(Graphic by Jasmine Bautista)

Smile for the Camera: Facial Profiling Coming to Residence Halls

Like something out of a James Bond film, dorm residents of USF may soon be greeted with a facial recognition camera — if the test run goes well, that is. Currently, only one residence hall, Fromm, has this technology, but it has been in a “pilot” phase since Fall 2013.

“It’s a big security enhancement.We’re using technology to improve something that’s already being done,” said Jason Rossi, the Director of One Card and Campus Security Systems. Rossi explained that the software does exactly what front-desk workers (referred to as Community Assistants, or CAs) do — recognizes people’s faces and determines whether or not they belong in the building.

The facial recognition technology is meant to increase security in the residence halls by identifying any non-residents trying to enter the building, and flagging them for the CAs.

USF Law Professor Susan Freiwald, who specializes in cyber law and information privacy, said,  “I’m glad the university seems interested in making sure that the cameras are effective in their purpose, rather than putting them up just because they can.”

Freiwald did raise concerns over campus security being able to learn her habits and the hours she keeps.

“It’s a good idea to have a record of non-authorized access to solve crimes, but it seems unnecessary to store information of people for whom there is no suspicion of wrongdoing for a whole year,” she added.

Addressing privacy concerns, Rossi noted that, “no one is actively watching the footage.” For those concerned about the facial database that campus security will have access to, Rossi assured that the photos would only be stored for the duration the student lives in the residence hall.     He explained that having our faces captured, whether by static photo or live-video, is a culturally accepted phenomenon.

“Is your face on Facebook? Mine is, my children’s are,” Rossi said, “There’s something as a culture…where, if I were at a Giants’ game and my face got put up on the big screen, I’d jump for joy.”

Is this technology effective? While the technology is working in Fromm, it has yet to be launched for CAs. Rossi said the residence hall staff should be trained on the facial recognition software in March. A Fromm Hall CA, Giana Orsi, said that she, “doesn’t know much about it,” but, “ it seems like a nice backup.”

Currently, non-residents are allowed in residence halls as long as they are properly checked in as a “guest” by a resident of the building and a community assistant. However some USF students don’t  follow this protocol and attempt to sneak in, bypassing the front desk and creating security issues. Many USF students travel in large groups, making it difficult for the community assistant to tell who is entering the building.

This new technology is intended to make the CA’s job easier. Students moving into a residence hall will have their photos taken during move-in; these photos will be stored in a database for one year. Throughout the rest of the school year a camera outside of the building will capture student faces, and using the data from the stored photos, will determine who the student is and if they live in the building. The CA at the desk will be notified if a non-resident is trying to enter the building.

The camera log is only visible right now to Public Safety and One Card to determine its accuracy. In terms of identifying faces, it has shown 70% accuracy so far in Fromm Hall, according to Rossi. He explained the camera needs a good shot of a student’s face in order to work, meaning students wearing baseball caps or looking down at their phones are not always accurately identified.

Rossi explains the technology not only makes the CA’s job of providing security easier, but it will compliment students’ natural tendencies to travel in large groups. “[Campus security] is always trying to break the way that you naturally function, but this technology will compliment how you already move around on campus,” Rossi said.

Facial recognition technology is quickly making its way into our everyday lives. The New York Times reported that certain retailers, who already use facial recognition to catch shoplifters, are looking into installing the technology to track big spenders to offer them discounts and deals. Facial recognition is becoming so ubiquitous that a pair of Japanese professors has already invented high-tech glasses that would shield you from facial recognition cameras. Their aim? To stop the “invasion of privacy caused by photographs taken in secret,” the professors told Slate magazine.

Sally Morgan, Assistant Resident Director of Fromm Hall, recognized potential student privacy concerns. “I’m sure some students will have privacy concerns but they should understand that it’s for their own safety,” she said. “There has to be a balance between keeping our residents safe and making sure they don’t feel like their privacy has been violated.”

Rossi also referenced this quote, spoken by Harvard Professor Juliette Kayyem, when further addressing privacy concerns: “The general public has an unrealistic expectation of pure security; however, they have little interest in the preparedness process. Interest in security peaks during a time of crisis and the public has little to no tolerance for breaches of security.”

Graphic by Jasmine Bautista

Lyricist Lounge Generates Self-Expression and Support within USF

Creative expression and great vibes were all in abundance last Friday evening for the semester’s first Lyricist Lounge. The event encourages students to express their thoughts, explore their identities, and engage in the power of community through Spoken Word poetry, singing, rapping, visual art, etc.

Over one hundred students attended this collective building and community-fostering event at the UC fourth floor last Friday.

Ciara Cici Swan, senior and coordinator of Lyricist Lounge, hopes this monthly event will bring more “love and higher energies vibrating from once idle souls.” By functioning as a free, accepting, and completely open environment, it invites a diverse group of students to speak their minds and enable open dialogue about their experiences
or feelings.

