EXCLUSIVE: Frat cams give NC State intimate view of bros

At the start of the 2016 academic year, North Carolina State University installed surveillance cameras inside select fraternity and sorority houses.

The cameras were ostensibly there to monitor entrances for security purposes, but Campus Reform has learned through multiple sources that they were set up in a manner conducive to monitoring student behavior in their personal living spaces.

The university, though, has defended the practice to Campus Reform by arguing that the “video cameras are a part of the university’s security plan designed for the protection of students.”

Fred Hartman, NCSU director of university relations, went on to explain that the school’s security plan “calls for cameras at the entrances and exits of all buildings on campus.”

However, in at least one fraternity, there are five cameras installed at various locations throughout the interior of the house, including three in a common area—a place where the fraternity brothers spend their leisure time and host guests, with one camera capturing a live feed of the fraternity’s bar area.

While both cameras are pointed towards nearby doorways, it was discovered after installation that the cameras were zoomed out to a degree that allowed for the observation of students in their living space, which university officials acknowledged in an email exchange obtained by Campus Reform.

The correspondence also reveals that university officials had delayed responding to a request from the fraternity to adjust the zoom of the cameras, becoming responsive only after they grew concerned that some cameras had been covered up by fraternity members, who explained to Campus Reform that they resorted to obstructing the camera lenses after waiting for nearly a month for school officials to make the proper adjustments.

Indeed, one email shows the school’s operations manager, Mike Miles, noting the exact time and date that the cameras were covered, even attaching a screenshot from the surveillance tape of a student covering up a camera.

“Sorry for the delay in getting this over to you. On August 28 at 10:27 pm we have folks covering cameras again,” he wrote in an email to Joshua Welch, an associate director for the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. “I need to set up a time to get this stuff removed from the cameras as we see that something has been placed over all the cameras in House 7.”

Welch then forwarded the email to the president of NCSU’s Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter, where the cameras had been covered, soliciting the “name of the person in this picture” and explaining that the school could not make adjustments to the cameras “when your men are covering them.”

An anonymous source closely affiliated with the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter later told Campus Reform that Welch had requested the name of the student with the intention of reporting him to the school’s student conduct office.

Welch did not respond to requests for comment from Campus Reform.

Although the school claims that cameras have been installed in “any house owned by the university, and some of the houses that are privately owned,” the same anonymous source contested this claim, saying he is only aware of cameras in a couple other fraternity houses.

One of the fraternities he mentioned, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, is currently “suspended pending an investigation,” according to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life’s website.

In that same fraternity house, he explained, a camera is actually in the fraternity’s living space, which presented concerns over whether school officials could see into some fraternity members’ bedrooms.

Meanwhile, he noted that screenshots of the surveillance feed revealed that cameras located in the common area were zoomed out to the point of being “intrusive,” while cameras in other low-traffic areas, like the stairwells, were zoomed in solely on the doorways of which they were monitoring.

When pressed on whether or not cameras are installed in the common areas of all fraternities and sororities, Hartman simply reiterated the school’s prior defense, saying “security cameras are installed at entrances and exits, pointed at entrances and exits,” and cited the school’s policy on closed-circuit cameras.

After nearly a month of delay, and just one day after Campus Reform first reached out to the school for comment on the matter, the source reported that university officials finally adjusted the zoom of the cameras on Wednesday.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski