Students under surveillance
Resident group mounts website to expose student parties
Partygoers in the Ghetto could find their pictures and addresses posted online with the launch of a new watchdog website.
Last week, Kingston-based Save Our Neighbourhood Action Group (SONAG) launched saveourneighbourhood.ca, a website dedicated to curbing illegal partying and rowdy behavior within the Queen’s student housing area.
One of the sections of the website includes photos of student parties taken by SONAG founder and former city councillor Don Rogers with accompanying descriptions and the addresses of the houses.
Rogers said he started taking photos of student parties so Queen’s alumni and Kingston residents could keep tabs on happenings in the Ghetto.
“I think that many people and residents of Kingston that don’t live near the campus and Queen’s alumni across the country have no idea what is taking place in their old neighbourhood,” he said. “We felt that it was important to document what is happening in public space for the residents of Kingston and Queen’s alumni across the country to observe.”
Rogers said he didn’t ask permission to photograph any of the students that appear on the website, nor is he required to under law. “I was certainly visible most of the time. You can see from the pictures they’re quite open,” he said. “I made audio recordings where I was in place for a greater length of time and was not particularly visible in those situations. These were taken from the sidewalk, from the street, certainly documenting what is happening in public spaces.”
Rogers said the audio and video recordings he made aren’t on the website yet, but he plans to post them once he acquires more server space.
“I already have had someone volunteer additional server space, so once I get additional server space, I’ll have audio clips and videos.”
Rogers said he doesn’t find it unethical.
“If the individuals don’t want to be seen on the Internet, then they should have their parties and activities indoors,” he said. “If they choose to use public space … then I think they should be prepared for the public, including their parents, including Queen’s alumni to see.” Rogers said once students step onto public property and are visible, they’re subject to documentation.
“I’ve heard concerns and I have thought through the issue,” he said. “I’m totally convinced that there’s nothing unethical about documenting what happens in the open.”
Dominika Dauksza, ArtSci ’11, lives at one of the houses whose photo and address Rogers posted on the website.
Dauksza said she didn’t know the website existed, and was unaware Rogers had photographed her house. “I’m pretty sure I’m standing on the porch in the photo,” she said. “This was at the very end of the party.”
In the photo’s caption, Rogers wrote “only two police cruisers were needed” and that the party was “still costly to taxpayers in Kingston.”
Dauksza said that information is incorrect because one of the police cars was her landlord, a police officer who was on duty in the Ghetto and stopped to check up on them.
“Our landlord works in this area,” she said. “The second one came because someone got hurt and was going to press charges. We called them to come here.”
Dauksza said she felt her privacy was invaded and plans to contact Rogers to have the photo and her address removed from the website.
“I’ll probably do it right now,” she said.
Kingston Police media liaison Const. Mike Menor said the police are aware the website exists, but declined to comment on it.
Rogers said since the site’s launch, he’s received feedback from both alumni and students since the site’s launch about the captions that accompany the photos.
“One student felt there were a number of inflammatory words used. We have not removed any of the photographs but have toned down the wording,” he said. “We feel the photographs carry a huge message in themselves, and perhaps some of the words were a bit too strong.”
Because Rogers doesn’t individually name people in the photos or directly infer illegal activites, he isn’t committing defamatory libel.
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, defamatory libel is defined as matter “without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published.”
Rogers said although he’s toned down the language used in the captions, he won’t take down any of the photos from the website.
“I would say no unless they can come up with a compelling reason, not just because they don’t like it.
“There’s a sure way to avoid being on our website, and it’s not to be visible in public spaces,” he said. “The fact is we’re a pressure group and we realize that as far as Queen’s goes, we’re not going to win any popularity contests.”
Rogers said SONAG didn’t jump into the website project with enthusiasm but felt it had to take action after other attempts to curb student partying had failed. “All the discussion options we feel do just not work and we feel we have to be applying pressure. It’s an act of desperation,” he said. “All animals are very territorial, including humans. When our nest is threatened, we fight.”