Some of the labs that I work in are shared facilities operated by the department or a collection of departments. There are many positive aspects of having such facilities, but I just encountered a negative one that I had never previously even contemplated.
The head technician in one of the labs announced today that he had just finished installing a webcam system that would be accessible to the public so that anyone could go the website and watch people in the lab. His motivation for doing this was so that people could see how the machines are used, and he noted that this would be ‘educational’ for students and the public. When I read this email announcing the implementation of the webcam system, I was shocked. My students and I are primary users of this facility, and I was not consulted. I don't really have any say in the running of the lab, or I would has squashed this idea before it was implemented.
I would have been very upset by the webcam installation no matter what, but perhaps because I have been dealing with some security issues involving safety in my department recently, I acted extremely negatively to the webcam. The lab manager is clearly not thinking that he just created the perfect way for people to check and see when women are working alone at night or on weekends in the lab.
Based on my strenuous objections, he says he will reconsider his plan. Even though it will make him sad to take down his nifty little web-thing, I am pretty sure he will. It just didn’t occur to him that it was a safety issue.
The strange and disturbing person whom I described in a previous post has been sighted several times in the department recently, though I have mostly been out of town and have not seen him. Various people have called the campus police, but the police have yet to arrive in time to encounter him.
I heard that he left a note for a female grad student, and continues to ask people about me, trying to find out where I am or how to contact me. Maybe if he could monitor the women in my department by webcam, it would make his stalking more efficient and he wouldn't have to waste so much time looking for women to scare.
7 years ago