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Rec Center patrons should know they’re being watched

Kudos to Student Government and Recreation Center officials for trying to solve students’ problems – but next time, they might want to look more carefully before they leap.

In response to numerous complaints from the student body regarding the crowded nature of the gym, then-student body President Maxon Victor decided in 2005 that it would be a good idea to set up webcams in the Recreation Center. Due to issues with SG’s Web site, the cameras could not be viewed until recently – and then only on SG’s Web site. There is neither a link to the cameras on the Recreation Center’s Web site nor an acknowledgement that they exist.

According to Campus Recreation Director Eric Hunter, the cameras do not enable the viewer to identify people, but provide an overall picture of the crowd in each of the two basketball courts, the weight room and the portion of the Recreation Center containing cardiovascular machines. That’s why they were implemented. “People asked, ‘What if we just knew if equipment was being used?'” said SG senator Kayla Munro. Now they will – but that presents a problem in itself.

There are no signs in the Recreation Center informing students that they are being recorded. When asked by the Oracle, students thought that was a problem. Pheobe Ray, a senior majoring in chemistry, thought she “could definitely see where some girls could see (the cameras) as a problem.” Ahmad Ragab, a graduate student, thought that “(SG) should at least let us know (about the cameras).”

To be fair, however, it’s also likely that neither Ray nor Ragab want to wait in long lines to work out – most don’t.

But the good intentions behind the cameras don’t dilute their problematic nature or their potentially dangerous aspects. There might be more than a few people who do not want their bodies to be broadcast on the Internet while they’re exercising in gym clothes that often hug the figure. Since there’s nothing telling students they’re being recorded, there is no way for students to consent to being recorded.

Consent, though, is a small issue compared to the possibility of a sexual predator, murderer or other criminal being motivated or facilitated by the cameras. If that happened, the long lines at the gym would become something USF wished it had simply endured.

Colin Mailloux, USF’s associate general counsel, said legal issues surrounding the cameras are “something I suppose (the General Counsel’s office) might look into.” It is hopeful that will be unnecessary, as SG and the Recreation Center can work together to fix the issues surrounding their new online service. In the future, however, it would be wiser for them to consider such issues beforehand: When it comes to the facilitation of crime, there are no second chances.