Surveillance camera planned for Carleton’s Bald Spot to deter underage drinking – NOT!

camera The email discussion list for Carleton College parents has been heating up of late, with some parents upset that the administration is planning to install a surveillance camera on the Bald Spot to deter underage drinking. After phoning Associate Dean Joe Baggot, one parent wrote: (continued)

Update 10:20 PM: this appears to have been a hoax. See the comment thread below.

According to the dean, they’re going to try implementing it as a deterrent for underage drinking–any underage student identified with alcohol in their possession will be given a citation (he compared it to the cameras on stoplights). The number of hospital visits last year due to alcohol was “simply too high.”

Northfield taxpayers have a stake in this issue, as City Police officers (I’ve confirmed this with two recently) are spending an increasing amount of their time with these hospitalizations on both St. Olaf and Carleton campuses.

But is this the best way to handle the problem?

See this Nov. 2008 RepJ story: St. Olaf students address drinking on and off “dry” campus

See this Sep. 2008 blog post: Rethinking the age for drinking; rethinking the age for driving


  1. Britt Ackerman said:

    FYI, the “photocop” system formerly used in Minneapolis has been declared unconstitutional by the MN Supreme Court. (State v. Kuhlman) Much of the case history is available here.

    Any student busted by a videocamera cannot legally be charged with a crime. Of course, that’s not to say that the college couldn’t take action under their own policies.

    August 17, 2009
  2. Curt Benson said:

    Griff, this is a worthy topic. Do you have any numbers from the ambulance crews or hospital ER that reveal the nature of this problem?

    The Northfield Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use has a link to a video about campus binge drinking. Here’s the blurb:

    On the afternoon of September 16, 2004, a joyous 18-year-old, Lynn Gordon Bailey Jr., pledged Chi Psi Fraternity at the University of Colorado. The next morning he was found dead, a victim of an irresponsible hazing ritual involving alcohol. A sad situation, but made even worse because it was so preventable.

    Every year, a staggering 1,700 college students face the same fate. Another 100,000 are victims of sexual assault as a result of heavy drinking. But no one working on a national level to change a culture that puts our young people in peril. Until now.

    HAZE is a feature documentary, created with the intent of placing a focus on the issues of binge drinking, alcohol-laden hazing rituals, and rapid-fire drinking games. Simply stated, the film’s goal is to save lives and prevent harm. Harm that would never have happened if a few crucial steps had been followed by friends, by fraternity brothers and sisters, family members or peers. HAZE won’t end irresponsible drinking but it will be the first chapter in an educational process for parents and young adults–teaching us what to do and what to look out for in order to “save a life.”

    August 17, 2009
  3. Anthony Pierre said:

    I think they should have one in teh mayors office, there has been more crime there than anywhere.

    August 17, 2009
  4. David Ludescher said:

    Britt: That’s not entirely accurate. Photocop was declared unconstitutional as an unreasonable search and by the government. However, the Carleton Bald Spot is private property. Any illegal activity, especially if the students have prior warning, will probably stand constitutional muster.

    August 17, 2009
  5. Dan Bergeson said:

    Griff et. al.,
    The installation of a webcam on campus for this purpose is not a plan of the college at this time and has never been. Joe Baggot just sent a message to that effect to the parents’ listserv and to all college employees as well.
    Webcams are currently installed on campus to monitor the construction progress of the new residence halls and will be removed when that project is finished.

    August 17, 2009
  6. Eric Sieger said:

    Dan and others,

    Here’s Joe’s message:

    Dear all,

    I’m writing to respond to the mis-information and mis-quoting concerning “webcams,” plans for installation on the bald spot, and use of said cameras to monitor under-age drinking.

    In short, my colleagues and I are confused by this information; the College has no intentions or plans to implement such measures and we are surprised by the information being shared here. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions about this matter.

    I do however wish to offer some information which might have contributed to the confusion. I did recently have a philosophical conversation in a campus office with a few of my colleagues about whether or not our students would like to have a “webcam.” It is the sort of thing that some colleges have; for some people, it is a fun way to enhance a phone call to family or friends. At this point, this is simply an idea to be discussed with students in the fall.

    Sincerely, Joe Baggot

    Griff, Carleton’s office of media relations is more than willing to field your calls of inquiry whenever you wonder what’s happening here. This might be helpful in avoiding posting inaccurate information in the future.

    August 17, 2009
  7. Bright Spencer said:

    It may be even more of a deterrent if students were given a short introduction into the negative short and long term health affects of drinking, binge drinking, and long term drinking habits.

    It is surprising how little the media pays attention to topic over the years and how little people realize what a self destructive thing drinking can be on the short run and how genetically destructive it is over the bigger picture.

    August 17, 2009
  8. Jane Moline said:

    Soooo–really they are not going to use spy cameras to bust underage drinking–good job, ace reporter.

