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R.I.P. GrinCam

Topics/tags: Grinnell, privacy, short, excessive end notes

Some time early in the construction of the (Non-fine-arts) Humanities and Social Studies Center, the College set up a web-attached camera on the roof of Noyce, pointing west toward the proto-HSSC. It was available at For lack of a better name, I called it GrinCam. I’m not sure if anyone else used that appellation. I’m not even sure that many people knew about it. And I’m not sure what purpose it served after the new part of the HSSC was completed, since the current work is all interior.

Nonetheless, I found it useful and fun, and not just for watching the growth of the HSSC. It was a nice way to check the weather, particularly when I was out of the state. I even recall some parents adding links to it on the legendary Grinnell Parents and Families Facebook group [1].

Earlier this semester, in a quest to take interesting photos from around campus [3], I took a picture of what I thought was GrinCam. But I took another look at the live stream, and it was clear that those photos were coming from a different position on the roof of Noyce [4]. I don’t think ever managed to get a picture of the real camera.

My post of the not-GrinCam led to some interesting discussion on Facebook. Is it a violation of students’ privacy [5] that GrinCam provides a live stream? The folks I talked to suggested that it probably isn’t. Grinnell’s campus is a public space, and it’s legal to take and share photos in a public space. Students have also implicitly given the College permission to take and use photos of them [6].

Yesterday, I planned to grab a shot from GrinCam as my Grinnell picture of the day. Unfortunately, when I went to the page, I discovered that it was gone. The page reports

Oops! That page can’t be found. It looks like nothing was found at this location. Maybe try a search?

Farewell GrinCam. I shall miss you. I’m sad that I don’t even have a screenshot of your entertaining work.

With regards,


Postscript: My muse has asked me whether the giant green smiley face by Subway is someone related to GrinCam. After all, a smile is a grin. And grin rhymes with green.

Postscript: I’m amazed at how the end notes got away from me in this musing. It’s clear that the dad-joke region of my brain hasn’t been getting enough attention and insisted on inserting too much of its perspective at the end of the end notes. And, because of the time required for those additions, what was supposed to be a quick musing ended up taking much longer than I had intended. I guess the joke’s on me.

[1] The Everyday Class Notes Facebook group is even more legendary. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about the content. They won’t let me join, even though (a) I’ve taken classes at Grinnell, (b) I’m an honorary member of the class of 2001 and the class of 2017, and (c) I’m told they discuss my musings. Oh well, maybe I’ll ask again at some point. Or maybe they’ll even invite me to join [2].

[2] It never hurts to hope.

[3] At least interesting to me.

[4] More precisely, the Robert N. Noyce ’49 Science Center.

[5] As well as the privacy of other people who walk around campus.

[6] Let’s see … it’s in our Notification of student rights under FERPA [7]. In particular,

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that governs the release of and access to student education records. FERPA affords Grinnell College students the following rights with respect to their education records:


4. The right to provide written consent before Grinnell College discloses personally identifiable information (PII) contained in your education record, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.


Another exception that permits disclosure without your prior written consent are [9] education records that Grinnell College defines as Directory Information. These items may be released without your consent and include: […] Photograph(s) and/or video footage[.]

[7] Yes, that’s correct. Your right is to have Grinnell take your picture and share it without your explicit consent [8].

[8] There is some good news on the privacy front, though.

Please note that you have the right to withhold the release of your Directory Information. Submit a Request to Block the Release of Directory Information available at

That URL currently redirects to

It’s not clear to me whether you can block the release of some of your directory information or only all of your directory information. I’d hope we permit partial blocks.

[9] Grammarly says are should be is. [E]xception is singular. But education records is plural. I’ve forgotten what you do about sentences like that [10].

[10] Other than rewrite them. I might try Education records are also an exception …, which has a similar singular/plural problem. So I’d probably settle on Education records are also exceptions. But if I was stuck with the original, my first rewrite suggests that I should use is to match exception. Perhaps one of my grammarian readers will have a suggestion as to what is correct to do with the original sentence, other than to rewrite it [11,12].

[11] Of course, many of my grammarian readers are descriptivists, so there’s a chance that they would say something like, It’s been used by multiple writers, so it must be acceptable.

[12] I also wonder whether my grammarian friends have opinions on the title of this musing. Should it be R.I.P. GrinCam or GrinCam R.I.P. or The late GrinCam or GrinCam (Deceased), or something else I haven’t thought of [14,15].

[14] Please don’t make me write, or something else of which I have not thought.

[15] Alternately, insert the last word of the punchline for the Harvard [16] library joke [18].

[16] Or, as I typically pronounce it, Hahvahd [17].

[17] If you’re wondering where the R’s went, you can often find them at the marina [18].

[18] Typically pronounced mariner.

[19] That punchline begins Where’s the library at.

Version 1.0 of 2019-11-06.