Following Leiden University’s decision to install scanners on top of classroom and lecture hall entries, numerous students grew worried that their privacy might be at stake.
The University has tried to clear out many of the doubts revolving around the scanners in an email to all students sent a few weeks ago. It explained that the cameras in 2020 were installed as an additional measure to ensure the implementation of COVID-19 measurements, specifically, to make sure the maximum number of students in close spaces was respected.
Many students though, still irritated by the situation, decided to organise a peaceful demonstration at the Lipsius campus on 7th December from 13:00 to 14:00. It was strongly requested that the University would take down the cameras, apologise for their initial installment, and promise to involve students and staff in future endeavors of the sort. Compelling signs waved back at the cameras of the Lipsius entrance, demanding to “take them down”, suggesting that “we’re all cam girls now”, and reminding the University that “we’re watching you too”.
Many students were unable to attend the protest though. For them, the International Studies Representatives hosted an informal session where concerns regarding the matter could be addressed. Sophia, a Student Representative, accepted to be interviewed by BAISmag to provide students with an insight into the rationale behind the protest and what it meant in the bigger picture.
Sophia explained that amidst the myriad of reasons why students decided to protest, many of the people present were angry that they had not been consulted by the University before it decided to install the scanners. The student elaborated that it looked as if the University pursued a line of “easier to ask for forgiveness rather than for permission”, by not consulting the students beforehand on a matter which impacted them directly.
The student further argued that it is important for student bodies to keep communication channels open with the University in order to prevent issues that could jeopardise the trust between Leiden University and its students. When asked if Leiden University has managed to keep good relations with students, the student replied that so far “in a lot of ways, yes”, by organising talks and by asking for student feedback on a regular basis.
However, these recent developments suggest that the communication between Leiden University and its students has led to a final conclusion though. In fact, in a notice published on 9th December, the University has announced that in light of the privacy concerns presented by students and staff members the scanners “will be switched off until further notice.” The president of the University Executive Board also added that the University wishes “to hold further discussions as soon as possible with those students and staff who have concerns.”
Despite this, students persist. Intending to show Leiden University that the opposition to the cameras is not a one-time event, the next protest is scheduled to take place Tuesday, December 14th, at 15:30, at Wijnhaven.
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Images from Unsplash
- Sophia Healy, interview by Lelani Antar, 3rd December 2021.