University installs new security cameras at Bowld Student Commons

Bowld Student Commons
Photo by Matt McDaniel
Safety and Security has newly installed four security cameras in the Bowld Student Commons.
“Ultimately the cameras here are for a deterrent, to stop people hopefully from committing crimes on campus, vehicle theft, anything,” said Carson Hawkins, director of Safety and Security.
Installed in mid-December in a joint effort with Residence Life, the four cameras stream footage from open areas in the Commons.
One shoots across the foyer on the ground floor, another shoots across the open seating area on the second floor, and the other two film across the gym.
The footage, which goes through Information Technology servers, is recorded and kept for a period of time and is monitored live from a desktop computer in the offices of Safety and Security.
If someone reports a theft or another suspicious behavior in the commons, Safety and Security officers can review old footage.
“It’s a big building with a ton of entrances and a lot of expensive equipment around, so [we were] just wanting to be diligent in that if something were to get walked off with or something along those lines, hopefully we’d have some recourse to know what’s going on,” said Ken Litscher, director of Residence Life.
Instead of buying new cameras, Safety and Security bought converters to upgrade previously unused cameras from analog to digital.
The overall cost was “minimal,” Hawkins said, and the older cameras are now incorporated into the primary campus monitoring system that has been in place for several years.
The purposes of the cameras are to deter potential wrongdoers and to track past crimes or misbehaviors — not to keep tabs on students’ every move, Hawkins said.
However, Hawkins said he does understand student concern about surveillance of their actions, especially with recent headlines about the National Security Administration observation of civilians.
“[The cameras are] there for us to help keep students safe and secure,” Litscher said. “I have zero time during my day to spend time watching a stream of people walking by. Our purpose isn’t to be the eye-in-the-sky, NSA watching everything sort of thing.”
Kaitlin Nonweiler, senior teaching English as a second language major, teaches Zumba to women twice a week in the Bowld gym and said she thinks the cameras will increase student safety and decrease stealing and vandalism in the Commons.
“I think that it is very funny that Safety and Security can see footage of Zumba,” Nonweiler said in a Facebook interview. “I have no serious problem with it, but it will make me laugh when I think of them being able to see it.”
However, Nonweiler also said she is concerned that her Zumba students might feel uncomfortable — or maybe even stop coming — knowing their workouts are recorded and watched.
Most of the other cameras around campus are in outdoor locations, such as along Walker Road.
McAfee Commons has less need for cameras due to its open floor plan where the resident advisor can keep watch over events in the room, unlike the closed-in Bowld, Litscher said.
“Bowld Commons is a building that’s used quite often,” Hawkins said. “There’s a lot of activity over there. With the gym often we get people from off campus wanting to use Union’s great facilities, the gym, all kinds of things. And sometimes we have to monitor that and watch that kind of close to make sure people aren’t impeding student use of these facilities.”
Image courtesy of Cardinal & Cream|Cardinal & Cream
About Katherine Burgess 70 Articles
Katherine Burgess, a class of 2015 journalism alumna, is a former Editor-in-Chief of the Cardinal & Cream. Her journalism has taken her from a United Nations Tribunal to the largest maximum security prison in the United States to Capitol Hill. She is now the Education Reporter for the Jackson Sun. Follow her on Twitter @kathsburgess