A Golden Cage is But a Cage

Tarun Sharma ’15, Staff Writer

A few weeks ago, at a meeting of the President’s Leadership Council, the issue of swipe cards that I have discussed in this very space was debated at length. After the meeting, several students hung around to ask Dr. Howard questions. I bring this up because I was troubled to hear a statement from a fellow student that went along the lines of: “we have to implement the most substantive security measures first so that we can see how much security we really need.” This idea is nothing new. Since the inception of government, citizens of lands across the globe have been willing to give up a great deal of their freedom to their governments and leaders in exchange for the promise of safety and security. On the outside, this seems to make sense. Safety is a primary concern of every individual. The guarantee of security, specifically of one’s life, liberty, and property, allows for all other goals and objectives within an individual’s life to take precedence. However, one needs to look no further than this Hill to find examples of the sacrifice of freedom could lead to a dissolution of those values that a group of people treasure most.

Let us extrapolate the idea of security and its purpose a little bit more. It is my belief that the purpose of security is to maintain stability—enforcing the rules of the game to create an even playing field for individuals to use their talents in order to enjoy a the fruits of their labor in a free manner.  Merriam-Webster defines freedom as: “an absence of undue restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one’s rights and powers.” Thus, it seems to make sense that if the purpose of security is to allow for “freedom” to persist, that freedom should be more highly valued commodity, particularly in our society. The truth is that we do not need to necessarily go to the nuclear option in order to find out what the right number of security devices is for this campus. We, as rational thinkers, can fully consider what each option entails before we commit time, resources, and freedoms as costs for this marginal increase in security.

Evidence from studies regarding the implementation of security cameras and card scanners give us mixed evidence at best. The fact is that camera footage is really only valuable if it can be used in conjunction with prosecution to establish guilt, but we have no indication that the Honor Court would even use this footage to punish students that violate the Honor Code or Student Code of Conduct. Likewise, there is little doubt that larger public universities have a greater issue with rates of theft per capita than our campus. There will always be those amongst us that are not interested in following the rules of the Honor Code that we each sign upon our entrance to the College. In such cases, we trust our completely student-run justice system to deal with those ne’er-do-wells, whom they deem incompatible with our community after examining all pertinent evidence regarding the case. If there is a serious desire to change our policies and move in the same vein as larger public universities by installing card swipes on dormitory doors without any firm student-friendly policy in place, cameras all over this beautiful campus, and a policy of “community policing” that involves more consistent surveillance of students, there will be significant ramifications on the future of our college.

When we came to Hampden-Sydney, we decided that we wanted to live within a community a greater sense of freedom that centers upon the trust that each of us places in our brothers. The most secure community is not one that is constantly being watched from above by the eyes of higher ups, but one where individuals trust one another, whether they be students, staff, faculty members, administration, or campus security. When we implement these devices designed to provide security, which should protect freedoms that we value in this community, we deprive ourselves of those very freedoms. I think that Ben Franklin, friend of founding trustee James Madison, said it best: ”People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”

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