If you’ve ever visited, worked at, or merely observed a cattle ranch, you probably noticed that the animals had colored tags in their ears that identified their owners and helped to keep tabs on their whereabouts. Well, the same thing is now happening at colleges and universities all across the country as many institutions of “higher learning” are adopting new tracking technologies that monitor student behavior and movement 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Students who are “less academically inclined,” according to a report by The Washington Post, can be tracked in real time to make sure they’re eating enough cafeteria food, attending all of their classes on-time, and getting out of their dorm rooms enough. Students that fail in any of these areas can be flagged for an intervention, as well as assigned a type of “social credit” score that “authority figures” on campus can use to implement changes.
One such system known as SpotterEDU, developed by former college basketball coach Rick Carter, uses a series of Bluetooth “beacons” to “ping” students’ smartphones whenever they enter a lecture hall or classroom. These devices are being installed all across college and university campuses to keep constant tabs on student activity, whether they want to be tracked or not.
“We’re adults,” chided sophomore Robby Pfeifer, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, about this Orwellian new technology. “Do we really need to be tracked?”
“Why is this necessary?” he further asked, pointing to the campus-wide WiFi network at his school that now powers the SpotterEDU app and tracking devices. “How does this benefit us? … And is it just going to keep progressing until we’re micromanaged every second of the day?”
Another similar system known as Degree Analytics utilizes a system of “WiFi check-ins” to track some 200,000 students across 19 state universities, private colleges, and other so-called “schools.” Aaron Benz, its developer, says the system ensures that ever student is able to graduate with “a proper environment and perhaps a few nudges along the way.”
But not everyone is convinced, including privacy and surveillance experts who are warning that such technology is merely a backdoor for implementing a type of “mark of the beast” culture in which smartphones – and eventually actual chips in people’s hands and foreheads – are used to track and monitor all students on campus at all times.
“These administrators have made a justification for surveilling a student population because it serves their interests in terms of the scholarships that come out of their budget, the reputation of their programs, (and) the statistics for the school,” warns Kyle M. L. Jones, an assistant professor who researches student privacy at Indiana University.
“What’s to say that the institution doesn’t change their eye of surveillance and start focusing on minority populations, or anyone else?” he adds. Students, in his view, “should have all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges that an adult has. So why do we treat them so differently?”
Erin Rose Glass, a digital scholarship librarian at the University of California San Diego, agrees, having told The Washington Post that the SpotterEDU tracking system “embodies a very cynical view of education – that it’s something we need to enforce on students, almost against their will.”
“We’re reinforcing this sense of powerlessness … when we could be asking harder questions, like: Why are we creating institutions where students don’t want to show up?”
For more related news about how college and university campuses are becoming the embodiment of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, be sure to check out CampusInsanity.com.
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