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Campus Council rejects cameras

After a prolonged discussion of a controversial resolution recommending installation of security cameras at dorm entrances, Campus Council voted down the recommendation by a 8-5 vote Thursday night, citing doubt of the cameras' effectiveness.

"Most people want to do something about sexual assault but think cameras were not the way," said Few Quadrangle representative Jacob Flomenberg, a sophomore.

The idea that most sexual assault is perpetrated by members of the Duke community played a primary role in the discussions.

"We can't keep blaming sexual assault on people coming on campus to attack us," West-Edens Link representative Pasha Majdi said.

Many representatives agreed, claiming that since dorms are largely connected, cameras would do little to help identify perpetrators of sexual assault.

While many West Campus representatives felt their quads were evenly divided or opposed to security cameras, East Campus representatives had differing views.

"East Campus is overwhelmingly in favor of cameras," said Alexandra Oliveira, East Campus Council representative.

However, ECC's other representative, Chris Kallmeyer, took a more reserved view. "Whenever we talked to someone, people's first reaction is that they don't like cameras, but after we talk to them, they support it," he said.

Ray Rodriguez, coordinator for health promotion and student health at the Healthy Devil, presented both sides of the issue but ultimately pointed to the need for a change in campus attitude toward sexual assault.

Although he agreed that installing cameras would send a positive message, he also made clear that "the sexual assaults that could be stopped by the cameras [would be] a minority."

Rodriguez said sexual assault happens every weekend at Duke but cited Monday's all-male discussion about sexual assault in Wannamaker Quadrangle as an example of changing campus attitudes toward the issue.

"Most of the discussion tonight seems to imply some educational stuff that needs to happen," Rodriguez said.

After moving to consider the campus safety resolution and the security camera issue separately, Campus Council passed the less controversial portion by a vote of 13-2.

This part of the resolution included recommendations for DukeCard bathroom access, increased activity by the SafeWalks program, better lighting across campus and increased availability and promotion of self-defense classes.

After the meeting, council members defended the decision to vote against security cameras.

"I just don't know if there's enough proof that they would be effective," said council member Brandon Jamison, a junior.

The council also unanimously passed a resolution concerning sexual assault and harassment. The resolution primarily addresses acquaintance rape and recommends new, small-scale resident adviser-led awareness programs for freshmen; the compilation of Duke-specific statistics about sexual assault; and a review of judicial procedures in sexual assault cases.

"We definitely want to do something [about sexual assault]," said Gerald Oliver, council secretary. "We're still in the process of figuring out what that something is."

Student response to the council's decision has been mixed, although students primarily responded to threats to their privacy by increased surveillance.

"It's probably the better decision," said sophomore Abigail Weliver. "Although [cameras] might have given us some sense of comfort at this time, it's really just an invasion of privacy."

"I'm not a fan of Big Brother," agreed sophomore Michaela Kerrissey.

Some students, however, said the potential benefits of cameras outweighed the risks.

"Security cameras would have been okay," said sophomore David Hsu.

"It's not that much of an invasion of privacy if they're just on the quad," he added.

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