“The most beneficial aspect of Lyricist Lounge is that it includes creative individual expression along the basis of collective building and community-fostering,” Swan said. “They represent solitude and going against heteronormativity as well as function to embrace the negotiation of ‘-isms.’”

Due to immense enthusiasm for these events and growing awareness about its strength within the USF community, January’s Lyricist Lounge garnered one of the highest turnouts of the academic year so far. Many new performers came to showcase poems or songs they had written. The audience played a huge role at the event as those who didn’t perform were fully engaged by creating an empowering environment of support with cheering and enthusiasm for all performers.

Because of its growing success, Swan said Lyricist Lounge may become “one of those Friday kick-it spots on campus.” In her eyes, these evenings are “something new, recycled, composted.”

The next Lyricist Lounge will be held on Feb. 28th in the UC at 7 p.m. and due to Black History Month, the event will focus on exploring racial identities.

For more information, contact the Intercultural Center at:
interculturalcenter@usfca.edu,

Gender and Sexuality Center at: gsc@usfca.edu, or
USF’s Spoken Word club at:
usfwordpoetryclub@gmail.com.

For the price of $12, NightLife attendees are able to enjoy all that the California Academy of Sciences has to offer and more. Last week’s event hosted comedians from this year’s 13th annual Sketchfest. (Photo courtesy of Tommy Lau)

NightLife Dazzles: Cal Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences, located in Golden Gate Park, features a full aquarium, a newly-built planetarium, and a glass-encased micro-rainforest with a running river and all of the world’s ecosystems.  In the after hours of every Thursday night, the museum becomes a venue for NightLife—a  science-filled, boozy affair for the city’s 21+ crowd.

Every NightLife showcases a different theme and schedules different activities for its guests, but the best part is that while regular day tickets to the Academy are priced at $29.95 ($24.95 for students), NightLife tickets will only set you back $12. The event starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m., and the whole museum is still yours to explore until about 9:00 p.m.

Jackie Kashian (right) of the podcast, the Dork Forest, sits with guest comedians Todd Glass, Ron Funches, and Janet Varney. (Photo Courtesy of Tommy Lau)

Jackie Kashian (right) of the podcast, the Dork Forest, sits with guest comedians Todd Glass, Ron Funches, and Janet Varney. (Photo Courtesy of Tommy Lau)

I attended last Thursday’s NightLife when Sketchfest was hosting a slew of comedic talent for the night’s entertainment.  Among many other comedians, I watched Last Comic Standing’s Todd Glass have some fun with the audience.  The main comedy show was packed—seats ran out pretty quickly, but with enough standing space to easily maneuver to and from the bar. Different rooms in the museum showcased comic sketches of various nature-related topics. In between shows I still had plenty of time to mill about, cocktail in hand, to soak up the permanent museum installations.

Patrons also got the a chance to dance to some DJ’d pop synth on the top floor, pose for a free Cubist portrait of themselves, or cozy up to Claude the albino Alligator. It was a Thursday night well spent. The atmosphere was relaxed yet upbeat, the performers had me laughing, and it was hard to be unimpressed in a building as beautiful as the museum.

The Academy comes up with new themes each week, and the events usually draw a respectable crowd.  If you’re looking for a lot to do on a little dime, I highly recommend checking out the California Academy of Science’s upcoming NightLife event.  Schedules of the evening’s activities can always be found on the museum’s website at http://www.calacademy.org/events/nightlife, so be on the lookout for themes that pique your interest!

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia Addresses Aspiring Lawyers

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and lexicographer Bryan A. Garner spoke to USF law students about ethics and the art of pursuading a judge. (Photo courtesy of Shawn Calhoun)

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and lexicographer Bryan A. Garner spoke to USF law students about ethics and the art of pursuading a judge. (Photo courtesy of Shawn Calhoun)

Security was high last Friday, Jan. 31, when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and lexicographer Bryan A. Garner presented the keynote address for the 2014 USF Law Review Symposium, “Legal Ethics in the 21st Century: Technology, Speech, and Money.”

Scalia and Garner discussed their latest book, “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts,” and gave advice on “the art of persuading judges” to USF law students in the audience.

Despite the high security upon entering the event and the formal attire of the attending law community, the symposium took a casual tone as Scalia and Garner relayed their advice in a conversational manner. Justice Scalia, advising law practitioners in the art of the oral argument, suggested, “master[ing] the use of the pause.” Garner followed jokingly with, “Yes, but the problem with the pause is the judge might actually ask a question during that time.”

A major theme of the symposium was the ethical conduction of law.

In his introduction, Dean of the School of Law John Trasviña said that USF’s focus on Jesuit education helps create “ethically legal professionals,” a virtue also emphasized by Scalia and Garner. “It’s the ethical responsibility as a lawyer to be the best lawyer you can be,” Garner said.

