College Will Not Track Students Using Wifi

Caroline Strapp '22, Staff Writer

An article published by TheWashington Poston Dec. 24 detailed a new internet tracking system that some colleges have put in place to track attendance. Dickinson College students expressed concern of the potential of being tracked, but Vice President and Chief Information Officer Robert Renaud reassured the students that the college has no plans to implement any similar software.

Currently, Syracuse University, the University of California San Diego and Indiana University use third party systems to install hidden Bluetooth devices that connect with an app downloaded to students’ phones. The app, SpotterEDU, also logs when students skip classes and alerts professors when students are absent, according to the article. The connection is activated anytime a student walks within range of the device sending the information back to the school’s administration. Other college’s and university’s use WiFi connection as a way to see how much time is spent in different places around campus.

Renaud said that, “the college does not engage in [these] tracking activities [and] has no plans to do so. We take privacy concerns seriously.”

According to The Washington Post, students both at Syracuse University and other colleges expressed negative opinions at these new methods saying they feel it is unnecessary to track them, that they are adults and this is an infringement on their privacy. Several professors from various institutions agreed with these student opinions, while others supported the idea in favor of the increased attendance that these new tracking measures bring, according to The Washington Post.

Students express similar sentiments about attendance tracking. Laney Herndon ’22 said that they “feel that the tracking and monitoring of students on campus utilizing the WiFi is an invasion of privacy as well as promoting the idea of distrust between the student body and the college”.Jooeun Song ’22 agreed with Herndon saying, “absolute invasion of privacy” and she questions if they “have any rights to do that.”

Other students shared suggestions for ways to use new technologies to better student safety on campus. Ben Doern ’22 said certain technology could be used “ […] for emergencies like if a student were missing on campus or if there was a an active shooter and [the college] needed to know where people were hiding.” Doern continued to say, “[…] otherwise, the technology should not be used even in legal matters”. Chase Weizer ‘22 said this attendance tracking could be a breach of privacy. “I understand there are emergencies like missing students where a similar type of technology could be helpful,” he said.