realizes that there is a limit to how useful they can be.