UNF security czars watch over campus, violate rights

Spinnaker

Welcome to the “Police State.”

The Spinnaker does not toss such words around lightly, but the growing concern of cameras on campus and the intrusion into student’s private lives needs to be combated with strong language and possibly non-violent protest.

UNF President John Delaney has decreed that campus-wide cameras, at least right now, are out of the question – and rightly so – but this has not slowed the debate about strategically placing cameras on campus.

During the summer, the Student Union Advisory Board sought recommendations from UPD Chief John Dean on priority locations for cameras at the Student Union.

The board is tasked “to ensure that the Student Union serves as an effective community center for the University of North Florida with a focus towards building relations with the campus community,” according to its by-laws.

How exactly does adding cameras to the Student Union help foster a positive relationship? Security, of course.

Considering UNF’s right of center leaning, Benjamin Franklin’s words concerning liberty should ring true: “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

Regardless, our security czars continue the slow march to completely eradicating students’ Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizures, all the while ignoring the rights guaranteed by the amendment which promises security against warrantless searches of our persons or our belongings.

Dean submitted a list of priorities for camera placement to Justin Camputaro, Student Union director and advisory board chairman, in the Student Union at places like the food court, the art gallery, the game room, the plaza, the Amphitheater and the entrance doors.

But why stop at the Student Union? Why not add cameras to other highly trafficked areas like the Green or the plaza around the Gandhi statue? Why not add cameras to locations with higher crime rates? As unfortunate as it may be, the new Osprey Fountains has cameras, but what about the other residence halls or the parking lots and garages? Why not add cameras to other high-dollar areas on campus, like the expensive equipment in the computer labs, library or other equipment-intensive buildings?

Where does it end? Once one camera has justification, all cameras can be justified.

However rhetorical this argument might seem to the proponent, what is even more egregious is the lack of open and honest debate around this issue.

The board is comprised of eight students appointed by Student Government President John Barnes and five UNF staff members appointed by Mauricio Gonzalez, vice president of Student and International Affairs, of which, only five voting members on the board felt the issue important enough to even show up at the June 17 meeting when they approved the UPD Chief’s recommended priority list.

Board members who were too busy to ensure students’ fourth amendment rights were protected are as follows: Randall Robinson, Oupa Seane, Betty Garris, Barnes, Tom Blanchard, Drew Grigg, Laurel Kendall, Kristina Kvasnok and Mack Volk.

However, judging by the unanimous vote by those members who did bother to show up – John Timpe, Michael Saathoff, Kyle Blount, Jessica Davis and Tyler Young – even if the gaggle made an appearance, they probably would have approved the recommendations.

So only five of the 13 members even bothered to show up for this important vote yet these voices gave credence for the need for cameras? By even hearing these recommendations, the board implicitly stated that UNF students are untrustworthy and need to be monitored.

(Editors note: Henceforth all UNF students shall be referred to as potential criminals.)

Fast forward to this past week’s board meeting, when the board unanimously approved placing two surveillance devices in the new UNF Art Gallery on the second floor of the West Student Union building and three cameras monitoring the Amphitheater for potential criminals.

What is even more relevant to the Spinnaker, the Art Gallery is located directly across our office. The only dividing wall between our office and the Art Gallery is a transparent glass wall, and depending on where the fixed cameras are placed, we run the risk of compromising the identity of our confidential sources.

Our specific point of contention not-with-standing, this move is a boondoggle, an egregious waste of potential criminals money and an invasion of privacy to anyone who walks near these surveillance devices.

Although these cameras will not be monitored live, they will be kept for 30 days before being erased, which further begs the question, what is the point? If this isn’t going to actively stop a theft, battery or assault in progress, what is the point? If these grainy tapes that will be visible during any preliminary scouting operation is only there to potentially catch a “criminal” at costs ranging from $1,000 to $1,800 per camera, what is the point?

All 16,000 plus potential criminals on campus should rejoice that UNF will be on the look out for their mischievous behavior, all the while using their money to pay for such a courtesy.

Thanks.