Faculty mixed on campus surveillance

While the idea of being under surveillance is appealing to some faculty members, others find the practice to be unethical.

Central Michigan University has accumulated 546 surveillance cameras in the last eight years, seeing a large increase in the number of cameras installed on campus in the last four years, costing the university about $500,000 for the cameras and support system.

CMU Police Chief Bill Yeagley told Central Michigan Life Tuesday that cameras are crucial to campus safety, saying, although the cameras are not monitored around the clock, police always have the ability to see what is happening on campus.

The location of cameras ranges from parking lots and residence halls to the library, the Student Activity Center and academic buildings. This means, at any given time, the actions of faculty members are being watched or recorded.

"I was aware that there were a few (cameras) in buildings but completely unaware that there were so many," journalism professor John Hartman said. "There are usually signs that state that you are under surveillance. I would describe these cameras as secret."

Hartman says university administrators have made a significant mistake by not putting up signs in public areas that state the area is under video surveillance and said had signs been posted in the SAC parking lot, the Jan. 16 abduction of a CMU student might not have occurred.

"I would like to think that if they had signs in the athletic parking lot (stating) that (it was) under surveillance, the perpetrator may have seen those signs and decided that he was not going to abduct the student," Hartman said.

Some professors, including fixed-term earth and atmospheric sciences professor Joshua Barringer and associate professor of biology Stephen Juris, said the fact that the cameras are constantly monitoring activity is not a problem.

Juris said the presence of the cameras makes him feel safer on campus because of all the recent criminal activity occurring in the area.

"I have nothing to hide in terms of what I do on campus, so I don’t see being watched as a bad thing," he said.

Barringer said the proposition of being under constant surveillance is not something he is concerned with and said being monitored occurs in other aspects of life as well.

"Consider stores like Walmart and Meijer," he said. "You’re assumed to be a potential shoplifter and are watched virtually all the time. Same thing at many federal buildings or labs where there’s proprietary research taking place. Further, CMU can monitor web traffic, too. Anything I do on my office computer is potentially being monitored."

Assistant professor of Spanish Mary Garland-Jackson said if the cameras are ensuring the safety of students on campus and detecting crime, the hefty price is worth the investment.

"It is a lot of money, but if it is for security purposes, it seems worth it," she said.


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