The first Associated Student Senate meeting of the quarter focused on a debate over the planned security measures for upcoming Deltopia festivities, particularly surrounding the controversy over recently installed public surveillance cameras in Isla Vista.
Senators directed questions about the security measures to External Vice President of Local Affairs Alexander Moore after he provided his executive report to the Senate. Other items discussed at the meeting included the resolution to provide trigger warnings in classrooms to trauma victims that has garnered significant media attention, continuing improvements to the Isla Vista Pardall Center, plans for a professional drag show sponsored by the Queer Commission and confirmation that The Fire Department will be playing at Chilla Vista.
Moore attempted to clarify police objectives regarding shutting down parties during Deltopia weekend in response to Senator Montana MacLachlan’s question asking what constitutes a “large party” in police terms. He said police personnel are not necessarily focusing on private house parties, but rather are concerned about large-scale, open-house gatherings or on-street crowding of over 500 people that can easily spin out of control.
“They’re worried about the stuff that spills into the street or is totally public where there is no monitoring of who is coming in,” Moore said. “Those parties that you can just walk into — that’s what they’re trying to aim at, they’re basically trying to shut down stuff like that that’s uncontrolled.”
Moore also said he advises party hosts to keep their music at relatively low levels to avoid receiving a citation for a noise ordinance violation. Unfortunately, according to Moore, there has been no stated decibel measurement of what constitutes as “low level” noise, so Moore suggests music players adhere to the rules from Halloween weekend.
“I would stick to Halloween standards really, to be honest, as a precaution,” Moore said. “They make a judgment call when they decide to give you a ticket like that, so they’re not really able to tell us, which kind of sucks.”
Moore then addressed concerns over newly-installed cameras in I.V. According to Moore, funds for the cameras were allocated by the university.
“The security cameras are being paid for and provided by on the request of the university administration,” Moore said.
Senators continued to press for further information about the new surveillance measures. The lack of knowledge revealed that none of A.S. leadership was provided basic details of the new security measures that would be using school resources, such as who would operate and monitor the cameras, their costs or the duration of their implementation.
Moore said he does not approve of the degree of secrecy with which the new surveillance measures were executed.
“I think the way they put up the security should be more transparent,” Moore said. “There’s been no P.R. or attempt to explain what was going on… [and] all these things that are supposed to be part of a community discussion just didn’t exist.”
Senators debated the legitimacy as well as the pros and cons of the new security cameras, with Off-Campus Letters & Arts Collegiate Senator Scott O’Halloran expressing approval of the cameras. O’Halloran cited recent incidents of assault and said the cameras could be a useful tool to track down suspects.
“Instead of being uncomfortable with people watching you all the time, be like, ‘I’m uncomfortable because I just got assaulted and there is no justice for me,’” O’Halloran said. “It’s a serious thing. Maybe we should be less concerned with our privacy and more about somebody getting justice.”
Collegiate Senator for the College of Engineering Amir Khazaieli delivered a rebuttal to pro-surveillance advocates, as he cited numerous studies of other surveillance systems, highlighting a controversial one in England. According to Khazaieli, the system in England showed that there was “no evidence that mass surveillance had reduced overall crime rates” and there was also “evidence of clear abuse” from police units to target minorities.
“This is considered mass surveillance,” Khazaieli said. “Some of the other places that have implemented stuff like this include the U.K., Iran, Russia, Vietnam, East Germany and Bahrain. … Places that have implemented video surveillance have shown and proven that it’s actually not effective.”
Khazaieili also said he stresses the importance of protecting I.V. citizens’ constitutional rights on individual privacy.
“I think there needs to be a lot of definite rules and regulations set forth with this so that it doesn’t conflict with anybody’s Fourth Amendment rights,” Khazaieli said. “I think we should definitely take action on this.”
After the discussion surrounding police security measures, Senate moved onto other topics, which included the restructuring of A.S. The restructure plan has been in the works for several months and faced several revisions, culminating in its passing on Wednesday night.
Nearly 20 bills connected to the restructure were passed, creating major changes in the way the executive office operates. Such changes include eliminating certain positions of the president’s staff, consolidating others and reforming legislative boards and commissions. One restructuring bill authored by A.S. President Jonathan Abboud removed the powers of the A.S. president to select the editorial staff of The Bottom Line (TBL) newspaper.
Abboud said the changes to The Bottom Line would make the paper more autonomous.
“The Bottom Line will be moved under the press council, like the [Daily] Nexus is,” Abboud said. “They’ll still be something that A.S. funds through a lock-in [fee], but it won’t be something [to which] I could say, ‘Well, I don’t want this editor to be the TBL editor’ and not appoint them. That takes away that power of the president to manage the press. That was important for me to take out.”
Also at the meeting, senators passed a resolution authored by Off-Campus Senator Beatrice Contreras establishing a committee to reevaluate the Isla Vista Master Plan in an effort to increase community influence on new building developments.
It was also announced that students could bring their artwork to the A.S. Pardall Center to have it displayed publicly for one month free of charge, after which it would be returned to them.