Shippensburg University has had pressure from students in the past year to add additional security and surveillance in and around our residence halls in order to address incidents occurring in the buildings as well as to prevent future problems.
Last year, a resident in Seavers Hall had hate speech written on her door by another resident telling her to “get out n*****.” This incident of course led to an investigation but it ignited numerous conversations about race relations on our campus, as well as surveillance and security in our residence halls.
Conversations regarding the matter were held within many student groups as well as with university officials including former vice president of enrollment management and student affairs Donta Truss.
I happened to be in one of those discussions with Donta, where members of the Student Government Association (SGA) asked officials if cameras could be installed in hallways. Cameras were only at entrances, elevators and stairwells at the time.
We were specifically told that cameras were too expensive to be installed and that cameras in the hallways would be a conflict with residents’ privacy. A change in heart and or a change in funding has certainly occurred.
Cameras have been added to every hallway of every residence hall, totaling more than 20 new cameras per building. According to SU Housing and Residence Life, the cameras are specifically positioned to not point into any residents’ personal room.
When asked about who has access to these cameras, SU Police Chief Michael Lee hesitantly commented that the footage from these cameras is fed to the police station and that the footage is reviewed in the event of an “incident in the halls.”
Students have had varying reactions to the new cameras. Speaking with residents, many are concerned that staff members are monitoring them for policy violations and feel uncomfortable with their addition.
Others, including myself, look upon their addition favorably.
“Too many incidents happened last year that shouldn’t have happened and too many people got away with breaking the rules. I greatly appreciate these new cameras,” a resident assistant directly involved in one of last year’s incidents said.
If what the university says is true and these cameras are accessed only by a select group of officials on a select basis and do not peer into people’s rooms, then I fully support their addition. With this week’s new incident, these new cameras will be integral in serving justice to those who intend on spreading hate on our campus.
The addition of the new cameras is certainly a start to deterring violence and damages in our buildings but SU must continue to explore ways to ensure a safe and welcoming environment, while protecting the privacy of residents. As with all new changes, we are left to discuss, debate and share our voice on our campus and in our community.