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Let’s Talk About Safety!

What to know about Landmark’s most recent camera installation

Landmark College installed its first set of CCTV cameras at the beginning of summer 2023, after a push from student leaders from the Centers for Diversity and Inclusion, a community wide survey, and securing grant-funding during the 2022-2023 Academic School year.

Even before the hate speech incident and community response at the beginning of the 2022-2023 Academic School year, Landmark College had been debating whether or not to install CCTV cameras around campus for the past 10 years or so, according to Vice President of Student Affairs, Michael Luciani. Students had been largely opposed to their installation due to privacy concerns up until now, he said, and credited the change of heart to the fact that today’s students are more accustomed to the presence of cameras after having been monitored in their homes or in previous educational settings.

Now that Landmark College is in its first semester of using such cameras, LC Voices set out to investigate how it has affected campus life and the general perceptions of safety.

The new surveillance cameras are from a security company called Verkada. According to their website, Verkada is an international security company with headquarters in California, and offices across the United States including in Florida and Pennsylvania, and in overseas locations like Poland and South Korea.

Luciani explained that they chose Verkada because they could “fold in a couple of other functions, like our door access system,” in reference to the card swipe system that Landmark College currently uses for students, faculty, and staff to gain access to different buildings and rooms across campus. This ability to condense features into one system helped the school not only with cost-savings but also from an efficiency standpoint.

According to Vice President Luciani cameras have been installed in all residence hall entryways, the Stone Hall Coffeehouse, the three entry/exit points from the campus, and the length of Perseverance Lane that spans Frost Hall to Davis Hall. The quiet spaces between buildings are also generally in view of the cameras. Besides Campus Safety, the administrators on campus who have access to the cameras are Vice President Luciani, the office of President Peter Eden, Dean of Campus Life and Director of Residential Life Scott Ansevin-Allen, and Dean of Students and Director of Student Engagement Craig Marcus. Facilities also has access to a specific camera located behind Stone Hall, since that residence hall has been prone to flooding, explained Vice President Luciani.

When asked if students should be concerned that parents or staff and faculty might try to misuse them and try to keep tabs on individual students, Assistant Director of Campus Safety and Emergency Management Richard Scheffler remarked that since parents, faculty, and staff do not have access there shouldn’t been any concern about students being tracked by people in positions of power. Resident Dean Yasmin Aragona pointed out that even when they require access to the cameras for investigation purposes, they only have access to cameras in their residence hall and for the period that they are investigating. Luciani further emphasized that “the College will not be using cameras to check up on students without a legitimate reason.”

“Videos are used for investigative purposes to see what we can see to help determine cause and who’s involved or actually a witness…,” says Scheffler. Similar to eye-witness statements, when incidents happen on campus, the cameras are being used as another tool. However, the cameras are not a perfect tool.  There are ways that the cameras can be affected by outside factors like the weather or lighting at certain times of day. Assistant Director Scheffler remarks, “Weather has an effect on it, if it’s raining.” He also mentions that “the outside cameras at night, they don’t necessarily pick up everything.” He also states that the cameras may go out if they are experiencing a computer glitch. Otherwise, it seems that the cameras are working the way they were intended to.

So far, the only complaints seem to be coming from some members of the student body. When asked about who is making complaints, Student Government Association President Harrison Hebert said, “the divide seems to be along gender lines. Male students seem to worry that they are being spied on, where female students seem to see them as guardians and something that makes them feel a lot safer.”

This view is supported a University of Sunderland by a 2022 research paper on university students’ perceptions of safety, authored by Associate Professor of Criminology Dr. Nicola Roberts. The United Kingdom-based study found that, “Students, particularly women students, felt unsafe on the university campuses because of poor lighting, limited CCTV, security patrols on the presences of others.” Dr. Roberts found that female students utilized various strategies to keep themselves safe when moving around campus and that most male students did not utilize those same safety strategies. Her findings found that academic institutions can help their female students feel safer on campus by incorporating strategies, procedures and more mechanical means designed with the intention of “preventing victimization” in their student bodies and “being sufficiently equipped to support students who have been victimized.”

In the last year, Campus Safety has incorporated the feedback of the student body to address student perceptions of safety. One way they have done this is by co-hosting “Women Power Safety Hour”, with the Center for Women and Gender. After this open-to-the public forum with the Director of Campus Safety, Michael Giannetto, Campus Safety took the recommendations of students and installed more lights in the parking lot behind Alumni Hall in the Spring of 2023.

On October 4, 2023, Director Giannetto presented at the Center for Women and Gender for a second time with Assistant Director Scheffler. Their talk covered not only the cameras and how they’re being used, but they also answered student questions about how the Campus Safety officers are trained in responding to crises and other inquiries. Landmark’s Campus Safety officers are trained to respond in a trauma-informed manner, according to Director Giannetto.       

Overall, the installation of the security cameras seems to have been a remarkably quiet but positive increase in the overall safety on Landmark’s campus. They are used as a deterrent and for investigative purposes during incidents. As Assistant Director Scheffler emphasized, “The main purpose of these cameras are security; to make sure everybody is safe.”

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