From The QH: Installation of CCTV in prayer rooms leads to privacy concerns

This originally appeared on www.TheQH.co.uk on 13/02/16.

The University of Westminster has been criticised by students for installing cameras in prayer rooms on all campuses, after failing to consult the Students’ Union who oppose the move.

The cameras were installed in October 2015 in all prayer rooms and multi-faith quiet rooms as a “policy decision”, with no clear signage to warn students.

It is not clear if students were made aware of the changes which have been accused of intruding on privacy.

Jim Hirschmann, UWSU president, said: “the cameras were implemented without our input and as a Union we are naturally concerned about the privacy of our members and have made our opposition clear to senior University staff.”

He added: “the lack of understanding leads to a lack of trust, some anger and frankly a degree of fear.”

It is believed that the decision to install cameras in the prayer rooms was made following an alleged assault over the summer.

According to Jim, no consultation of students took place regarding the installation.

It is understood the footage from the cameras is not routinely monitored however the footage may be accessed by request on approval from the University within 30 days, at which point footage will be deleted.

Jim has been informed that footage from the female prayer room can only be accessed if it is approved by a senior female member of staff.

Some students have responded positively to the installation of cameras; Noor a first year student said: “I remember going into the prayer room the first time and saw the camera right away just above the entrance to the room, I think it’s very good because even I get worried going to the prayer room.”

Fiyaz Mughal of Faith Matters, who was part of an independent panel who informed a report on diversity for the University said: “This is very concerning and utterly ludicrous, students who want to reflect and pray should have the ability to do so without intrusion.”

Salsabil Sila, UWSU Vice President of Marylebone, said: “I dislike the cameras [the prayer room] used to be a safe space for the sisters to take their scarf off and make wudhu [wash] but now they don’t feel safe and they are unaware who can see them and are worried about their privacy.

“Some sisters now have to use the toilets for wudhu.”

The University of Westminster didn’t respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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