MSA proposes webcams in dining halls, Rec Center

Live feeds would allow students to check crowd levels from home.

The Missouri Students Association is looking to install webcams in both dining halls and the Student Recreation Complex.

The cameras would stream live video on the Internet, so students could see whether the location was busy before leaving their residence hall or apartment.

"There are a couple questions that we are needing to answer regarding policy and stance of the privacy of our guests," Campus Dining Services Marketing Specialist Andrew Lough said. "For example, if any publication sends a photographer into the dining hall, we generally require that they are accompanied at all times."

Lough said both MSA and the Residence Halls Association have brought the issue to CDS. They are also looking into getting a webcam in Bookmark Cafe at Ellis Library and other public places.

"In general, it's such a new concept, our opinion is kind of neutral until we can explore the options and see what pros and cons there are," Lough said. "We want to make sure there aren't any unintended consequences."

Student Affairs Chairwoman Michelle Horan said though nothing was set so far, CDS is approximating the cameras being up by next fall. Student Affairs member Claire Kates is taking on the initiative.

"There are webcams already for the construction areas, like by the new student center and the J school," MSA President Tim Noce said. "It would be in one of the corners, like if you were to look into the window."

Noce said there should not be issues with privacy because there are already cameras on campus. There is a camera by Stankowski Field, originally implemented for students to be able to watch construction progress but is now used to see if the fields are empty or full.

Lough said privacy issues were raised in Columbia when the idea of installing cameras in parking garages was proposed. There are citizens who hold a strong opposition to the idea for the sake of privacy.

Noce said there have not been any student complaints against the idea yet.

"I received an e-mail from Michelle Horan about an idea she had about placing cameras in the more popular areas of the complex for 'web camming,' " Recreation Services and Facilities Director Diane Dahlmann said in an e-mail. "In my response, I told Michelle that it was a good idea which should be considered. I also raised the question about funding for such an initiative."

Dahlmann said MSA has funds for a variety of projects and initiatives and an MSA initiative could be funded by MSA.

Horan said the recreation complex wants MSA to pay for the cameras but is 99 percent sure CDS will pay for the cameras in the dining hall. CDS has a budget of approximately $25 million.

"It is something we want to investigate with student groups and Residential Life," Lough said. "We want to make sure we think through it first. We try to treat the dining locations as we would the residents' home dining room."

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