UCD Residences have formally amended the licence to reside for on campus accommodation to include a clause that allows residential assistants (RAs) to film inside students’ apartments.
Clause 23 of the 2012/2013 licence states that: “In the event of an actual or potential risk of injury to people or of damage to property, enforcement may include the use of CCTV or other recording devices which may record the activity of the occupier and any other persons attending at the premises.”
Speaking about the new clause, Manager of Residential Services Richard Brierley said: “In the interests of safety and security, recording equipment has been in use for several years in the common areas of student residences. The Residences team have recording devices as part of their equipment which may be used when attending to an incident in student residences. This is in line with the Universities Safety and Security Policies. When attending to an incident, staff must always follow the Residences Usage policy as published on our website… Staff and Residential Assistants must clearly alert everyone in the vicinity of the student apartment when their recording equipment is in use.”
Students’ Union President Rachel Breslin has stated that the Union voiced “concerns with it, ethical concerns, moral concerns but also our legal worries”. Student Legal Service (SLS) Chairperson Patrick Fitzgerald said: “I think it’s a step too far. I think the Accommodation Office will justify it under the premise of anti-social behaviour… Why should students be treated as second-class citizens? Privacy isn’t just this abstract idea; it’s this constitutionally protected right and we as a society value that right and it just seems that UCD Accommodation have no respect for the Constitutional right.”
There has been confusion over when the new licence to reside was given to incoming residents as Brierley said that: “No changes were made to the 2012/2013 License after bookings were opened in June. The 2011/2012 License remained clearly available on the website during the summer months because 2011 / 2012 residents remained with us until the end of August.”
However, Breslin stated that: “It’s my understanding that it only changed over the weekend [September 1st and 2nd]” while Fitzgerald “contacted the office last week and asked them to provide me with a Licence to Reside and they provided the 2011 one.” He continued: “It was only from a student that I got their licence to reside. In terms of informing students properly, that is just emblematic of a system that wants to bring in changes very subtly.”
Breslin is planning to consult the residents on campus and decide the SU’s course of action from there. “We want to make sure that we are representative. This is probably an issue that may be divisive, so we want to very quickly get the views of students. It remains our position from our executive last year that we don’t support this in any way and we think it is morally questionable to film inside students home.”
The SLS plan to highlight the issue to students on an ongoing basis. “We will escalate our campaign. This is only the start, we’re going to inform students properly of their rights and what they’re signing up to. We will be campaigning against this.”