By Brad Whitehouse
Associate News Editor
A Ryerson librarian will keep his job after the university said taking photos of Zanzibar strippers from his office window did not amount to a “fireable offence.”
Brian Cameron, a 44-year-old Ryerson digital archives librarian, stirred controversy on Nov. 24 when the Torontoist published photos he had taken of scantily-clad Zanzibar strippers on the roof of the club, smoking and talking on their cellphones during breaks.
But Ryerson President Sheldon Levy doesn’t think disciplinary actions should be taken.
“If you read the laws of the land it is very, very clear that you can take a photograph,” Levy said. “If people don’t like it, too bad.”
The photos were taken in August and September of this year through the window of his third-floor library building office. Cameron, who has been employed by the university since 2000, posted the ten pictures on his personal Flickr account with the women’s faces clearly showing.
“The idea that such a gross violation of women’s personal rights and freedoms took place on university property and that this individual hasn’t been fired, I think that’s infuriating,” said Laura, a stripper and former Ryerson student who asked that her last name not be published.
Laura went to Ryerson between 2007 and 2009, working as a stripper during those years.
“I worked as a dancer for two years in part to pay tuition to the very university that employs this fellow… I think the termination of Brian Cameron is the only thing that can possibly happen.”
But that won’t happen said Levy. He said Cameron had a discussion with his supervisor about “taking better care”, but no further action will be taken because he did not break any policies.
“Of course, I think it was not a great idea what he did, but it’s not a fireable offence,” he said.
Levy said the university was put in a “difficult light”, but maintained that the media sensationalized the situation by portraying Cameron as a “peeping tom.”
Graeme Hirst, a professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in privacy issues, said even though Cameron may not have broken the law, the photos are still ethically problematic.
“It’s probably legal,” he said. “But that doesn’t make it right.”
Hirst said even if the women on the rooftop knew they could be seen, the other buildings are so far away that they wouldn’t expect to be seen in any great detail.
“They certainly wouldn’t be thinking, ‘Oh but what if they’ve got a big telephoto lens,”’ he said.
Allen Cooper, the owner of Zanzibar, said he posted a sign on the door of the rooftop to remind women that the rooftop isn’t as private as they once thought. He also said he would buy them robes to wear when going on break.
Cooper said a couple of dancers were so upset that they quit the day after the photos were published, including at least one student.
“She was concerned that all of her classmates would know what she was doing,” he said. “I don’t know if this photographer or the website appreciated the issue of outing employees.”
“I would think that a librarian would have better things to do than take photos of my girls.”
In a recent blog post, Cameron apologized to anyone who was offended. He said after he saw the pictures posted on Torontoist, he asked for them to be removed. He said the photographs’ intent was artistic.
When the Eyeopener met Cameron at his office, he didn’t want to talk about his photos.
“I’m profoundly embarrassed,” he said. “I didn’t know the photos were going to be used that way. I’ve made a point of not talking to the press. I just want it to end.”
Photo: Chelsea Pottage