For those who haven’t seen yet, there are newly placed cameras in and outside of our faculty. The inside cameras were always there, but have been renewed. The outside cameras are new and are used to make sure everyone is keeping their distance. This is a decision of the integral security department of the university. A total of eight cameras have been placed looking over the places of the campus where crowd forming is most likely, for example, at the Bouwpub. The cameras are connected to a central security post, and in case someone violates the distance rules, a guard is sent to make sure that the distance is indeed maintained.
Our faculty was all but amused seeing these cameras, as faculty secretary, Amber Leeuwenburgh explained to me. The faculty decided this summer that corona is something that we solve collectively, and surveillance cameras would not add to the solution. Without any prior communication from the higher-ups it came as quite a surprise that the faculty is being monitored. Not to mention this location seems a bit redundant, since guards are standing next to the entrance. Long story short, for now, our faculty has decided to leave it be since the cameras aren’t worth the fight.
The university’s FAQ explains that the cameras are placed to protect the health of the students, staff, and visitors. Plus, the cameras are probably temporary. In two months, the cameras will be evaluated to see if the campus is a safe environment and if they can be removed.
Behind the good intentions that are probably at the base of this decision, there is a complicated discussion about cameras as many of you may realise. We could talk about the implications for human behaviour. Still, before we start doing that, an even more important question should be asked: Are they effective in what they are supposed to do here, decrease the spreading of corona? Studies show that cameras can be useful in some scenarios, but when it comes to crime, for example, it seems that’s not the case. Cameras in Chicago only made up for 0,05% for the solved crimes from 2006 to 2013 as the Chicago Tribune reported in 2013. That percentage seems to connect to the results of the cameras inside of the faculty. A stolen laptop hardly ever returns to the rightful owner, as Amber explains.
As for the cameras that are placed in the streets to prevent corona... Given the weight of this topic, the argument that the cameras are at least not worsening the spread of the virus seems insufficient. We all realise that the solution does not come easily, but the current situation is like this: the campus is marked as a safe zone, but students are infected anyways because outside the campus they still meet in big groups. It reminds me of these parents that forbid their child to drink alcohol, with the result being that their child drinks at someone else’s place.
That fact that students would still meet outside the campus is something that could have been expected. That was the most significant risk from the start. The position of the university is pretty clear here, the only thing that could have been done is stressing that what was at stake: the availability of the campus. Given that the Erasmus University in Rotterdam did not open at all, the attempt of the TU Delft to remain open can be praised. But in the end, the span of this privilege was always going to depend on the attitude of the students.
To end this article, one last thought. The other day, a student was asked to get rid of his cigarette by a guard. When he asked how he knew that he was smoking, the guard pointed at the camera pole. It is already becoming clear that these cameras are useful in many situations...