Civil liberty is an integral aspect of being an American. Unfortunately, the rights guaranteed to us in the constitution have found themselves in the midst of a cultural war in which Denison is not exempt. In recent days there has been a great deal of controversy regarding an op ed in the Denisonian calling for cameras to be placed in dorm hallways. This controversy rapidly spilled into the Denisonian’s instagram comments and became filled with heated debate. Students going after students, students going after alumni, and the list goes on. Many students on campus believed that this issue had already been resolved in 2018 with the dramatic increase in cameras across campus. However, the problem of safety at Denison is still a hot button issue. As such, it is important that we as students address this quickly as any policy of this kind would have a range of implications. These cameras would be expensive, which is a burden that could be placed upon the students. This is in addition to the real possibility that students’ personal privacy would be compromised. The question then arises, what is the true cost of student surveillance?
Many students worry that their privacy will be invaded as seen in the heated reaction to this proposal. This concern lies in the fact that the one place on campus where privacy is guaranteed could become yet another stranglehold Denison has on the individual. Fundamentally, I entirely agree with these students . We live in a time where students are increasingly less comfortable with spaces outside their dorm. This is natural given COVID concerns and our campus wide dedication to health and safety during such difficult times. Even when COVID subsides this surveillance will remain. That being said, why would our student body relinquish even more control over our personal privacy?
A practical issue that emerges with the hallway cameras is that the floor plans at Denison are not spacious and each hallway is tightly packed with dorms. There lacks a clarity on the location these cameras would even be placed considering the crowded floor plans. Furthermore, this initiative cannot guarantee that these cameras would not have views into our dorms. Not only would this violate our basic human right to privacy, but it would be entirely illegal and unconstitutional. The 4th amendment of the US constitution protects the right to privacy and it is important for students to realize the ramifications this policy creates. However, some students have valid positions regarding the safety of students which the camera policy may help with.
I understand that some students would like to see a surveillance policy similar to the one presented in the op-ed article mentioned previously. I completely understand the sentiment of wanting to provide more security for students against violence of any kind.There have been incidents of bias to many marginalized communities across campus. Furthermore, we need to find better ways to protect these vulnerable populations. Denison has already greatly increased the amount of cameras on campus for security. Additionally, the school reserves its right as a private institution to install cameras in areas around campus that see higher rates of incidents on campus. As a campus we can prioritize student safety without the expense of civil liberty.
If there are concerns about how we guarantee the safety of students we should be having these discussions where a true difference can be made. Denison has many avenues for policy change including DCGA, advocacy groups, and political organizations. Come to groups that promote student dialogue and focus on student engagement. Instead of allowing the continuation of this current climate of shutting down avenues of discourse on issues that affect each and every one of us, speak up.