Amanda Crowe: Thurston cameras not a privacy violation

GW is not Big Brother. It’s doubtful that the University is interested in every aspect of students’ lives, watching them tirelessly until they slip up and maybe break a rule. The University and the University Police Department aren’t out to get you into trouble. They’re trying to make your time on campus safer.

William Leaf’s petition (“Freshman fights dorm cameras,” p. 1, Nov. 11) to get rid of the surveillance cameras in Thurston Hall would only serve to hinder UPD’s ability to solve crimes. These cameras are doing nothing but protecting students. We can’t rely on everyone to do the right thing all the time, like make sure their door is always locked or report a crime if they see one.

If someone steals something out of your room, UPD can use the surveillance video to help you find the culprit. A rape victim might be able to figure out their attacker from the footage of the hallways.

Leaf and the hundreds of Thurston residents who signed the petition have not acknowledged the positive aspects of the security cameras. Their main complaint is that the University is infringing on their right to privacy.

But the cameras aren’t placed in the dorm rooms, which would definitely violate that right. They are placed in a hallway, a common area. If you’re doing something in the hallway that you wouldn’t like others to see, then maybe you should find a more private place or just not do it at all.

Virtually all universities in the United States have some sort of surveillance on their campuses. Georgetown and American both use security cameras, although not in their residence halls. It should be noted though that neither of them have a residence hall that houses as many students as Thurston Hall. It’s basic logic. The more people who have access to an area, the higher the chance of crime.

Marshall University in West Virginia has employed cameras in their first-year residence hall and has found them especially useful in theft cases. The police there, like at GW, use them to prevent crime – nothing else.

Students who were at GW last year will remember the incident where a freshman in Mitchell Hall had swastikas drawn on her door for several days. There were no suspects, no leads, nothing. Security cameras were installed to try to catch the person drawing the symbols in action. The culprit turned out to be the girl who reported the swastikas. This case might never have been solved or someone might have been wrongly accused of a hate crime if the cameras had never been in place.

I talked to several freshmen living in Thurston. They all agreed that the cameras were beneficial. One student brought up a good point – if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then why does it matter that there are security cameras?

The cameras are there to prevent and solve crime, not to get people used to authoritarianism, like the petitioners claim. Authoritarianism prevents personal freedoms, these cameras do not. Students are free to do as they wish, as long as they follow the law and University rules. These laws and rules are what you agree to when you live in this country and go to this school. So what’s there to hide?

The writer, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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