Last week, Campus Council discussed the possibility of putting cameras at the entrances to every dorm, but wisely decided to delay its decision to allow for further discussion of the proposal among the University community. When Campus Council next considers the issue of cameras, it should reject them since cameras would be ineffectual in creating a safer campus atmosphere. Rather, there are several other concrete steps that the University with Campus Council's support should undertake immediately that would lead to vastly improved safety.
Video cameras will not deter crime, especially since they are extremely easy to defeat. If a crime is perpetrated by someone who lives in the dorm, then cameras will not help solve crimes. Or, if the criminal decides to look away from the camera, or wears a hooded sweatshirt, or enters in the dark, or hides his or her face, or wears sunglasses, the camera will not help solve crimes. But solving crimes is less important than deterring crime, and if the perpetrator does not know about the cameras' existence, cameras will not help to deter crime.
What cameras will do, however, is infringe upon students' privacy and institute a University-wide monitoring system by which the administration can spy on students. Although the University has pledged not to monitor the cameras because of privacy concerns, students need to be aware that they are trading away their privacy if cameras are installed.
Regardless, having cameras is unnecessary if the University installs DukeCard access to bathrooms, which actually will help prevent crime. By limiting and monitoring who accesses bathrooms, the University can prevent assaulters from hiding out in bathroom stalls and can have an effective crime-solving tool if such a crime does occur. Whether a potential sexual offender is a Duke student or an outsider, limiting bathroom access with DukeCards would effectively prevent either from committing crimes.
Moreover, DukeCard access for bathrooms does not compromise student privacy as much as cameras would because it is within an existing framework of card-access and it does not provide visual pictures of everybody in the dorm. DukeCards are also far more convenient and safer than changing the bathroom locks. The major impediment to DukeCard access for bathrooms is cost, but the University should install them as soon as possible, even though in the future it will surely want to upgrade all of its access system to biometrics or another new technology.
Another simple safety measure would be to improve campus lighting, which Duke sorely lacks. This would be lighting not only around dorms, but also on walkways and around campus in general. Other easy safety measures include self-defense courses, which are already available at the Women's Center for those who are interested. Safewalks, while a noble idea, seem like they are too inefficient to be worth instituting.