The recent concerns over security cameras have brought out some of the issues associated with monitoring students. Cameras that are intended to prevent our rights from being abused are somehow sources of worry or concern. The fact that we are being recorded by the school seems to indicate a mutual distrust.

This new idea of adding webcams to campus only adds to the concern. While the webcams would be aimed at public areas, there is still something unsettling about the area where we live being constantly broadcast over the Web.

Privacy is important, both in your room, and out on campus. If I were to set up a webcam in my room, and selectively broadcast my life to people of my choosing, that’s one thing, but to have our campus recorded and broadcast is entirely different.

These two uses for video recording equipment highlight interesting aspects of where our society is headed. Our generation has been on film for much or all of our lives. As children we were recorded for home movies. Previous generations had their lives documented on still film, and in paintings before that. While visual documentation has existed for a long time, the degree to which our lives are recorded has increased dramatically.

Some parts of our lives are best not recorded. If I’m walking past the Eastman Quadrangle, and I trip and fall, I don’t want that recorded and stored for the amusement of others.

We shouldn’t get used to having every detail of our lives recorded. If being constantly watched becomes the norm, things like having security cameras aimed directly at your room won’t seem out of the ordinary. Constant exposure to cameras erodes our sense of privacy. It will stop us from saying, “Hey, that’s not right.”

If prospective students want to see the campus, they should come up for a visit. Or they should talk to people who have lived here on campus. Watching three specific parts of the campus — on a grainy webcam — will not add anything useful to their decision to attend school here. In fact, it might give them misconceptions they otherwise wouldn’t have had.

Parents don’t need to see what’s happening on the Eastman Quad. If we are to institute a service for parents, perhaps we should put webcams on some of the computers in the ITS center. Rather than trying to discern who that speck in the distance is, parents can actually see their child’s face. Most importantly, we, the subjects of these recordings, would be in control of whether or not we are being broadcast to anyone with an internet connection.

Powell can be reached at

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