Student survey prompts further discussion on cameras in dorms

SGA celebrated the newly elected senators and eBoard members during its meeting on April 24. Allie Gath / THE GATEPOST

During SGA’s meeting on April 24, President Kyle Rosa and Kelsey Carvalho, an intern for Millie González, presented the results of a survey regarding student safety in the residence halls and on campus.

“A good majority” of the 159 participants do not live on campus, said Carvalho.

The survey asked questions about how safe students feel on campus, places students identify as unsafe and how additional camera in the residence halls may impact students’ sense of privacy and security.

Students overwhelmingly identified parking lots and outdoor walkways as areas where they feel the least safe. Most recommendations to help this problem included more outdoor lighting. Carvalho and Rosa said they would follow up on this with facilities.

Senator Stephanie Bennett asked if they had encountered any “hostility” from climate change activists on campus when making this request, as more lighting would require more electricity.

Rosa responded they have not been aware of anything themselves. However, they have passed the survey results and recommendations on to the University’s administration regarding actions to be taken in response to their findings.

Regarding additional cameras in the residence halls, 38.36 percent of respondents said they were a “needed response” to the recent bias incidents on campus.

When asked where additional cameras should be installed, 77.99 percent of respondents said main hallways, 72.96 percent said stairwells and 55.35 percent said lobbies. This question allowed for multiple responses to be selected. Other options included lounges, studies and “other.”

Regarding another question about the possible negative impact of cameras, Rosa said, “A majority of students report they foresee negative consequences, but it was a close split. Most of the concerns mentioned were an invasion of privacy.”

Students also expressed concerns about the intentions of the individuals monitoring the cameras and being held accountable for incidents in the residence halls.

Student Trustee Karl Bryan questioned what would happen if footage was recalled by Residence Life or campus police for vandalism or a hate crime and another student was seen in the footage “with a beer can in their hand.”

Amanda Haskins, area director and SGA advisor, said, “So, we’ve actually talked about this extensively because that’s a very possible thing that could happen.” She said the cameras will definitely not be watched 24/7 because someone would have to be hired and paid to do that.

“That’s something that Community Standards is probably going to be looking into more, because it’s not like vigilante policing,” she added. “I assume there will be a plan going into it before it actually happens, but that’s a serious thing to consider.”

She said if anyone has ideas or recommendations about how these situations could be handled, they should bring them up to Residence Life.

“We know it’s going to be an issue but what’s going to be helpful is actually bringing a solution forward,” she said.

Rosa said Residence Life has requested funding from the Massachusetts State College Building Association for additional cameras to be installed over the summer.

Carvalho said the survey results aren’t going to be the only reason the University installs more cameras or lighting, but “it’s all going to be taken into consideration.”

Also during the meeting, SGA amended its constitution.

Rosa, explaining why the current eBoard decided to amend SGA’s constitution, said, “After our administrative assistant left, a lot of responsibilities fell back on the eBoard and the bulk of it fell on our lovely secretary, Bridget.”

The amendments primarily consisted of language changes specifying the duties of eBoard members and the allocation of responsibilities that were previously performed by Nikki Curley, the organization’s administrative assistant. Curley left the University in March.

Ethan Feuer, SILD director, said replacing Curley has been challenging because she was very experienced and passionate about her role.

“Luckily, we have an amazing staff here so Kathleen here in our office took on that role – so she kind of became the new Nikki, and we were able to continue to offer that high-level support to SGA,” said Feuer. 

Other amendments to SGA’s constitution included formatting changes in its bylaws’ benevolence awards and the addition of an award that will honor students with disabilities.

Rosa said the formatting changes are “really good and necessary because we’ve had some of our lowest amount of applicants this year for the benevolence awards.” He added he believes the low number of submissions was due to the confusing formatting of the awards in the past.

During the campus life ad-hoc committee chair report, vice president-elect Alex Backer thanked the senate again for the $7,500 allocated to bring Jackson Katz to campus in the fall as a part of its Harassment Ends Here campaign. Katz is an activist for ending sexual harassment who speaks at events across the country.

He said he hopes to have another table to hand out anti-harassment shirts in the gym sometime next week, pending approval from SILD.

Wildlife Club and Equestrian Club also made a funding request during the meeting for a joint trip to Honey Pot Hill Orchards when students return in the fall.

The clubs were allocated $2,475 for the apple-picking trip.

Fashion Club also made a funding request for the fall to purchase T-shirts and transportation to a breast cancer walk in October.

Capello asked if the $400 the club requested for T-shirts would be enough money.

Ali Gallo, current vice president of fashion club, said, “We took into account the amount of people that actually participate – a lot of people don’t want to get up at 7 a.m. Sundays are a weird day – some people just don’t do things on Sundays.”

She added the club wants T-shirts to only go to individuals who are going to participate in the walk. The club also requested funding for pink tie-dye, which they will use to decorate the shirts during one of their first club meetings in the fall. SGA allocated Fashion Club $1,000 for the event.

Her Campus requested $318 for supplies to make fall wreaths during their Craft, Chat and Chill event in September. President-elect of Her Campus Mary Elizabeth Gallagher said these events have been successful in the past, with 50 people attending their most recent Craft, Chat and Chill earlier this month.

SGA allocated Her Campus the full amount.