SGA closes investigation into alleged hidden cameras

Employees still have questions

Jeff Burnett, Staff Writer

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The SGA found no evidence of students being improperly surveilled by UIS after a union member on campus alleged that the university used hidden cameras to monitor faculty and staff.

The Student Government Association’s Campus Safety Committee and its four-member task force concluded its investigation after passing resolution 009 at last Sunday night’s meeting.

“The point of the task force was to find out or figure out whether students were being improperly surveilled, not to figure out whether faculty and staff are,” Austin Mehmet, SGA president, said. “Students should not be … concerned; there should be no concern for safety.”

Ryan Croke, associate vice chancellor for public affairs and chief of staff to Chancellor Koch, issued a statement to the SGA regarding the investigation of the task force.

“Security cameras in visible, public locations are strategically located throughout campus to deter crime and support campus safety efforts,” the statement said. “UIS does not, nor does it intend to, install hidden video cameras to monitor staff, students or faculty on this campus.”

The statement said the use of hidden cameras “would violate the UIS Campus policy,” unless it was a part of a criminal investigation by law enforcement officials.

Mehmet said the installation or use of cameras by law enforcement officials for the course of a criminal investigation “really does pose no risk to students or their safety.”

“We want to know more about any policies that govern placement of hidden cameras on campus by law enforcement, and whether or not the university may use information from those cameras to discipline employees,” Lynn Fisher, chapter president of UIS United Faculty said. “We will continue to seek further information to satisfy the concerns of employees.”

According to Fisher, employees on campus “do have more questions” about the university’s camera policy.

Last month, The Journal obtained a UIS United Faculty internal memo indicating it had reason to believe the university had installed or have used “hidden surveillance cameras” within the past year to monitor faculty and staff without notifying its bargaining unit.

Fisher said in an earlier interview that “a member” who was not affiliated with the UIS United Faculty notified the University Professionals of Illinois (UPI) Local 4100 about the suspected cameras and they relayed that complaint to the UIS United Faculty.

The SGA received notification about the alleged claim and adopted a resolution to bring a formal investigation on the use of university hidden cameras on campus.

SGA assigned the inquiry to its Campus Safety Committee.

The committee created a task force and submitted requests to the university for records and video recordings regarding its cameras and its policies.

“It’s important for campus student and staff leaders to communicate openly to resolve challenges of mutual interest and importance,” Croke said. “We’ll continue to help improve UIS by working together through issues like this one.”

The university’s camera policy states it uses closed circuit television (CCTV) and web cameras to monitor public areas to assist law enforcement with “protecting the campus community.”

The policy mentions its public cameras are “limited” to uses that do not violate privacy laws.

Surveillance of political or religious activities and staff and student evaluations are prohibited.

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