I don’t walk around Centennial Park as often as I might. I’m a lot more likely to walk around Kaufman Lake, or just walk to downtown Champaign or to campus—places I can do something (like go to the library). Centennial park is nice, though, and whenever I do walk there, I make a mental note to do it more often.
The one downside to the walk is going past Centennial High School. It is, as near as I can tell, a perfectly good high school—I don’t really have any visibility into that. My perception of the place is based almost entirely on the signs posted at the entrance to the parking lot that I have to walk past whenever I go that way.
So, there’s the “private parking” sign and the “smoke-free environment” sign—both fine. The “guests must register” sign bugs me only a little. But then there’s the “Search of Vehicle” sign, claiming that just entering the parking lot amounts to consenting to have your vehicle searched, and the “video camera in use” sign which says that just entering school district property amounts to consenting to have your image captured in “video, digital or other such format as may be appropriate.” I’m not fine with those.
I not entirely sure why it bugs me as much as it does. I never drive there, so I can pretty much ignore the “search of vehicle.” I don’t know if the video cameras are aimed at the sidewalk or not, but my actions on the sidewalk are public anyway—anybody could be taking my picture, not just the school district. And yet, it does bug me.
Probably the biggest reason is that I hate the example it provides to the students. Three or four years of walking past those signs every day—and experiencing what they really mean in practice—no doubt desensitizes students to what it means to be free. I hate the idea that a whole generation of students is growing up thinking that this is acceptable behavior, or at any rate that tolerating it is just something that people have to put up with.