By KATIE McHUGH
Allegheny Student Government voted in a straw poll against the installation of CCTV security cameras outside the Campus Center and parking lots Tuesday, a strong contrast to last year’s equally overwhelming vote in favor of the surveillance system.
Director of Safety and Security Jeff Schneider attributes the fluctuation to turnover in the membership of ASG and student committees.
“A lot of times those things are influenced by who you’re sitting next to and such as well,” he said. “That’s why anonymous surveys are nice because you get a feel for what these students response might be.”
Schneider would also like a camera surveying the student mail boxes, citing past incidents in which students stole mail from open mailboxes. He fears these violations may place them at the mercy of federal investigators.
“[The investigators] can be mean,” Schneider said. “They’ve been on campus in past years for some things and they take over. It’s their investigation.”
According to Schneider, a show of hands leaves little time for each student to succinctly explain the reasoning behind his vote.
A full student vote has yet to take place. Administration has yet to take a position on the issue. For now, said Schneider, students determine the direction of the conversation.
ASG senator Morgan Finton, ’12 characterizes Allegheny as a traditional institution with an atmosphere that would be disrupted by the presence of cameras.
“I went to Lancaster University, and I’ve lived on a campus run on CCTV,” Finton said. “I know it fundamentally changes the culture on the campus and I’ve seen how social interactions change. You’re constantly watched. It’s the institution versus the student, not the Allegheny student body versus the institution.”
Finton also worries the Board of Trustees may eventually override student wishes, noting they voted against student recommendations on the new four year residency requirement and the recolonization of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
“If this school fails to listen to the most important voice, the student voice, then why do we even vote on these issues?” Finton asked.
“[If] it comes back that the Board of Trustees or the administration goes against our recommendation, I want nothing to do with this school in the future,” he added.
ASG Director of Major Concerts and Events Alina Meltaus, ’12, supports the installation of CCTV and does not believe its cost will meaningfully affect the college’s operating costs.
“It’s not so much I think it’s a great idea, it’s that I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” Meltaus said. “I don’t see the harm in seeing when a couch goes missing and where and when a car gets stolen.”
“I don’t think it’s an infringement on our security as students,” she added, noting that cameras would not be placed near dormitories. “It’s in the Campus Center, a public space, where we’d expect to have a lot of people milling about anyway.”
ASG senator, Aurora Arop, ’15, agrees, believing cameras should also be installed on the walkways to dormitories.
“The pathway to Ravine is so scary,” she said.
“With cameras, people have incentives not to commit crimes because they’re on tape,” she added. “I didn’t feel like any of my rights are being violated. What can you possibly do in the Campus Center that would need to be private?”
Parents generally support the idea and the extra protection they feel it affords their children, Schneider said.
“It’s rare that someone says, ‘We don’t want this Big Brother stuff,’ because cameras are everywhere,” he said. “You go anywhere in this world today, you’re on candid camera. That’s the way the world has evolved.”
Sophomore class president Colin Soleim, ’14, compared the proposed CCTV system to the PATRIOT Act.
“There are better ways of solving the problems at hand that don’t set as dangerous a precedent as security cameras do,” he said. “There’s this sense that the world we live in isn’t safe, and I just think that’s a silly thought.”
Although Soleim acknowledged parents will worry about their kids, he also attributed this fear to the media promoting frightening news stories.
“I do think we find out about more crimes in the world in general, but there’s no reason to get security cameras in general,” he said.
“I’m worried about them putting cameras outside of dorms eventually,” Soleim added. “I don’t think these things will happen in the next five years, but in 25 years, after we forget this battle, what will the next battle be? Security cameras outside lounges? It’s important to fight against them in the beginning.”