UCLA Policy 133, Security Camera Systems, is a policy that aims to increase the number of security cameras on campus. The administration quietly and quickly put together this policy after a few vandalizations this past year. However, after a thorough read of the wording, it is clear the policy is too vague and could be taken advantage of if implemented as is.
In one segment, it states, “The monitoring of individuals or groups of individuals through SCS via live feed or recorded Images shall be based on current or prior explicitly exhibited behaviors that potentially violate law or University policy and such monitoring must be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable University and local campus policies, and state and federal laws.”
But there’s no clear indication of who decides what acts potentially violate policies. If an administrative system operator makes those decisions, it’s unclear whether students would have a voice in who gets hired for that position and how they are held accountable if Bruins feel they are targeted by the increased monitoring.
Another area of concern comes from how UCLA frames camera use. The policy states, “The use of non-functional SCS (decoy, fake or “dummy” Camera) deliberately designed and positioned to mislead an individual into believing an area is being monitored may generate a false sense of security.”
This statement implies cameras can create a state of fear and anxiety instead of the having the focus on protecting students. This creates a tense environment where people can feel uncomfortable. As a student of color, I know many of us come from neighborhoods where we are constantly watched by cameras. It’s troubling that those same cameras will follow us to the institution where we are meant to learn and grow. We are already in stressful situations, having to balance school, work and other responsibilities, and adding the anxiety of being watched by these cameras would only further strain students of color communities.
Installing cameras could also drive students away from campus resources. If cameras are placed directly outside of the Counseling and Psychological Services building, for example, students may think twice about entering because of the breach of privacy. This breach can go even further, as the policies state, “The individual(s) depicted in the recorded Images provide(s) explicit consent to its distribution.”
But what is considered explicit consent? Many areas that have cameras have signs saying “Recording in Progress;” will that be enough for explicit consent? Will the university track everyone on video and send personal emails asking for consent? There are too many questions that the policy does not specifically address.
Moreover, the policy does not explicitly state where the funding for new cameras and the new operator position will come from. UCLA is a public institution, and students are aware of the many times our money ends up paying for services we do not explicitly agree to. Policy 133 must guarantee the financial burden does not fall on students who have enough bills to pay.
Ricardo Vazquez, a UCLA spokesperson, himself told the Daily Bruin that it is unclear how costs would expand. It is highly inappropriate to implement a policy costing the university, and in turn students, hundreds of thousands of dollars without properly identifying funding sources.
The policy aims to make the campus more secure, but cameras do not necessarily deter crime. In many cases, as shown by past studies, unlawful behavior just relocates to areas without security cameras.
If UCLA wants students to feel safer through cameras, Policy 133 must be amended to ensure the surveillance system will be accountable to students, and administrators must make sure there is not an overwhelming breach of privacy. The university should solicit more student responses via a survey or by extending the period of public review.
Given that student leaders have had to point out the vagueness and uncertainties of this policy to the university in a recent town hall, it’s clear administrators have kept many students in the dark about this development, despite concerns regarding the policy.
These shouldn’t be neglected. And they require prompt action.
Martinez is a third-year applied mathematics student and a co-chair of Hermanos Unidos.