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BraveCam controversy stalls reinstallation

By Lauren Allen
Staff Writer

The BraveCam has been disconnected and unavailable for viewing on the school’s website since November 2006.
           
BraveCam, which is located on the front of Belk Hall, was installed last semester by Enrollment Management as a recruiting tool for prospective students. 
           
The camera is a feature many colleges and universities use and was installed on the UNCP campus to showcase student activity and display one of the prettiest locations on campus, the water feature and clock tower, according to Jackie Clark, vice chancellor of Enrollment Management.

The Bravecam is located on Belk Hall, and was installed last semester as a recruiting tool. It was disconnected in November 2006.

Photo by Amanda Hickey
The Bravecam is located on Belk Hall, and was installed last semester as a recruiting tool.  It was disconnected in November 2006.

However, the BraveCam was disconnected due to improper use by students.  The mounting of the cameras was not permanently fixed in one position, allowing students to alter the view and focus of the camera, said Donna Payne, university counsel and chief of staff.
           
A complaint was filed by a student’s parent sometime around Nov. 14 in which the parent claimed that the camera had been adjusted so that it zoomed into rooms in North Hall, which is located on a 90 degree angle from Belk Hall, according to Chief David L. Helton of the Department of Police and Public Safety.
           
“We immediately began investigating this complaint, first finding out if this could even happen and if what took place was a criminal offense,” said Helton. 
           
Upon investigation, campus police discovered that the camera could be moved and had been done so by two male students.  The camera was then immediately disconnected.
           
The two male students zoomed into a girl’s bedroom where a bridal shower was taking place.  They were able to identify what kinds of food were served at the shower, according to police reports.  It was confirmed by shower goers that the two males did not attend the shower.
           
After questioning the students, campus police found out that a second website had been created, BelkCam.uncp.edu, in which users could log on and tilt, zoom and alter the angle in which the camera was focused. 
           
A professor on campus had become aware of the website from a student and believed it to be a public website.  He inserted a link to the website on his blackboard course website where the two male students gained access, according to police reports.
           
While showing his class the website, the professor discovered the camera could zoom into rooms in North Hall and immediately removed the link from Blackboard.
           
The police report stated that the professor did contact campus police and the chair of his department about his discovery and recommended something be done to correct the camera.
           
No criminal charges were filed against the two males and according to Helton no criminal offenses occurred.  But many on campus do feel as though the camera has been abused.
           
“Of course I feel as though students abused the BraveCam,” Clark said.  “The purpose of this camera is to show people all over the world how pretty our campus is and how delightful our students are.”

“The way these students manipulated the system was inappropriate,” she said.            

As for the future of BraveCam, a reinstallation date has not been set. 

The risk of invasion of privacy is so high with the camera that Enrollment Management will not reconnect the camera until they know for sure it’s secure, according to Clark.            

Clark went on to say, however, that without having the camera connected, UNCP is ultimately losing prospective students.

“But I’d rather lose students than invade our current student’s privacy,” Clark said.          
           
“Our current students are our biggest priority.”            
           
An attempt to correct this problem is to put a box around the camera, in which when tilted and zoomed, viewers will eventually just see the side of the box, according to Payne.

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Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2007
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