Rec Center to install webcams

With the end of the semester approaching, many students use the Campus Recreation Center to relieve stress and improve their health. However, long lines and waiting lists can add to the stress of a busy day.

Student body Vice President Sameer Ahmed and Campus Recreation Center Director Eric Hunter are implementing a solution to provide students with an easy way to see if the equipment they want to use is available.

By the beginning of the summer semester, the Rec Center will have video cameras placed in high-traffic areas, including the basketball courts and over the treadmills. The cameras will stream images directly to the Rec Center and Student Government Web sites so students can see if those areas are busy before they head to the gym.

Hunter said the cameras cost $13,400, with SG picking up $8,500 and Campus Rec paying for the rest.

In the past month, Ahmed has been promoting the idea to SG. He said the cost of the cameras is justified because they will provide added security and help students keep up with high-traffic areas.

Ahmed said the cameras will act as a deterrent to people who may otherwise try to take gym equipment and will allow staff to respond quickly to fights that break out.

Hunter said the cameras will save some people an unnecessary trip if they’re pressed for time.

“So often, (students) arrive to see the gym totally packed with people and are not able to play,” Hunter said.

Most students asked outside the gym were in favor of the idea, and many said they would start to check how crowded the gym was before going in the future.

“That would be convenient,” freshman Ben Wadsworth said. “Especially if you live on campus.”

Some students, though, said the idea was not practical because the gym could easily become crowded in the time between checking the cameras and getting to the gym.

“That’s a waste,” senior Luke Gitten said. “Who is going to be on their laptop outside the gym?”

For students concerned about privacy issues, Hunter said the cameras will only be focused on certain areas, and the resolution will be set too low to pick out individual faces.

The video feeds will be recorded to a digital video recorder, Ahmed said. Campus police will be able to zoom in to pick up details in the room, but the people watching on the Web sites will have no control of the images.

“It will be set up so you can see the general traffic,” Ahmed said. “It will not be set up so you can watch people work out.”

Hunter said privacy isn’t really an issue because the areas that will be recorded are open to the public for video recording and photographs. Classes often go to those areas and take pictures for projects.

“They don’t have to get permission from people in those areas,” Hunter said.

Ahmed said there’s one reason that takes precedence over the others to have cameras in the Rec Center.

“The Rec Center is owned by students,” Ahmed said. “It’s our gym. That’s why it’s free to all of us. If we’re not going to take care of it, who will?”