Most students pay little attention to the cameras in the corner of every floor of Thurston Hall, but freshman William Leaf can’t ignore them.
Leaf drafted a petition last week on behalf of residents of Thurston that proposes the abolition of all surveillance cameras in the building. The petition has garnered more than 200 signatures, most of which were collected by going door to door in the freshman residence hall.
“The purpose of this petition is for people to see the bigger picture. Surveillance is underregulated by the government,” Leaf said. “The cameras in the hallways cause people to accept them in other communities such as their neighborhoods back home. In the real world, in our free society, people should not accept constant police surveillance in their communities and neighborhoods.”
Thurston has four visible security cameras on every residential floor. Other freshman residence halls like Crawford Hall and Mitchell Hall do not have visible security cameras.
“When I came to GW, I was shocked that Thurston had cameras installed in the hallways,” Leaf said. “GW should prepare students to be upstanding citizens, but desensitizing students to police surveillance has the opposite effect. It gets young adults used to authoritarianism.”
University Police Department Chief Dolores Stafford said cameras have helped alleviate crimes such as theft, vandalism and arson.
“The cameras have been very beneficial to UPD in solving crimes and we would oppose removing them,” she said. “In fact, we’ve had students in other residential facilities request cameras, such as Townhouse Row.”
After belongings were stolen from her dormitory, freshman Diana Waldron and her roommates turned to security cameras to identify who stole their possessions. Even though the security cameras aided the investigation, Waldron signed the petition against the usage of cameras in residence halls.
“People are becoming desensitized to cameras, which is a bad thing,” Waldron said. “That’s why I signed the petition.”
While nearby colleges such as American University use surveillance cameras on campus, they do not utilize them in residence halls. Leaf said a program that encourages safety by taking simple precautions is just as effective.
“The way I see it is that we need to be safe and free,” Leaf said. “We will be safe by locking our doors and we will be free by getting the cameras out of the hallways.”