In late January, a 360-degree camera was installed atop the Haggar balcony overlooking the Mall and another was installed overlooking Cardinal Farrell Hall.
The recent move of the Campus Safety Office to the former Student Activities and Leadership Center office was the catalyst for the new camera installments.
“We’ve always had cameras in Haggar, but when we moved offices, we had to change the kind of cameras,” Captain Charles Steadman said. “We had the oldest cameras that you’ve ever seen and they were still running on copper wires. They didn’t work anymore, so we had to put in new IP cameras anyway.”
The camera overlooking the side of Cardinal Farrell Hall is called the Lynch Circle camera. It was strategically placed to survey vandalism or unsolicited skateboarding. The camera overlooking the Mall is attached to the balcony of Haggar, and according to Steadman, will be used for social media and promotional footage.
“I wanted one on the Mall because everyone has so much fun on the Mall,” Steadman said. “I’d love to have a live feed on it. And that’s the truth. Whatever happens on the Mall but a bunch of fun?”
Younger alumni and the Office of Advancement in particular pushed for a camera on the Mall for footage—in order to promote and also to keep in touch with campus life.
“I think the social media footage thing is kind of cool because there is a lot of stuff that goes on like Music on the Mall and like last week was Groundhog so a lot of things were going on,” freshman Mary Michael Hudgens said. “It would be nice to see students in their natural habitat, hanging out and not knowing that they’re being filmed.”
According to Steadman, the cameras were installed not for the sake of “spying” on students, but to be able to look back at footage in order to establish facts in the event of an incident.
“It’s not surveillance—it’s not to watch what the kids are doing,” he said. “What the cameras are good for is if something happens, then you can go back and review it and see what happened.
“My experience in the last 20 years is that cameras have shown students didn’t do it much more often than it showed that they did,” he said.
There are cameras all over campus, but in particular, the cameras that are positioned at the entrances and exits of dorms such as Clark hall seem much more personal, some students said.
“I’m comfortable with cameras being on public spaces like the Mall, etc. But the dorms, I’m a little more uncomfortable with,” Freshman John Luke Hoonhout said. “The only people that are going to be going into or out of the dorms are students, but around the dorms, I don’t think that the purpose is a clear as it would be if they had the cameras in an open space.”
The concept of safety, especially on college campuses, has been seriously emphasized around the country, but sometimes those safety measures make students feel a bit uncomfortable.
“On one hand I think it’s a good idea for security and safety in order to get videos of the surrounding areas, especially for outside the dorms, because with the wind lately outside of Greg, our dorm doors haven’t been shutting and they stay open so anyone can come in. So, I can see how cameras would be good but at the same time it does kind of feel like someone is watching you all the time, which makes me a little bit uncomfortable,” Hudgens said. “But, I don’t know, I guess as long as students aren’t doing something bad then it shouldn’t be an issue.”
Steadman said that certain circumstances, such as the vandalism of the baseball fields in 2017, call for heightened security measures.
“If it’s something like the baseball fields getting vandalized on a regular basis, we’ll set up a screen with a person sitting at the desk and it’ll flash at them if anything happens. It’s a special circumstance. We have so many cameras on campus, there is really no way to have constant surveillance on them all the time.” he said.