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Letter to the Editor: Response to ‘Security breach in DSC brings campus shortcomings to light’

Submitted by adm_wordpress on April 7, 2011 – 2:30 pm3 Comments

Rachel,

I found your recent editorial on the “Security breach in [the] DSC” to be a bit shortsighted and unnecessarily disparaging to the patrons of public transportation.  While I agree that parking is a nightmare on campus and that students pay more than their fair share of tuition and fees, the idea that those funds should provide the fees so that all students can enjoy what you refer to as a “safe parking spot” is not practical given that the spots available for an additional fee are limited in number and could not possibly accommodate the entire commuting student body.  Perhaps a better idea would be to ensure that our existing parking areas are made safe.

Also, your comment about “the shady characters one might find on the [sic] public transit” was pretty appalling.  As a student of very limited means who receives no support from family, my jaw dropped when I read your words.  The idea that the bus stop should be anywhere but the center of campus is ludicrous.  Should people of limited means be further inconvenienced because you find certain patrons unsavory?  Furthermore, in this age of excessive wastefulness and accelerating climate change, those who use public transit should be applauded, not made to feel like second class citizens or like they are a blight on the heart of campus. To take it one step further, I feel that UALR should incentivize students to use public transit. It is socially responsible, it would set a good example to students and the community, and it would help improve the very parking situation which you bemoan.

I also disagree with your suggestion that we should have more security cameras. I don’t like to be under surveillance whenever it is not absolutely necessary. It isn’t that I intend to do harm, rather I am against it in principle.  We are an institution of higher education. The presence of cameras would suggest that they are necessary to maintain order.  I would like to believe that educated people are compelled to do the right thing regardless of whether or not anyone else is watching (and whether or not that is overly idealistic, it is still the right image for UALR to portray).  Benjamin Franklin once remarked that “those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.”  I agree with him wholeheartedly and do not feel that my security is contingent upon the sacrifice of privacy; it does not have to be one or the other. While your experience was certainly unfortunate, the solutions you propose are equally so.

Regards,
Bruce Stracener

*     *     *

Editor’s note:

Thank you for your response, Bruce. I see your points, and I apologize if my language was not sensitive enough to everyone in the community. However, I assure you that my decision to publish the editorial was a judicious one and I (as well as several staff members, friends and family) felt it necessary to express my concerns with the situation.

I do not condemn public transportation, nor would I want to see the bus stops removed. I think it is commendable for people use it, and I explained that I understand it is a necessity to our campus.  However, in my three years at UALR, I have seen more people at the bus stops who do not appear to be students or faculty than otherwise. In fact, this instance was not the first time a homeless individual has wandered into my office. It happened to me about a month ago in the middle of the day (so I was naturally less concerned since the campus was open and active). That person may have walked onto campus as opposed to riding the bus, but I saw the man who came into my office recently get off the bus earlier in the evening. What troubles me is that DPS does not appear to be monitoring these locations well after dark, when it is most crucial for them to do so.

Regarding the security cameras, I am not suggesting that they are placed in every corner on campus, but at least near entries and exits. Had this man not been docile and simply came in and harmed or killed me, no one would have known until possibly the next day. He would have been long gone by then, and there would be no way to identify him quickly unless there happened to be a witness (which in my case, there wasn’t).  I find something wrong with that, and do not see that lack of security in most public places.

I am not concerned with monitoring the “educated people” of our community, or even the uneducated for that matter, every second of the day. I trust my peers to use good judgment and do not feel threatened by them. Rather, I would hope our school would take further precautions to be aware of and deter people who should not be on campus, especially after it is closed to the public. I rarely (if ever) see security vehicles or personnel when I am walking to my car at night, so I can only assume they are parked elsewhere or at the station. If that’s the case and they are simply waiting on something bad to happen rather than trying to physically prevent it, then I hope my editorial will express the need for some improvement of preventive security. Whether that prevention is active (by having more officers present on campus at night) or passive (by monitoring high-traffic areas via cameras) is not up to me, but either would be an improvement to the current state of things, in my opinion.

I do not feel that taking steps to be safer will hurt UALR’s public image. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t want themselves or their loved ones to attend a safe campus. I think its reputation would be tarnished much more if something tragic happened in the absence of standard security than if the campus were to implement those precautions. If UALR wants a reputation for being safe, accommodating, competitive, modern, etc., then it should at least ensure the safety of its community.

I apologize if I came across as shortsighted or if I offended public transportation patrons. I certainly do not wish to make anything more complicated for them or you. I hope that this response will suffice for my oversight.

