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They're watching us

April 21, 2023 at 4:00:00 PM

Talia Cutler '23

At the outset of this school year, student began to notice an increase in the number of surveillance cameras around campus and the dorms. School authorities assured us that they were a necessary security feature: a way to enforce the rules and maintain safety. To me and many other students, the cameras are an intrusion on our Mercersburg experience. The expansion of the cameras, despite what the school’s administration may say, comes at a great cost: the loss of student privacy. 

Our dorms are first and foremost our personal living space. Our dorm rooms are supposed to be our homes. They’re a safe environment for students to sleep, socialize, do their laundry, shower, etc. And while there are no cameras inside the dorms (with the exception of Main Hall), the abundance of new cameras outside of residential spaces has left many students feeling uncomfortable in and around their own “sacred” living space. Students who feel like they are under constant surveillance can experience increased anxiety and fear, which can in turn affect their mental health and overall well-being.

Whether or not the cameras are a scare tactic to deter students from entering other dorms I cannot say, but it is a widely accepted truth on campus. Students are afforded such limited privacy, it is - an issue in and of itself. It becomes easy to see the cameras’ growing presence as a Big Brother in student life or as just another way to crack down on student relationships. (Seriously, why are they such a big deal?!)

But I am not naive, and I understand that as an isolated campus, one of the reasons for the cameras is the school’s legitimate concern for our well-being. In fact, the prevalence of cameras outside the dorms may not even be effective in promoting safety. If an incident were to occur, oftentimes the cameras are not properly situated to capture it, and they may not provide enough information to help identify the perpetrator. It is better to focus on other preventative measures, such as an emphasis on campus security patrolling around or near town (rather than patrolling students), providing emergency phones in every dorm, and conducting safety drills. Instead of relying on cameras, the administration should focus on the aforementioned methods to promote safety and respect students' privacy and well-being. Security shouldn’t make us feel anxious and afraid; it should make us feel secure.

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