    August 17, 2009
  9. Bright Spencer said:

    What might be the next step, after the cameras are gone, the kids have been informed as to the dangers of drinking too much, then perhaps either the schools can let up on the pressure to be perfect or nearly so, or people can step up and assist kids who feel more pressure is on them that they can deal with effectively.

    August 17, 2009
  10. Jonah Ostroff said:

    It should be noted that this is almost certainly a hoax:

    (1) The only two “parents” claiming to have spoken to Mr. Baggot reported doing so within four minutes of each other, with the latter email being a response to the first. Four minutes is hardly enough time to read an email, call an official about it (after finding his number), and write back. So these two writers are almost certainly the same person.
    (2) Neither writer appears in the Parents Directory.
    (3) The second writer shares a name with Carleton’s first president.
    (4) Mr. Baggot later wrote an email to the list denying that anything of the sort is being considered.

    August 17, 2009
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve been taken in by a hoax? Too funny. The Carleton parents list gets hacked; an upset parent falls for it and contacts me; I fall for it, blog it, and get chided for posting inaccurate information; and we all get straightened out by one of the three biggest nerds on campus.

    The Northfield News will hopefully do a story on this.

    In the meantime, I’ve added the word ‘not’ to the blog headline and added an update at the end of the first paragraph.

    August 17, 2009
  12. Griff fooled by faux news? Ah,well, hoaxes go way back in Carleton history. Does anyone remember the story of Joe Fabeetz who won election to the Carleton CSA Senate in 1977?

    August 17, 2009
  13. Bright Spencer said:

    Hooray for the hoax, especially when it serves as a gateway for vital information!

    Also, hooray for LoCoGro, as it serves as a gateway for vital information and other goodly stuff!

    August 18, 2009
  14. Jonah Ostroff said:

    That’s the biggest nerd on campus, thank you very much. At least as of 2008. I think I’ve been usurped since then, though I don’t know by whom.

    Anyway, I can’t take all the credit here. Lots of people were atwitter about the supposed plans, and most of the observations I cited were made by others.

    August 18, 2009
  15. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Jonah.

    Did anyone figure out how the email list got compromised?

    And did anyone from Carleton notify the parents on the list about the hoax?

    August 18, 2009
  16. Jonah Ostroff said:

    “Compromised” isn’t really the right word. Since the administration wants parents to be able to subscribe to the list easily, there’s no authentication process to ensure that those who sign up are actually parents. Anyone with an email address (fake or otherwise) can subscribe and post, including present and former Carleton students.

    There are probably a few ways this can be fixed, but I can’t think of any methods that wouldn’t scare off a large portion of the subscribers.

    I’m not sure the list is aware that the messages were hoaxes per se, but as Dan and Eric pointed out above, the misinformation has been corrected.

    August 18, 2009
  17. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Jonah.

    Dan and Eric, why not let people on the list know that this was a hoax, not just ‘misinformation’ and ‘misquoting’? You were taken in by the hoax, just as I and some parents were.

    As it is right now, Carleton (Jonah excepted) appears to be standing above the fray, doing a tsk tsk at Locally Grown and the parents.

    August 19, 2009
  18. Jonah Ostroff said:

    Griff, I think you’re wrong on this one. Nobody at Carleton was “taken in” by the hoax. The first response from the administration was to correct the misinformation. What should they have done differently?

    Furthermore, I can’t see how knowledge that this was a hoax would help the parent list. What good would come from having the parents distrust each other as possible trolls? Keeping the atmosphere friendly, with the (false) assumption that the earlier hoaxsters were merely “misinformed”, is in my opinion the best possible action.

    August 19, 2009
  19. Griff Wigley said:

    Jonah, this makes no sense to me. Carleton’s sure it was a hoax, but it’s willing to treat it as if it wasn’t? And allowing fake parents to remain on the list will somehow help the trust level?

    One fake parent, Janet, just upped the ante by using a spammer trick of linking the seemingly valid URL of


    which steers people to:

    I admire the hoax. I think Carleton is handling this poorly.

    August 21, 2009
  20. kiffi summa said:

    Griff : You said “I admire the hoax”. The cleverness? the manipulation of e-systems information? What?

    The sort of e-based “citizen journalism” you want to promote will never be successful if the hoax is a subject of admiration by those promoting citizen journalism as a positive influence… IMO.

    Am I just being too ‘prissy’ about this? I don’t think so; this is not a line that can be ridden on both sides … again, IMO.

    August 21, 2009
  21. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, I think there’s a range of acceptability for journalistic hoaxes that are harmless — helpful even — no matter if it’s citizen journalism or mainstream media (MSM).

    My favorite: Sidd Finch.

    August 21, 2009
  22. Griff Wigley said:

    FYI, the parent “Janet” was just removed from the parents’ list. Oh the heavy handedness!

    I asked her to call me and we just had a nice chat.

    August 21, 2009
  23. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: if you had said MEDIA hoaxes, instead of “journalistic hoaxes”, I might be more in agreement … I guess I just perceive ‘Journalism’ as requiring higher standards than you would hold it to; this is just something we disagree about …

    August 21, 2009

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