Student concerns about S7645

(among other things)

A proposed New York State Senate Bill S7645 would give Public Safety officers “Officer of Peace” status. Peace officer status grants the power to conduct warrantless searches and arrests, carry weapons, and use deadly force. While many other large colleges have police forces with these abilities and RPI officers already had most of these abilities, RPI spent at least $22,000 lobbying for the bill. This makes it a deliberate step towards the over-securitization of the campus.

According to an anonymous source in the Rensselaer Union Student Senate, Rensselaer has entered a contract with Milestone Systems, a surveillance camera and video management retailer. While the company does not advertise facial recognition software, it supports 49 plugins that include facial recognition.

Beyond privacy concerns, these developments will determine what kind of college RPI becomes. Despite being private, RPI has a real connection to the surrounding community and benefits from it. Public events create diverse crowds of RPI students, faculty, staff, Troy residents, and students from neighboring schools. Public buildings allow visitors to roam the campus and give prospective students a sense of what attending RPI may be like. Do we want to feel like we're being watched? Do we want to be surrounded by armed Public Safety officers? Do we want to feel like intruders at our own school? Do we want our visitors and guests to feel unwelcome?

Resources

New York State Senate Bill S7645

Senate Survey about the bill

Facial recognition fact sheet

Presentation with student concerns about the bill

Facilities and Services Committee FAQ on the bill

Times Union article on the bill

Poly article on RPI's lobbying effort to get the bill

Op-Ed on these developments

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