Douglas Belkin of The Wall Street Journal reports the reaction of college students to overly aggressive surveillance measures by campus administrators in this era of Covid-19.
The vast majority of students are vaccinated. In fact, some three-quarters polled say they would support a vaccine mandate. In such an environment, colleges and universities have still managed to find the point at which students rebel against attempts at ubiquitous surveillance in the name of health.
“It feels like the school is blackmailing me, they get all this personal information and in exchange I get an education,” said Dan Smith, a graduate student studying labor history at Wayne State University in Detroit. “It’s the growth of the surveillance state.”
Belkin reports that even before the pandemic, many universities were recording students’ faces with surveillance cameras, tracking them with GPS and monitoring their messages on social media and email. Schools can also track students’ study habits through digital textbooks and log their presence in class and the library.
Students at one Michigan school had to band together to stop a requirement to wear a “bio button” to monitor their heart rate, temperature and respiration. Under pandemic rules, colleges are fomenting what one student group at Rutgers called “creeping authoritarianism.”
What Belkin’s reporting bears out is that the generation now rising through college is alert to abusive levels of surveillance. They see clearly how today’s compromises can lead to a total absence of privacy in the future.