Campus supervision

College cameras opens up debate on privacy issue

By The Advocate editorial board

The number of security cameras on campus will soon increase, after the district Governing Board approved the adding of three more Police Services monitored cameras at Contra Costa College.

One would imagine a Governing Board vote would be required to add any camera to the campus, though this is not the case. Numerous other cameras, which are not monitored by Police Services, exist on CCC’s campus. There are at least 16 cameras in the CTC building, though according to computer and communications technology professor Rick Figuera there are hidden cameras in the building as well as microphones that capture audio.

Cameras which monitor the Three Seasons Restaurant  are also in the Applied Arts Building.

Though these cameras have administration approval, the fact that district Police Services Chief Charles Gibson is currently working on drafting a policy on camera placement, use and authorization, to submit to the Governing Board for approval, means they should disappear until such a time as a policy exists.

Having cameras of nondescript purpose with only shaky approval opens them up to the possibility of abuse. Students should know when they are being monitored and for what purpose.

No “hidden” cameras should exist in any shape or form at CCC. If the college has cameras students cannot see, then students should refuse to accept that the cameras are present for benign reasons.

The cameras Police Services have access too are motion activated, do not capture sound and only hold data for seven days unless explicitly marked by a police officer. The cameras on campus not monitored by Police Services store images and audio recordings of students, both minors and adults, for an indefinite amount of time and a policy regarding the access of that video is nonexistent.

Crime is no stranger to CCC. The fact that crime is prevalent in the surrounding community is the reason students are OK with cameras in parking lots or at the college’s entrances in the first place.

Yet a desire for safety in the community should not be seen as carte blanche to blanket the college in surveillance cameras.

Students want to feel safe. They wish to know that their bodies and their property will not be hurt or vandalized while on campus, and cameras are a powerful tool in ensuring that.

The lack of a Governing Board policy regarding placement of cameras on campus was taken advantage of by several departments, and it should be rectified now that a policy is in the works.

Police Services officers are incapable of placing cameras around the college without first seeking Governing Board approval. The college faculty, staff and administration should follow suit in order to make sure students, and themselves, are protected.