Respectfully,
Rachel Hood

3 Comments »

  • Matt Johnson says:

    While I applaud your vision of a world where everyone does the right thing, regardless of whether they are being surveilled or not, it’s not the reality we currently live in. There is no reason someone should be able to do what this man did, whether he meant harm or not is beside the point. You mention “educated” people can be trusted to do the right thing? I find that a bit shortsighted and disparaging to those who aren’t fortunate enough to receive an education. Are the uneducated not to be trusted? And if they’re not to be trusted, should they be allowed to ride public transportation right to middle of our campus? Why is it “ludicrous” that the bus stop should be anywhere but the center of campus? I’m not going to address encouraging students to use public transportation due to climate change, because that is a separate issue entirely.

    As for your stance on cameras; if you’re not doing anything wrong, why would you be against adding a measure of safety to the campus? A safer campus is something that could only help to bolster UALR’s image in the community. Of all the things that a prospective student would want in a school, an unsafe campus is probably not one of them.

    Benjamin Franklin’s quote is often used when the issues of privacy and liberty are discussed. It’s a quote that advocates the absence of absolutes, by making an absolute statement. Life is not a black and white issue and any attempt to view it as such will no doubt prove a disappointment. If the campus installed more cameras, what “real” privacy would you be losing? If you’re doing nothing wrong, the presence of cameras should be a non-issue. Of course, they can be railed against on principle but we don’t live life in absolutes or principles. We inhabit a fluid world that has changed from the beginning of this letter to the point I am now. As students, we deserve to not only feel safe on campus but be safe. If that can be accomplished by a few cameras and moving a bus stop, I don’t really see a problem with it.

    Matt Johnson
    Copy Editor/UALR Forum

  • Bruce Stracener says:

    Rachel,

    I understand your point. I would rather see more active patrolling than an increase in security cameras though. There are numerous ways to achieve a safer campus without putting up cameras in an amount significant enough that prospective students might take them as an indication of a crime problem rather than an indication of safety–especially traditional students who are young enough to still resent those sorts of measures.

    I still think incentivizing students to NOT park at school and to use public transit would kill two birds with one stone–a true win/win (a win/win/win if you factor in the environment, 4 wins if you include the tiny tiny reduction in traffic). Parking would be better and the people using public transit would be comprised of a greater amount of students. This would help us to overcome the poor image of public transit in Little Rock, one that was demonstrated all too clearly by your comments (which, admittedly, aren’t without at least some basis in reality–even if a bit carelessly expressed).

    I mean, I’m not really that concerned with the cameras as long as they are discrete and few in number, but the publication of those remarks about public transit made me cringe–they exacerbate the very thing you lament.

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply,
    Bruce

    ———

    Matt,

    “If you’re not doing anything wrong, why would you be against adding a measure of safety to the campus?” Using that rationale, you could justify anything. Here is a response to that rather common argument courtesy of Bruce Schneier: “If I’m not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me.” and “Because you might do something wrong with my information.”

    The rest of what you have written twists my words heavily. Just because I implied that educated people are more likely to use good judgement does not mean that I believe that those lacking an education are incapable; it just means that I believe the number of people prone to good judgement are likely (hopefully!) comprised more heavily of those who are educated. Your entire argument is fallacious, you implied that I believe that the uneducated should not be trusted and then used that falsehood to support your notion that they should not be allowed transit to the center of campus. This also ignores the key point that not all who ride the bus are vagrants, that was the stereotype that YOUR publication applied to the patrons of mass transit, not me. It is far more likely that there are more than a handful of students who ride the bus which further undermines your ridiculous statements.

    Lastly, the idea that a bus stop should be located where it is of the greatest convenience to the greatest number of people should be self-evident, even to the uneducated, why this is lost on you?

  • Rachel Hood says:

    “This also ignores the key point that not all who ride the bus are vagrants, that was the stereotype that YOUR publication applied to the patrons of mass transit …” Bruce, I did not stereotype ALL mass transit patrons. My exact quote was “While it is helpful to some commuters (we are a commuter campus after all), it also shuttles Little Rock’s homeless into the heart of our campus, as well as other shady characters one might find on the public transit.”

    If read carefully, one would see that I do not say or imply that everyone who rides the bus is questionable. As someone who rides the bus, you cannot deny that a variety of people use the bus system, INCLUDING vagrants and some shady people. In this instance, one of those vagrants wandered around a closed building for nearly an hour, and probably could have stayed there all night had I not called someone to retrieve him.

    At any rate, I feel that the point of my editorial is being missed. It was not supposed to be about the bus system or its patrons ultimately, but of the lack of preventive security on campus at night. However you may feel, it does not serve to any end to twist my words into a negative generalization that veers from the intent of the actual statement.