Residential Life dispels rumors of hyper-surveillance at City Vista

One-off warning does not imply future incidents, ResLife says

Students living at City Vista may be concerned by rumors circulating regarding the use of camera surveillance to catch students committing policy violations. Though one incident did occur this summer, Residential Life representatives say that this will not be the norm for disciplinary measures or for use of the camera footage.

The students involved declined to comment on the record, but they did provide the statement that ResLife sent them in August. Stephanie Ackerman, assistant director for housing operations, verified the notice as legitimate:

“City Vista camera footage shows one of your visiting guests smoking by the pool today. As you are aware, as of Aug. 1, 2017, Trinity University is a tobacco-free campus. … As a City Vista resident, you are responsible for your guests at all times. Students found in violation of any policies will be subject to fines, conduct proceedings, and possible removal from the facility. Please know that should your guests continue to break policy, your status as a resident could be jeopardized. Please consider this email a warning.”

ResLife says that they will not continue to monitor surveillance footage in an attempt to discover policy violations.

“There was only one incident. … I don’t know how that’s turned into a widespread concern,” said Melissa Flowers, director of Residential Life. “That was due to the fact that we weren’t on the property at the time of the alleged violation. We had a property management company called Greystar, who oversaw the facilities prior to the acquisition and assisted us with the transition process. … Their policy is to not intervene in moments like that, but just follow up in writing. They saw a student smoking, and with a small dog by the pool, and we responded in writing because we weren’t there. It’s not the norm.”

The surveillance company, Greystar, no longer works at City Vista. Their last day working for Trinity was Sept. 1, and the Residential Life staff assures students that this type of action is not the usual process.

“The whole property is under surveillance for security and safety reasons,” Ackerman said. “I think what students are thinking is that we come in every day and review footage from the whole day before, and that is just absolutely not the case. This case was one where he was here and in the camera room in our office, and he just happened to see it.”

Students living on campus have, in the past, also received violations if their actions were caught on a surveillance camera; with the new tobacco regulations in place, City Vista residents will be held to the same standards.

“We would review footage in the event that something was damaged or missing — just something that would call our attention to need to go back and review the footage, but we won’t go back and review the footage for smoking. … The policies on campus are identical,” Flowers said.

Still, the information came as a surprise to students who were previously unaware of City Vista cameras.

“If it was a private space, I think it doesn’t hurt to have a notice saying ‘You are being recorded,’ just to inform students,” said Dalton Flood, a junior philosophy major who lives in City Vista. “I would be upset if I was being recorded on my balcony, and I didn’t know. I think everyone has a certain right to privacy.”

In the face of hearing this, residential staff hopes to mitigate the rumors that have been circling around and reassure students that the one-time incident is not how infractions are normally handled. If you have any questions, you can email reslife@trinity.edu or stop by the Residential Life office in the Witt Center.