Introduction to Stalking

Ivo Dimitrov in collaboration with Eugenia Melissen Ferrer

 “Elementary, my dear Watson. Have you never taken methods?”  These might not have been Sherlock’s real words, and we may not have learnt about stalking methods specifically, but two inspired UCU detectives had a fairly easy job. Turns out, all you need is an innocent, unsuspecting UCUer as a target and access to every building on campus, and you have made it to a full-fledged campus stalker.

8 AM. Our subject wakes up and shouts at her unit mate to free the shower. Grumpy-faced, she proceeds to check Facebook, while hastily skimming through a fat textbook on the side. Little does she know that her curtains-free, first-floor Wall room is like a stage for two observing stalkers in a strategic position outside.

Have any of us ever given a serious thought to the absence of privacy on campus? You’d be surprised to know how easy it is to covertly observe somebody without them knowing, and to witness some of the most intimate details of their life if you wanted to. An hour casually moving from a spot to spot and we could see some of the weirdest before-class activities: ab workouts, complicated grooming procedures, embarrassing morning dance routines…

Realizing this little experiment was fun, we continue following our initial subject as she heads to class with friends. Soon we’ll know what her schedule is, who she hangs out with, what her day looks like. During lunch we discover her preference for mozzarella paninis, as she patiently waits for one, ignoring the pile of tuna ones. Throughout the day we can continue collecting information. What committees is she involved in? Who does she flirt with in the bar? When does she leave and return to campus and why? The only method needed: deliberate observation.

It is natural to share a lot when we all live on campus and spend most of our times in a community this close-knit. But have we – always busy, trusting students – even thought about the consequences? We would open our unit’s door to whomever, assuming they are friends of our unit-mates. No one blinks when posting their exact address on Facebook – “Come visit me, Kromhout 95!”

It wasn’t too long before our own investigation started to creep us out, even if we were trying to make a point. How far could we have gone in invading someone’s personal space? We would never want to be in the vulnerable position of our ‘subject’ – but apparently, just living at UCU puts all of us into that very position.

Luckily, everyone here is too busy and overwhelmed with their own business to spend time on others in this way, and campus is generally a safe place. Plus, it’s always convenient if you want to furtively stalk your secret crush. So, not trying to stir some paranoia here, but a certain amount of caution wouldn’t hurt next time you hear a knock on your door.

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