Cameras in classrooms

Students aren’t sold on adding security cameras to their classes

In 2011, UTM committed to increasing security in the Instructional Building. IB is the most high-tech area open to students on campus, with a total building cost of over $70 million, partially funded by a grant from Ontario’s Knowledge Infrastructure Program.

In a 2011 Medium article (“Upped security in the Instructional Centre”), Darren Savage interviewed Special Constable Len Paris, the manager of Campus Police, on IB’s increase in security. Paris said, “Because of the amount of new equipment, I wanted to make sure that the officers made extra checks to ensure that the building is secure, that people are safe, and that persons have left the building after it closes.”

These measures included the installation of 18 security cameras in the IB study areas and hallways.

Today, universities worldwide are planning to further increase security by installing security cameras within classrooms.

Many American universities already use security cameras in private areas, including classrooms, dorms, and even washrooms. However, American law states that the university must clearly inform students that they may be recorded through substantial signage. Most Canadian universities currently only use security cameras in open spaces with high traffic, and there’s no signage requirement. However, professors and other faculty must consent to any sort of lecture being recorded prior to beginning their course.

The installation of classroom cameras impacts all students, staff, and faculty who may be caught on them. Students caught cheating on camera can face severe academic consequences. Thieves and disruptive students can be singled out and punished faster and more easily. Faculty members may feel the pressure to behave even more professionally.

However, classroom cameras can also impede teaching and create a cold, uncomfortable environment for students. “It’ll just cause paranoia, like [the university] doesn’t trust us to behave,” says Samantha Roman, a third-year English student.

Some instructors feel that classroom cameras might make teaching even more stressful than usual.

“Cameras are already at crucial entry and exit points of buildings,” says Roman. “If there was a threat we’d get the culprit on camera.”

As it stands, UTM has no current plan for installing cameras in classrooms and there has been no official statement on the trend of placing them. Many classrooms are locked when not in use by faculty; it’s rare for students to be able to access them outside of class. There are very few documented incidents of classroom violence or disruption, all of which have been mild offences.

If more cameras are necessary, there may be areas of higher priority than classrooms. In a recent letter to the editor published in the Medium, a student advocated for more security cameras placed in parking lots after her car was hit and scratched. She said she was told by Campus Police that the incident was not recorded because the lot in question had no security camera.

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