Home Campus OPINION: Surveillance cameras may help combat Ohio U rape crisis

OPINION: Surveillance cameras may help combat Ohio U rape crisis

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Opinion Editor Tim Zelina argues that installation of security cameras on campus is a step towards combating the rape crisis. File photo.

Opinion Editor Tim Zelina argues that installation of security cameras on campus is a step towards combating the rape crisis.

Ohio University has a sexual assault problem, there is no denying it. It’s not just a matter of perception: Nathan Hart at The New Political compared the reported instances of sexual assault and rape at Ohio U to other colleges in Ohio, and the numbers are alarming.

Thirty-four instances of sexual assault were reported on Ohio U’s campus in 2017, disproportionately more than other universities. Most shockingly, Ohio has only half as many instances as Ohio State University, which is three times as big as Ohio U. There is a clear assault epidemic on this campus.

The relatively high risk of sexual assault is taking its toll on the peace of mind of Ohio U’s women, who are unable to feel safe walking their own campus. Ohio U is in desperate need of something to combat these spates of rape and assault.

A recent announcement may give students hope of at least some respite. Ohio U has pledged to spend $1 million installing over 400 high-definition security cameras across campus. The campus police hope this will help dissuade attacks.

Cameras on every corner always spook people out a bit; no one likes feeling watched everywhere they go. It’s a disturbing thought to have the police watching every corner of public life. It’s easy to oppose such a dramatic ramping up of surveillance on grounds of privacy.

But what critics may be missing is that college campuses require special consideration. Most students spend the vast majority of their time on campus grounds. Here, in an environment of education and learning the ropes of adulthood, the specter of rape should not constantly terrorize the student population.

Security cameras accomplish two critical goals. One, they serve as a stark reminder to attackers that their crime will carry consequences. Hopefully, this can be enough of a threat to discourage some attackers. They also provide investigators an invaluable tool for identifying and prosecuting attackers, to ensure these individuals are taken off the streets.

Yet despite the help these security cameras will provide, they are not a comprehensive solution to the problem at hand. Security cameras won’t stop assault in dorms or uptown. Athens and its community needs to remain vigilant in finding further solutions to this crisis.

In the wake of a horrific streak of late-night attacks, and the apparent lack of action from the university administration and police alike, many women and their supporters at Ohio U have begun organizing anti-rape measures themselves.

More and more women carry tasers or pepper spray when heading out, especially at night. Others have banded together to create Safewalk Home, an app where students in need of an escort home can be hooked up with a trusty companion. Some Greek organizations have pressured the university with anti-rape signs hung on their buildings, and activists on campus organized an energetic protest demanding action.

As inspiring as these grassroots measures are, they also remind us of something disturbing:  the city and administration are not taking enough steps to address this crisis. There has been a lot of talk, including emails of ‘inspiration’ from the VP of Student Affairs, but very little in the way of action. 

All Bobcats, students and administrators alike, must commit to ending sexual assault on campus. No one should have to go through such a traumatic event.

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