Tag Archives: university

(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

Bobby Seale Disappoints, Says USF Professor

On Feb. 24, some 250 people jammed into McLaren Hall to hear Bobby Seale interviewed by my colleague, Professor Candice Harrison, of the History Department. The crowd showed an admirable mixture of USF’ers and people from the wider Bay Area community. Bobby Seale exhibited much charm and humor in his replies to Professor Harrison’s questions, relating stories of his rebellious youth along with a moving account of his awakening to racial pride. Toward the end, when he recited by heart and at double-time the long, angry poem that once got him arrested for obscenity on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue back in the early 1960s, it brought the house down. I left feeling well entertained.

But that was exactly the problem. The more I thought about it, I realized that I hadn’t learned very much about the issues of importance raised by Bobby Seale’s place in history as one of the founders and leaders of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, the most significant black power organization in the United States from 1967 until the early 1970s. Seale actually said almost nothing about those years. And most strikingly, he shared none of his reflections back on that time from the vantage point of today. Bobby Seale today is a man of age 75 or so. How does his mature vision take stock of what he and others did in their twenties and thirties in the heat of a great national upheaval?

Perhaps the central issue raised by the history of the BPP is the place of violence in movements for social justice. When the Panthers showed up in 1967 at the State Capitol in Sacramento armed with guns, it created a sensation. How does he look on that moment now?

Assessing the Panthers’ violent history is no easy task. Emerging out of a social milieu itself subject to violence of many sorts, including brutality by urban police forces that were nearly exclusively white, the Panthers took up the challenge of defending African Americans from attack. Yet they brought violent responses with them, both within their own membership and to the outside world. And the whole picture was complicated by the presence of government informants planted within the organization. This difficult historical record is exactly what today’s activists and the general public could benefit from thinking about as they look for models from the past to guide future actions.

Near the end of his interview Seale recalled an altercation which ensued when a Berkeley policeman tried to arrest him. The two fell to the ground, and Seale reached for a knife in his pocket and cut the officer on his hand. Seale minimized this action, telling the audience that it was only a very small, scouting knife, the kind that has a corkscrew and nail file attached. The audience laughed with him, though this time a little more nervously than before. The perfect opportunity for Seale to add his mature reflection on this youthful incident and raise the general subject of violence passed, and the incident was left glorified, as if nothing had been learned from fifty years of subsequent experience. In the end, I’m afraid, the evening offered little more than a reliving of the sixties, with all its heroism and illusions still intact.

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Natalie Cappetta

Opinion Editor: Vicente Patino

U.S. News and World Report Rankings Irrelevan

he University of San Francisco is back in the top tier of U.S. News and World Report’s 2009 national university rankings after dropping to the third tier last year.  The first tier consists of the top 130 universities as determined by U.S. News and World Report.  USF is ranked #127.  

The rankings are based on seven different categories:  peer assessment (25%), retention (20%), faculty resources (20%), student selectivity (15%), financial resources (10%), graduate rate performance (5%), and alumni giving (5%).  

While it is flattering to be mentioned in the top tier of national universities with so many other prestigious schools, we feel that little if any value should be placed on the rankings for several reasons.  

Not every school submits their data to US News and World Report.  

The report only includes 1,400 colleges and universities nation wide. 

The very fact that schools submit information themselves and there is no arbitrary data collector could lead the data to be skewed.

There are some factors in the rankings that are not relevant in rating the type of education you get at a university.  Alumni donations have little to do with what students are learning in class. USF focuses on educating students to help others, work that many not allow alumni the financial resouces to donate to their alma mater. 

There are many reasons why students transfer to and from a university.  Some students transfer for sports, others leave for financial reasons, and so on. 

Basing 20% of the total ranking on retention alone is much too high and doesn’t take into account those other factors.  

There are also factors that are not included in the assessment that are pivotal parts of an educational experience.  

The learning environment is not taken into account.  There is no way of accounting for the off-campus, city experience that a student gets at USF in these rankings.

There is no mention of small class size and easily accessible professors; two things that students at USF benefit from.  

What is most confusing about these rankings is that USF jumped from 3rd tier to 1st tier in just one year.  

Have the qualities that make USF what it is changed that significantly over the past year?  

San Francisco is still the same diverse, unique city that it was a year ago.  

USF’s Jesuit values and core mission has not changed. 

Our commitments to small classes, quality academic programming and educating  the whole person have not changed.  These are the factors that our university should be judged upon. 

We are troubled by the U.S. News and World Report rankings primarily because of the weight they carry for students choosing which schools to apply to and eventually go to.  

We advocate choosing a school based on many other factors other that US News and World Report’s rankings. 

Students should choose a school that fits their needs both in an educational and social sense.  There is no substitute for comfort. 

Students are more likely to succeed in a city and on a campus in which they feel they belong.  This should be taken far more seriously than the report, if you consider the report at all.