Executive Board decision after University Council advice: People counters will not be switched on again
The more than 370 sensors that have been hung up in Leiden University buildings to count the people present will not be switched on again. The equipment will eventually be removed from the buildings.
The Executive Board has reached this decision following negative advice from the University Council. The Council issued its advice in the consultation meeting with the Board on 13 February 2023. Although this advice is not binding, the Board is keen to heed it. ‘As a participation body, the University Council represents our student and staff community, so we listen to it carefully,’ said Martijn Ridderbos, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board.
The person counters/sensors were hung up in university buildings in 2020 to count – without those present being identifiable – students and staff during the coronavirus pandemic with a view to a safe and healthy work and study environment. The Council consented to this in a shortened consultation procedure.
After the pandemic, the data from the sensors also proved useful, for example so that teaching rooms could promptly be rebooked, empty lecture halls could immediately be used for study or work spaces, students could quickly see which study spaces were available, energy could be saved in empty rooms by promptly switching off the lights and heating, and so on.
Improved privacy and security
As the sensors did not prove to be optimally secure, they were switched off in December 2021 and the Executive Board, in consultation with the relevant departments and experts, ordered various measures to improve privacy and security. The Board included the Council and the community in this and informed them in detail.
Not compatible with purpose
Despite the privacy and security improvements made, the Council does not consider this advanced equipment compatible with its purpose – counting those present in rooms – and has advised the Board to remove it. The Council would like to discuss alternative equipment with the Executive Board because it is not necessarily opposed to the use of technology to count people.
The university is now developing a plan to dismantle the people counters/sensors and, from the perspective of the sustainable reuse of resources, wants to try to find a suitable destination for their redeployment outside the university.