UAB: Our NSA and Emerging Nanny State

By on April 18, 2014

Since last summer, it seems that every other week there is a new story about the National Security Administration (NSA) and government surveillance of Americans.

This national discourse, ignited by Edward Snowden’s release of classified government documents to the international media, has centered on the tradeoff between privacy and security. As political pundits argue whether or not America is becoming a “nanny state,” there is a very real nanny state that is already in place. And you are living in it.

UAB has gradually instituted policies meant to keep campus safe for the students, faculty, and staff, and they have arguably done a satisfactory job. After all, we rarely hear about violent crimes happening on campus, especially when compared to crime rates in other parts of the country.

However, with this security comes a price, and we have to ask ourselves, is it worth it? For students who live on campus, especially, the nanny state is a reality in everyday life. UAB tracks your every move and has data on nearly every activity you take part in on campus.

Consider a typical day for an on-campus student. You wake up on campus and check your Facebook on your iPhone before rolling out of bed, using data that goes through UAB servers with information that is attached to your name.

You decide to do laundry and scan your card to put a dollar on the washing machine. Blackboard’s system records that transaction. You return to your room on elevators with cameras that watch where you get on and off. For lunch, you go to WoW, where you order the secret menu item nachos, and once again, the information is recorded. Before class, you sign onto a computer in the library to print off a lab report. The name, amount that was printed, and time you were there are automatically recorded. After class, you hit the gym for a quick workout. They scan your card, and UAB has a record of how many times you have exercised. A friend from out of town comes over, and, after rounding up your three roommates to sign the overnight form, you record the guest’s address, phone number, emergency contact, etc. and scan your card to unlock the door, two more records of your daily activities.

Throughout a typical day, UAB records all of this data for later inspection.

Ironically, the one thing the administration doesn’t know is whether or not you went to class.

In the name of security, students have unwittingly given up much of the freedom to which they are entitled- whether it be archaic visitation rules from a dysfunctional and incompetent housing bureaucracy or the ability to simply sit in the library at night without having the police demand identification.

Administrators have argued time and time again in student forums that these policies are critical for student safety. However, I have to wonder, how much safer are you on campus than in private apartments just a couple blocks off campus?

The reality is that these policies do not make campus safer. They are simply ways for power hungry mid-level administrators to enact initiatives to pad their resumes for future promotion while pretending that they actually do something meaningful.

It is time for students to start demanding that administrators listen to their concerns instead of spouting a line of further regulation of student activity while dismissing legitimate student concern.

Administrators need to begin treating students as adults instead of as children who need babysitters.

My challenge to administrators is this: if you think that these policies are fair and not overly restrictive, try living on campus for a week. I guarantee that after seven days following the same oppressive rules and regulations, you too will realize that things must change. And they must change now.

By Jacob Ledbetter

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  • Leslie

    What “freedoms” are being given up by washing your clothes and eating nachos for lunch? Most of the information that you say is being is gathered is information that can be found on most peoples Facebook pages anyway. And filling out a form for an out of town guest is a smart thing.The school is responsible for the safety of the students. They can’t rely on you having great judgement in people, and if something happened to you both there needs to be a way to contact your guests family. I have lived in the apartments just off campus. You are much safer on campus, trust me. If you complain this much about college, you are going to hate the real world.

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