Last updateFri, 23 Mar 2018 1pm

Ask the Experts

Big Brother

I see video cameras on campus, am I being watched?

Your question covers almost everywhere people gather today. Nine out of ten campuses employ video-camera surveillance for protection, and students are taking notice. With the incidence of campus shootings more than doubling in the last five years, campuses are cracking down on crime and trying to promote safety. We do not editorialize on the issues of privacy versus safety, but provide unbiased information.

With a large adoption rate and another ten percent of universities planning to get cameras installed, they have become an everyday part of life for students and faculty. The majority of those with video-surveillance systems installed plan on expanding them within the next three years.

In general, camera systems get positive feedback from those on campus, from a safety aspect and as a criminal deterrent. Fixed security cameras are most popular, with 78 percent of colleges using them. Almost 50 percent of respondents to a Campus Safety magazine survey said that they have purchased network video recorders and video-management software.

The list of uses and advantages of employing a video-surveillance system is long. Cameras and video footage can be implemented as a criminal deterrent and used in evidence in cases of theft, assault, gang control, arson, and gun crime. For accident documentation, cameras provide digital eyes on campus grounds, parking lots, and busy intersections. They can also be used for medical emergencies, weather emergencies, partnerships with local law enforcement, employee discipline, risk management, and event organization.

Would-be thieves think twice about coming onto campus during lunch hours to steal from offices and staff if they are being watched. Students think twice about taking or selling illicit substances and staff disciplinary issues decline.

When security cameras are first implemented there is usually a sense of umbrage from those who see it as an invasion of personal privacy, or violation of academic freedom. People are often incensed when an organization first installs a network of sophisticated cameras and technology that constantly monitors every corner of the campus.

The resentment of the digital roving eyes soon fades though, cameras are a part of life these days and they can foster a sense of security and safety. As ‘big brother’ fears subside there is usually more support for video-surveillance technology. In most cases it carries a benign interest for the safety and security of those on campus.

On occasion, colleges install cameras to solve specific cases or deter and resolve repetitive criminal activity. Typically, the cameras are placed at high-risk areas where crimes or accidents are likely to occur. These may be monitored live by security staff or they could be just recording for later reference, depending on the severity of the issue and the campus staffing situation.

Some still view cameras as an Orwellian infringement on human rights but the results speak for themselves and video surveillance is becoming more commonplace.

A movie camera is like having someone you have a crush on watching you from afar, you pretend it's not there… Daryl Hannah.

Martin J. Young is a former correspondent of Asia Times.

Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151