It’s a common experience; you’re waiting in line in front of the dining commons at that particular time of the night when it seems like the entire freshman class decided they were simultaneously hungry and needed food right this instant. You’ve got a late-night section in twenty minutes and are mentally debating if you can inhale a burrito that quickly or if you should just give up and grab a grease covered meal at Late Night afterwards. Everyone around you is thinking the same thing, and just in case you weren’t aware by the way, you’re all being watched.
Placed in carefully decided (and generally unnoticed) places, newly installed cameras are keeping an eye (lens) on the steady flow of undergrads in and out of the dining commons doors’. For those aware of them, they offer the unique opportunity to check the stream online, see a crowd of irritated and hungry-looking college kids outside a door, and decide food can wait another 20 minutes.
Meatless Mondays. The 45 minutes directly after 10 a.m. when everyone gets out of their morning classes and realizes if they don’t grab breakfast now, they don’t eat until lunch. Six to 7 p.m. when the same thing happens for night classes and nighttime munchies. Dining commons have rush hours, moments when everybody’s hungry at exactly the same time. Crowded tables and people standing in the aisles with full plates in their hands and a deer-in-the-headlights expression are as commonplace as the salad bar.
The odd thing though is that rushes rarely hit all the dining commons at the same time. De La Guerra might be packed while Ortega’s nearly empty. Carrillo’s probably borderline empty as the upperclassmen become more adept at negotiating the do’s and don’ts of Isla Vista food. Cameras could let freshmen (and other dorm bound students like myself) broaden their gastronomic sensibilities. Never been to Carrillo? Well, the live stream says its empty while you’d have to wait 20 minutes outside Ortega, who knows how long outside DLG? And I know what all you naysayers are yelling about. Are we really that lazy that we can’t just go look at the line in person? Of course we are! Half of us wouldn’t go to class if professors didn’t realize the abusive control of iClickers and their magical ability to get hungover students to go to an 8 a.m. lecture.
Money-wise, the university budgets an amount for improvements at the dining commons. Sometimes, this is used to buy espresso machines. Sometimes, it buys cameras. I’m not saying it’s the best way to use money, but it’s already budgeted and I’m pretty sure the excessive amount of money we spend on things like ensuring our basketball coach hangs around deserve more scrutiny than buying the same cameras that watch you on street corners. On a more dramatic note, the cameras serve a security purpose. While cameras in the UCen and places like Target are designed to discourage you from stealing, and used as physical evidence even if you toss the five fingered discount item, it’s simply not possible for the management staff at the dining commons to watch your every move the second you walk in.
Most of the managers don’t even have access to the cameras currently in use. Even if they did, it’s not probable for them to have someone sit there and pay that person to look for people swiping a piece of pie. Even if they did catch you, it’d be a simple “put it back” and that’d be the end of that. Certainly not worth paying someone eight bucks an hour to sit on their butt. The cameras aren’t useful for petty little crimes. Catching someone swiping a cheeseburger isn’t high up on their list of things to do. But catching a shooter, getting a visual image of a criminal passing through the university, that just might be.
In conclusion, fellow university students, don’t sweat the small stuff. Anything that can make life easier is a good thing. Cameras might not be a university necessity, but when have we ever lived our lives with only the necessities?