2,000 ways students are being tracked

Ask a freshman what he or she enjoys most about college. Odds are they say something about independence, laundry mishaps or the newfound freedom.

It’s that precise freedom which the University of Kentucky aims to squash out with the installation of 2,000 security cameras. In what appears to be yet another knee-jerk reaction to the tragedies of Virginia Tech and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kentucky’s five million dollar security overhaul runs in the face of what college students hold dear: freedom.

There’s nothing wrong with revamping security on campuses — nobody wants to see another mass shooting. Improvements in mass notification systems have done much to satisfy the concerns of students.

When a gunman opens fire on a campus, however, it won’t matter how many cameras there are. Security cameras, much like the cheap bike lock, are meant to deter. A committed thief knows how to take the bike while leaving the wheel firmly attached to the rack. In the same way, someone possessed to spray bullets at his classmates won’t stop at the sight of a security camera. He’s already committed.

Kentucky’s security overhaul includes more than just security cameras, however. In addition to 26 blue light towers, the school plans to add proximity chips to student identification cards to track students entering buildings after hours.

This has massive implications — and for more than just those late-night gamers in James Blair Hall. The whole idea of independence and freedom for college students comes from the ability to be wherever, whenever and doing whatever with no oversight.

Tuition covers the cost of room and board and instruction. That’s it. Nothing else. After that, colleges have no business tracking the steps of their students. If colleges really don’t want students in buildings after hours, they should lock the doors.

“Security overhaul” has ballooned into an all-inclusive term allowing those in power to restrict personal liberties for the sake of safety and protection. Colleges and universities feel it’s a sacred duty to impose as many safety measures as possible.

Once symbols of freedom, colleges want to transform identification cards into something not unlike a GPS. High school carried a curfew — will universities adopt similar measures to protect students from the dangers of the night?

Big Brother has been a puppet caged in the confines of Washington, D.C. for years. The instant the individual is threatened, the finger is unwaveringly pointed at Big Brother.

Somehow the country believed that Big Brother’s chain was strong. Only when its keepers, the suits on Capitol Hill, let the leash slip would Big Brother cross the Potomac to threaten individual liberties.

Somehow the country didn’t see the possibility of Big Brother in any other location. Kentucky did, and its five million dollar security overhaul is the treat to tease Big Brother away from its confines.

Big Brother isn’t at the College of William and Mary, yet. The campus remains open to the public, open to students after hours, and upholds that traditional idea of freedom. For now.

Given the means and the will, what would stop the College’s administration from a security overhaul of its own? Big Brother benefits whoever holds the leash.

Imagine cameras at every turn on the terrace. Imagine cameras in every classroom, lining the walls at the Commons Dining Hall, sneaking through leaves along the trails, all in the name of safety. Students need protection, and here’s the solution. Come on in and take a seat Big Brother; welcome to the College.

Remember the way you felt when you entered college. Remember the joy of freedom, the ability to escape when you wanted. Cherish that, because that freedom is the true lesson of college, more important than any grade.

Don’t let reactionary precautions diminish your college experience. Kentucky welcomed Big Brother with open arms; don’t do the same, William and Mary.

Email Chris Weber at cmweber@email.wm.edu.


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