By Eric Buehler
In the “data age”, privacy is becoming a thing of the past. This year, the LA Board of Police Commissioners voted to allow the use of drones in a one-year pilot program, the House is trying to allow internet providers to sell customer data without their consent, the Trump administration continues to dispute the role of the NSA, and facial recognition technology and use continues to advance. And that’s only the more recent news; events such as Snowden’s leak of NSA documents, the Chinese 2015 data hack, and rumors of Russian involvement in US elections still occupy the minds of the general public (right?).
However, we do not need to go to the national level to observe the impact of the data age. We need only look at our own campus, where we can see, in light of recent postings, that our school captures a large amount of our personal data. As a result, we face many of these data related issues. For example, DCGA has entertained the idea of significantly increasing the number of cameras on campus. So the question is, where do people stand on this issue? Who supports the implementation of more cameras on campus, and why? Is their motivation linked towards their feelings about government surveillance?
We know from recent findings in the Fall 2017 survey data that most of the pressing issues at Denison right now are deeply divided by gender, due to a clash of opinion on issues of personal safety from vandalism, and assault, and individual freedom. We can see from Figure 1 that a large concentration of students strongly oppose cameras, and that this concentration is largely men (over 30% as compared to under 14% of women). In general, a majority of men (59%) oppose the measure. On the other hand, women outpace men in their support for cameras, beating out men at every level of support with a total of 47% of women supporting the measure – not quite a majority. Overall, 46% of students oppose the measure of more cameras, while 36% of students support the measure and16% are undecided.
One might think this divide is actually due to partisanship – there is a gender gap between political parties after all. However, this is not the case perhaps because surveillance is a divisive issue across the political aisle. Party mavericks such a Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul are staunchly against it, while party moderates on both sides are more accepting of the uses of surveillance.
One might also think that a *national* affiliation would have limitations in explaining a strictly *campus* issue. Is that the case? It turns out that views on cameras on campus are linked to support for government surveillance. Figure 2 that support for government surveillance only matters for women, having no effect on men’s opposition to the proposition. Women are principled – higher support for government surveillance translates to higher support for more cameras on campus. But why do women behave the way we would expect while men do not?
One solution to this question is perhaps the closest thing our campus has to a national-level political divide: opinion on Campus Greek life. Figure 3 below shows that only men link their views on Greek life to their opinions about cameras. The most supportive men are of Greek life, the more opposed to cameras they are.
Let me attempt to pull this all together. For women, the benefits of cameras are more clear and personal – the prevention of vandalism and assault. Additionally, sororities do not throw parties, and the reasons women join sororities are likely more varied than men’s. These factors overshadow any effect feeling towards Greeks might have on their attitude about cameras. Thus women who disagree with cameras on campus do so for ideological reasons – opposition to surveillance in general.
For men, the consequences of cameras would have a bigger impact on party culture, which is facilitated primarily by fraternities. Additionally, men are more likely to be the perpetrators of assault and vandalism. As a result, the potential effects on party culture outweigh any attitudes about national issues such as surveillance.
Regardless of which of these attitudes you identify most with, I would urge you to make your opinion heard about cameras on campus, because It is shaping up to be a divisive issue just like on the national level. In fact, a Political Science Senior Seminar is holding a deliberative forum on this issue on Monday evening. Check your email to see if you’ve been invited and attend if you can.
Eric Buehler is one of those Data Analytics students who hopes to be employed one day. In the meantime, you can find him writing about student behavior at Denison.
1. . Additionally, the variable for whether a person is Greek or not is not significant, only the feelings towards Greek variable. Even when controlling for whether a person was Greek, or not it did not completely drop the significance of the feelings towards Greek variable.