Scalia, the longest-serving Supreme Court justice, is no stranger to Jesuit education — he graduated from the Jesuit Georgetown University in 1957, according to Georgetown Law. Justice Scalia said he tries to be “as perfect as his heavenly Father” in his work as a Supreme Court Justice. “Jesus Christ was not a sloppy carpenter,” he joked, in reference to his meticulous approach to serving a now 26-year term.

When asked why USF was chosen as the symposium location, Trasviña said, “The bar association in San Francisco reached out to us — we have a strong partnership with them. And I think Justice Scalia, coming from Georgetown, feels a particular kinship to USF.”

Along with discussion of ethical law, Justice Scalia offered practical advice. He asked, “Why do lawyers write so badly?” After allowing a moment for his audience to mull the question over, he answered, “they read nothing but judicial opinions. You’ve got to read the ‘good stuff.’ You’ll hear a lawyer speaking and he’ll say something like, ‘the aforesaid…’ We have a perfectly good word for replacing [the aforesaid], and it’s ‘THAT,’” said Scalia, referring to the unnecessary use of complicated language by lawyers attempting to write eloquently. “Clarity is paramount,” Garner added.

The symposium was conducted for the benefit of students and professionals in the law community; however, the values that Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner discussed can be seen as beneficial lessons from any point of view.  “I could have used pretty much all of those points for my classes — public relations or public speaking,” USF communications studies professor Brian Vannice said.

According to USF law student Miles Maurino, Justice Scalia has “been in the majority opinions for some of the most catastrophic judicial decisions our country has seen.” Noting that Scalia has consistently advocated for conservative opinions over the years — opinions that have fundamentally changed our country—Maurino added, “while he demands respect as such a high ranking government official, some of his opinions have had very bad, far reaching effects on our country.”

Senior communication studies major Erin McCroskey attended the symposium for her “Public Relations: Law and Ethics” class. “I called my mom earlier and told her I was going to see Justice Scalia speak today. She said, ‘Oh my God, you never get that kind of opportunity — I hope you take notes!’” McCroskey said.

Another point of advice Justice Scalia gave law students is to “assume a posture of intellectual equality.” He noted that a judge has only spent a fraction of the time looking at a case compared to the lawyer who knows the information inside and out after working on the case for months. Therefore it is important to present the case as someone on equal intellectual grounds as the judge. Justice Scalia shook his head and concluded, “Sucking up doesn’t work.”

Make your point and make it well — and then move on. Scalia told students, “Don’t beat a dead horse. Don’t let a dead horse beat you.” If something is presented adequately, he said, it will not be necessary to reiterate the information — and doing so can make your case seem weak.

Justice Scalia also urged the law community to “treasure simplicity.” The most persuasive arguments are often the simplest ones, and using tactics to dress up a case can make it seem less credible. “Banish figurative language,” Garner added.

USF Law student David Angelo attended the symposium as well.    When asked what brought them to the event, Angelo said, “He’s an important figure, you gotta hear what he has to say whether you agree or not.”

Open Love Letter from a Former USF Professor

Cuttler dons African garb while attending Father Godfrey’s homily, dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela, at St. Agnes Catholic Church. (Photo courtesy of Sasha Cuttler)

Cuttler dons African garb while attending Father Godfrey’s homily, dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela, at St. Agnes Catholic Church. (Photo courtesy of Sasha Cuttler)

Editor’s note: In an effort to keep the piece as is, the author has permitted me to clarify the context of the sort of love referenced below, for the reader. It is unusual for men to talk about non-romantic love. He talked of a love that is rarely discussed: agape. 

   Agape is not only known as a love for God, but can be described as a brotherly and sisterly love. As he stated during our chat, “There is more than one kind of love in the world…[including] non-sexual love. I am all about reclaiming that love.” 

   He intends to have understood that “… it is a force that people should claim and use as a tool in their work.” Sasha believes this sort of love can be a powerful force for political transformation.  

I love Reverend Donal Godfrey S.J. At first blush, it may seem peculiar that I am professing my love for Donal Godfrey. After all, I am a Jew, and Donal is a Catholic. I am a nurse, and Donal is a priest. I was born in the U.S., Donal was not.  On the other hand, as a Jesuit, Donal has the initials “S.J.” (Society of Jesus) while my initials are also S.J. (for Sasha Jonathan). I like to think that it also represents the ideal of “social justice” which Donal and I both support.

My love for Donal is an expression of solidarity as well as affection. While I taught in the School of Nursing at the University of San Francisco, Donal was the Director of University Ministry. One day, a student asked if she could make up an examination because she was going with Donal to demonstrate outside the U.S. military’s School of the Americas. I was happy to oblige, as one of my dear friends lost her husband and brother to death squads in El Salvador. It is possible that the killers received their training at this school and I was glad that Donal was leading a non-violent protest that honors the memory of my friend’s family and the martyred Jesuits in the same small country.

