FAMU installs surveillance signs on campus after graduate posts naked pic to Instagram

·4 min read
Florida A&M University adds signs on campus, including near the Rattler statue, to send a message out about video surveillance in progress.
Florida A&M University adds signs on campus, including near the Rattler statue, to send a message out about video surveillance in progress.

Florida A&M University recently brought in about 100 surveillance signs to campus that remind everyone to "say cheese" — because its security team is watching.

The Rattler Watch signs, which went up on campus this week, state that video surveillance is in progress 24 hours a day, and seven days a week, with all activity being monitored and recorded by FAMU’s Department of Campus Safety and Security.

The posted signs end with: "Smile, we're watching you."

More FAMU news:

FAMU grad's revealing photo trends online, attracts investigation

FAMU’s summer commencement of more than 400 students Friday, July 30, was overshadowed by the unexpected spotlight of one of its graduates after she shared a revealing ⁠— yet trending ⁠— post on social media.

The FAMU master's degree graduate posted an Instagram photo of herself with no clothes on in front of FAMU’s iconic Rattler statue. Her nudity was accompanied by long strands of snake-like hair extensions and gold stiletto heels.

While the graduate's post received a combination of support, backlash and ridicule from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook users, she holds her head up high and continues to stand behind the message she intended to send out through her post: body appreciation.

“Anybody who knows me knows that I’ve been dressing provocative my whole life,” the graduate wrote in her photo’s caption on July 29. “There’s a lot of assumptions that have come with me accepting my body. A lot of people questioned my capabilities and intelligence solely based on how I choose to dress. As I’m standing here with my master's degree at the tender age of 24, I am the living proof that clothes do not define you. I encourage every body to embrace their bodies and step outside social norms.”

Florida A&M says incident did not prompt signs

FAMU released a statement about the image the next day to address next steps.

“The university is aware of the picture taken and is currently investigating the incident,” Vice President of Student Affairs William E. Hudson Jr. said in the release.

As of Friday, the investigation is still underway, a FAMU spokesman said. FAMU President Larry Robinson has not issued any public statement about the incident that some found embarrassing and disrespectful to the university.

The Rattler Watch signs were not installed in direct response to the photo incident, Calloway said. He declined to share information related to the investigation, including if the photo shoot was captured on the surveillance video.

Florida A&M University Police Chief Terence Calloway
Florida A&M University Police Chief Terence Calloway

"Safety is important to us, and we ordered the signs a few weeks ago just to get the message out that campus is under continuous surveillance,” said FAMU Chief of Police Terence Calloway, who is also assistant vice president of Campus Safety and Security.

About 25 signs are installed so far at parking lot entrances, residence halls, and both inside and around campus buildings such as the Center for Access and Student Success.

There are more than 1,500 cameras on campus, which are monitored around the clock at the FAMU Police Department's dispatch center.

But at the same time, the sign next to the statue in front of the CASS building reinforces the university’s expectations about the statue and protocol.

“We don't mind people taking a photo by the snake,” Calloway said, “but the signage is generally our message to new incoming freshmen, returning students, faculty, staff and visitors that we don't want people walking on the border and all that type of stuff.”

More on Rattler statue: Lamont artist brings authenticity to Rattler sculpture at FAMU's CASS building

Social media buzzing with reactions to naked Rattler selfie

The graduate earned her bachelor’s degree at Florida International University in 2020 and entered FAMU that same year to begin her master’s degree studies in counselor education.

Florida A&M University adds signs on campus, including near the Rattler statue, to send a message out about video surveillance in progress.
Florida A&M University adds signs on campus, including near the Rattler statue, to send a message out about video surveillance in progress.

Many social media users commented under the graduate's post saying that her degree should be held and that she should be required to pay a fine for her actions, but she dismissed the accusations.

“How the people from the highest of seven hills praying on my downfall?! My degree was earned, not given. They cannot take it away,” the graduate wrote in a caption Monday. “If you want FAMU to withhold my degree, then you’re the real snakes.”

Commentators, including FAMU alumni, are simply disappointed about the trending photo.

“Not something I ever thought I’d see from my FAMUly,” Instagram user Kenny Davis said. “As a photographer, I would have tried to discourage this. As a Rattler, I’m saddened.”

An alumna with the Instagram username lesarlena, said, “Very classless and a horrible representation of my HBCU (Historical Black College and University). This is flat out disrespectful.”

Despite the negative remarks, comments under the graduate's post are sprinkled with some uplifting ones.

“Congrats queen, this image is outshining your win,” Facebook user Amy Ingraham said.

Contact Tarah Jean at tjean@tallahassee.com or follow her on twitter @tarahjean_.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: FAMU adds surveillance signs after grad posts risque Rattler photo