Hate Speech Incident on Campus Puts Discussion of Surveillance Cameras in Spotlight

Guinevere Downey

Marc Thurman, Landmark College’s Director for the Centers of Diversity and Inclusion, has been spending the first few weeks of term saying the same phrase over and over: “Where do we go from here?”

It’s an important question. The term started off on an unpleasant note – the day before classes began, an as-of-yet unidentified person wrote a racial slur in a public area of one of the dorms.

This is the second term in a row there has been an incident of hate speech during the first week of students being on campus. The previous student was immediately identified and departed the College. It’s not a new issue, though – while not widespread, there have been nigh-yearly occurrences of racial or ethnic hate speech since at least 2019.

Previous incidents have been met with public email statements, individual meetings and conversations, and open forum discussions with College leadership.

On the heels of this most recent incident, the Centers for Diversity and Inclusion hosted meetings to discuss the incident, which were attended by more than 30 students.

A major result of these meetings was an agreement to ask the administration to move forward with a long-standing consideration – the installation of security cameras in select places on campus. The proposal has been discussed for a number of years but had not had much public discussion until now. It is unclear how long, precisely, this proposal had been in the works for.

A few days later, Thurman met with Peter Eden, President of Landmark College, and Michael Luciani, the Vice President for Student Affairs, to share student sentiments about security cameras and discuss next steps.

The next week, Eden and Luciani hosted an open discussion over lunch, which was attended by more than 30 members of the community. One student, Madison Perkins said “I don’t feel safe. Where are the cameras?” Perkins is a student from Canada who has previously spent 4 years working in the security field. In Canada, she says, most colleges and universities have security cameras.

Eden said that cameras have been a topic of discussion for some time, then stated that the College has discussed this possibility for many years as part of overall safety elements, and would be “looking into what other colleges have in place to preserve privacy while increasing safety on campus.” In terms of prior research on this topic, Michael Luciani stated:

“Last April, the College applied for a grant that included funding for security cameras outside of the entrances to the residence halls,” Luciani said in a statement. “The anticipated date for funding decisions from this grant is October 1, 2022.”

Both Eden and Luciani were in favor of the installation of security cameras, but mentioned that there was a debate among community members about the locations of installed cameras – whether the cameras should be installed in hallways was a sticking point among previous discussions.

Some other ideas that cropped up during the discussion were the idea of a mandatory class or seminar for students who may not have been exposed to much racial diversity prior to Landmark. Another idea was a stricter acceptance screening. These ideas were not met with much enthusiasm. A few students felt that this conversation was beyond due.

“This conversation should have happened without putting the burden on black people,” said Leo Premru, Coordinator of the Stonewall Center for LGBTQ+ students.

Others, including Thurman, felt it was worth noting that less than a decade ago, the school was much different – there was no Centers for Diversity and Inclusion, and an incident like this would not have sparked the community response it did.

Eden will be hosting monthly sessions to discuss issues on campus more directly for the rest of term before reassessing. The next meeting will be in October