I also love Donal because he made my students cry. I asked him to come speak with my students, many of whom had lost friends to the AIDS epidemic. Donal had compiled a marvelous oral history of the Most Holy Redeemer parish, in the Castro, which was at the epicenter of the outbreak. Rather than lecture, Donal suggested that we each talk about how the epidemic affected us as individuals and as nurses. Our salty tears of loving memory transcended the many differences between us at that class session.

I was really touched and honored that Donal posted a photo on social media of the two of us together, he in clerical robes, me in African garb. I came to hear Donal give a homily in honor of the late Nelson Mandela. Is this cultural appropriation? I do not think so; my intention was instead to celebrate the life of another man who fought for social justice against terrible odds. Donal and I are certainly more similar to the other than either  one of us is to Nelson Mandela. Imitation may not always be the sincerest form of flattery, but at times it certainly can be.

My love of Donal is a challenge to those who may be uncomfortable with warmth and love between two men. What’s to stop me from shouting my affection from the rooftops? After all, I love both my father as well as Father Donal. Homophobia is of course part of the answer. But I think there are other reasons. Does my love for Donal mean that we agree on everything? I would hope not. Indeed, no one would question my love for my partner or my daughters yet we disagree on many things. People like Donal Godfrey will not settle for mere tolerance of superficial differences among human beings. I love Donal because he is a pragmatic idealist working to create, nurture and embrace a better world. This is not the sort of love that is born from exchanges of candy and flowers, but it makes me smile as though it were.

USF Student Missing, Family and Friends Hope for Safe Return

 

Missing USF student Bradley Bennett (Courtesy of Bennett Family)

Missing USF student Bradley Bennett (Courtesy of Bennett Family)

Nothing seemed too out of the ordinary when Bradley Bennett’s family last heard from him on January 4th — a little bit of uncertainty perhaps on what his next move was, but his father never suspected he would be filing a missing person’s report for his son just weeks later.

Bennett, a 32-year-old USF student, was reported missing after his friends and family couldn’t get ahold of him for weeks. He was spotted once in Fresno on Jan. 8 and once in Bear Valley on Jan. 13, but by the times those reports were made to the police, Bennett had already disappeared, according to his father Steve Bennett.

“The greatest fear is the fear of the unknown,” said Steve Bennett in regards to his son’s disappearance. As a pastor, he’s counseled parents who have lost a child to death, but “I think there’s closure with death, and this… this is a little different,” said his father.

Neither Bennett’s father or his friend Seva Mouler, a computer science graduate, suspect he was taken away against his will. “He was definitely one to go on adventures,” said Mouler. But this time is a little different, he thinks, because no one can get ahold of him. “I’ve called him a lot of times. [His phone] connects, rings a couple times, and then has an error,” said Mouler.

Bennett’s father thinks he might be on some kind of spiritual journey. “Brad is a Christian, and he thinks on the basis of that, he thinks about theology a lot,” he said.

His friend Mouler said he hopes that if that is the case, “he will come back a better person and figure everything out that he wants to figure out,” he said. Mouler was worried about his friend after finding out he was evicted from his Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, a result of the discontinuation of money he was receiving from the navy.

Bennett is a veteran, as he spent five years in the navy. After he returned, he lived in Jamestown, Ky., and spent a year living in Minnesota with his a friend he met while serving, but he was always drawn to California. His father thinks some of his uncertainty may have had to do with him missing his friends back home, and that he was having some trouble discovering himself.

As far as Bennett’s relationship with the family, Steve Bennett said they were all very close. “We’ve had a good relationship, not to say relationships aren’t strained from time to time,” he said.

Both his father and his friend spoke about his character. Mouler said he always had other people’s best interest in mind, saying he was so nice to others that it sometimes was detrimental to him. Steve Bennett explained that he was drawn to homeless people in San Francisco, Mouler thinks this is due to his desire to help people.

As far as his spirit, Steve Bennett said, “this is one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. “There’s still a little numbness, sometimes it’s a little hard to process everything,” said Bennett, trailing off.

Bradley Bennett is enrolled as a fine arts major at USF. He is an artist and loves drawing and painting. Mouler said Bennett loved all his classes and his teachers, and “he had no reason to leave USF.”

Steve Bennett explained, “one of the things I have learned from this is often we do not realize how our actions and our decisions can greatly affect other people.” He asks that the USF community acts as the eyes and ears for Bennett and his family, “because we’re not there. Any information leading to Bradley’s whereabouts is greatly appreciated.”

Bradley Bennett is 175 pounds and 6 feet tall. If anyone has information leading to Bennett, the San Francisco Police Department can be contacted at (415) 558-5508.