Bathroom camera incident: UPDATE and RESPONSE

Linh Do, Staff Writer

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On Wednesday, Oct. 10, a Luther employee found a camera while using the unisex restroom on the south side of the Dahl Centennial Union’s second floor where administrative offices are located. The Luther community was notified the following day and received an update on Nov. 12. In response, the Decorah Police are conducting an ongoing investigation and the Luther custodial staff underwent training to identify hidden cameras.

The employee who discovered the camera immediately called Campus Security, who then called Decorah Police. The police deactivated the camera and took it with them as evidence. In response, the school inspected all other restrooms, locker rooms, and other private areas across campus and did not discover any other devices.

According to Associate Director of Human Resources and Title IX Coordinator Matthew Bills, the college began their investigation immediately in conjunction with the Decorah Police.

“Our hope is that we’ll get more information from [the investigation], but we recognize that criminal investigations can take a very long time. So we are probably looking at months, not weeks, is my guess. It could be a slow process.”  

-Associate Director of Human Resources and Title IX Coordinator

Matthew Bills

“It was decided at that time that it was the best not to send an email out to the whole of campus right then, because we wanted to do some investigation before the individual who had placed the camera knew that we were looking into it,” Bills said. “Then we emailed the campus on Thursday around noon as soon as the Decorah Police advised us that releasing the information would not jeopardize their investigation.”

The Decorah Police continued to investigate throughout October in cooperation with Luther’s Safety and Security team and eventually identified a Luther employee as a person of interest. Because this investigation is still open and it is a personal matter, Luther will not disclose any information about the investigation, including the individual’s name, at this time. Once this individual was identified, Campus Security collaborated with Human Resources to begin their own independent investigation into the individual’s involvement. Based on information the college learned during its investigation and the employee’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation, the college terminated the individual’s employment on Nov. 12. The college sent out the all-campus email update on this incident that same day.

“The Decorah Police department still has an open investigation and so our hope is that investigation will be able to determine exactly when the camera was in operation, who was recorded, whether there are any recordings that are still in existence, and whether any recordings were shared,” Bills said. “And as that investigation progresses, our hope is that they will be able to share more information publicly.”

In response, Campus Security held a training with the custodial staff to educate them on the proper way to identify hidden cameras. This is not a part of their daily routine while cleaning restrooms, locker rooms, and other private areas. In addition, Bills held meetings with faculty, staff, and student workers who work on the second floor of the Union and used that restroom. Bills gave them a chance to ask questions, process the incident, and he provided support to these individuals. Bills also explained that the ongoing nature of the investigation limits the information that the college can release.

“Our hope is that we’ll get more information from [the investigation], but we recognize that criminal investigations can take a very long time,” Bills said. “So we are probably looking at months, not weeks, is my guess. It could be a slow progress.”

Student Activities Council Representative for Student Senate Miranda Stark (‘19) expressed concern as she felt that this lowered the sense of safety that Luther has been providing their students and employees.

“Personally, I was very shocked by what happened,” Stark said. “It was unexpected. I definitely feel very bad for the people that used that restroom obviously because that’s an invasion of privacy and that turned your workplace and your safe place into something that you don’t feel safe anymore. I feel like everyone should feel safe at his or her place of work, [and] his or her place of education.”

Stark has been working on proposing a self-defense workshop with regard to recent events in Iowa and on campus, such as the murder of Mollie Tibbetts over the summer in Iowa, the bathroom camera, and the incident on Nov. 5 when a man asked a Luther student if they would like to watch pornography with him after asking for directions in the City Pool Lot. Stark is in the process of applying for a grant through Student Senate and talked with the Decorah Police to find a person who could teach a self-defense class.

“I think that is something we could do for years to come,” Stark said. “It’s something that we should teach because there are a lot of people on this campus that don’t feel as safe as they should. If you are oblivious to an issue, you don’t know that there is the issue. Once you know that there is an issue then you can do something about it. But I think that’s part of the problem here is that people here don’t realize that there is that issue so they can’t fix it.”

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