Taylor Trimble ‘24 is a philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) major from Chicago, IL.

Recently, I applied to be a community advisor for the next academic year. The process included an online application, an individual interview, and a group interview. 

The group interview was in the style of a deliberative dialogue. Deliberative dialogue is a public interaction where various individuals are placed in small groups, or in Denison’s case breakout rooms, to share their thoughts and opinions on a certain issue. In my group, we were informed about the increase of security cameras on campuses nationwide. We were then asked about our opinions on the increase of surveillance cameras on Denison’s campus, specifically in the residence halls. 

Now, it is important to note that these cameras would not be placed in our rooms, just the halls. 

Answers varied from a strict opposition to surveillance cameras to strong support for their presence. Before I give my opinion, I think it will be worth mentioning Denison University’s shortcomings from my experience as a first year. This is by no means critiquing the institution itself, but rather those who comprise it. 

I have seen the residency halls vandalized from copious amounts of garbage on the ground to broken furniture. In addition, as of 2019 Denison had reports of six rapes, four fondling incidents, five incidents of domestic violence, two cases of aggravated assault, and one case of stalking. 

Sexual assault continues to be a prevalent problem on college campuses. More than a quarter of women who attend a college undergraduate program will experience some form of sexual assault or rape. About seven percent of men who are undergraduates will experience sexual assault as well. Despite these alarming rates, studies from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in 2015 show that more than 90 percent of victims on college campuses do not report their assaults.

Due to the increasing nature of sexual assault on college campuses and the present vandalism and incidents at Denison, I am a strong proponent of surveillance cameras in the residence halls. The addition of surveillance cameras would promote a greater sense of accountability and responsibility on campus. 

It would allow administration to be aware of who is vandalizing campus property and easily confront the perpetrators. Furthermore, if there were to be another sexual assault in the residency halls, the surveillance cameras would provide physical evidence. That evidence would be extremely beneficial if a survivor wanted to press charges and he or she were afraid to because they assumed they wouldn’t be believed, a common obstacle for many survivors of sexual assault. 

Despite my strong feelings with regard to the presence of surveillance cameras, not everyone agreed. The most common argument against them was that it would be an invasion of privacy and that we should find other ways to promote accountability and responsibility, such as initiatives and seminars. 

Additionally, opponents of installing security cameras say we should try to cultivate an environment where people don’t vandalize or sexually assault someone because it is immoral, not just because they are afraid of getting caught. 

I agree with this to some extent. I believe we should continue to create and promote initiatives that educate people about sexual assault and the importance of consent. However, lectures and seminars can only do so much. If people are not shown that there are consequences for their actions, they will continue to act until they are reprimanded. And frankly, I believe it would be quite harmful to our college community to allow sexual assault to run rampant just because we want to give students the opportunity to “cultivate their morals.” If we were to set up surveillance cameras in conjunction with making sexual assault and consent initiatives mandatory, we would be cultivating both a moral and protective environment that educates and defends students from harm. When choosing to attend a higher education institution, we have not only made a commitment to the advancement of our education, but to each other. With this commitment, the promotion of responsibility and accountability is vital to the overall well-being of the individuals who comprise this campus. However, if we are to continue to lack the human decency and respect to refrain from vandalizing our residency halls and physically harming our peers, then it is time to provide our community with physical, effective protection: surveillance cameras.