Safety and Smartphones: Blue Lights on Campus in a Digital Age

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Farmers’ market brings fresh food and friendly faces to Elon community

Every Thursday in downtown Elon, farmers and growers from across Alamance County converge on the Elon Community Church to sell their harvest to the community. Right across the street from McEwen dining hall, about a half dozen vendors set up shop with everything from carrots to cookies.

Each vendor brings their own unique produce, but all of the food for sale has a few things in common; it’s all homegrown or homemade, and it’s all local. According to Randy Orwig, Elon Community Church pastor, the market has been in operation for ten years.

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Some of the vendors farm organically while others use pesticides, but they all come from within 20 miles of Elon. Orwig says the market is for everyone, but he would like to see students come out to buy the produce.

“If there is a choice between unhealthy foods,” Orwig said, “Which is what college students many times can choose, or this kind of food, you’re going to find a world of difference here.”

Madison Engle, an Elon sophomore, has been coming to the farmers’ market since she started at Elon.

“I’m a vegetarian so like I love fresh vegetables,” Engle said, “They look so great. I love seeing all that and having that option to buy. I’m not really that good at cooking. I like the variety of options. I always find something that I like.”IMG_7379

Many of the tents are filled with fresh vegetables like squash and eggplant, but other vendors sell baked goods or handicrafts. While many vendors praised their student customers, Orwig thinks there is still room for the farmers’ market to grow.

“We are working very hard to keep expanding this in a way that gets fresh, healthy produce out into the community. We know there are parts of the community we’re still not really reaching yet, and we’re trying to figure out exactly how to do that.”

Futurists predict artificial intelligence will change jobs and education in new Pew report

Above image: A 3D printer works in Elon’s Makerhub (Photo by Alex Hager)

by Alex Hager

A report released by Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center and the Pew Graphic.jpgResearch Center found that most experts predict that education and job training will change in the next decade to exploit artificial intelligence (AI) and new virtual and augmented reality tools. The report, released on May 3, also found that some fear businesses prioritizing a bottom line will implement AI, algorithms and software to replace humans in some jobs.

“People do believe that we need to train to race with the robots,” said Janna Anderson, director of the Imagining the Internet Center. “That means we need to prepare ourselves to work along with AI and other digital tools. It will be important for us to be adaptable, resilient, to be able to work in teams.”

Like Anderson, many of the report’s respondents emphasized the importance of skills like adaptability, as well as judgement and empathy. Some of those surveyed also stressed the importance of practical skills, such as training to work alongside data and algorithms.

Much of the report’s focus was on the role of education and training in the future. Seventy percent of those polled thought that new educational methods and approaches would emerge and be successful in making a college education relevant and valuable.

Ashley Pinney, Associate Director of Corporate and Employer Relations for Elon’s School of Communications, often thinks about how a college education will translate to valuable skills that might entice employers. She believes that attending college will help people acquire intangible skills, just as it always has.

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Pinney in her office

“College teaches you to able to think critically, question everything, and go in depth on why things are the way they are,” said Pinney.

Beyond critical thinking skills, Pinney thinks that being around people from different backgrounds and learning from them will still bear value.

“As humans, we have different backgrounds and beliefs and morals, being with these people you learn from them,” said Pinney. “A robot who didn’t grow up with a  family, didn’t walk a dog, didn’t garden plants, how do you teach how care about other things or learn how to interact with humans and other creatures”

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Students work with technology in Elon’s Makerhub 

 

Sajnee Thakkar, an Elon freshman who worked with some AI programs through a Kickbox grant from the Makerhub, isn’t worried about the impact AI will have on the job market.

“I definitely think that there are places where AI will take over for humans,” said Thakkar. “But that’s been happening forever. If you look at any machinery, it took over for something humans used to have to do. This has been a concern for longer than people realize. With artificial intelligence, it’s like that but to a heightened degree. Yeah, it’ll put some people out of jobs, but it clears up time for humans to go further and push ourselves to achieve more.”

The report identified some key themes in an analysis of the collective response. Some of the themes addressed the training and education world’s need to innovate and integrate with AI and augmented reality. Another key takeaway indicated that those training and learning systems will not meet 21st century needs by 2026. Another found that technological forces may fundamentally change work and the economic landscape, potentially changing capitalism as we know it.

“The ‘jobs of the future’ are likely to be performed by robots,” said Nathaniel Borenstein, chief scientist at cloud services company Mimecast, in the report. “The question isn’t how to train people for nonexistent jobs, it’s how to share the wealth in a world where we don’t need most people to work.”

Former Sigma Phi Epsilon president used racial slur toward black student

Elon University junior Owen Gaffney, former president of the NC Mu Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, used a racial slur toward a black Elon senior, according to multiple sources close to the situation.

According to junior William Ellick, current president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, Gaffney and senior Austin Meekins, who is black, had a disagreement at an off-campus fraternity party over academic standards with Gaffney, who is white. While Meekins was outside the party, which took place on April 14, Gaffney indirectly called Meekins the N-word after he had left Gaffney’s vicinity. Meekins was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon from spring 2014 to fall 2016, when he was expelled for academic reasons.

The fraternity held an emergency chapter meeting about the incident. Since the meeting, junior Jordon McRae, who is black, left the organization and Gaffney stepped down from his presidency, both on April 24.

“Three weeks ago, I made a mistake that deeply hurt members of the Elon community and those close to me,” Gaffney said in a statement. “Afterward, the only thing I knew to do was to own up to my mistake. Shortly after the event, I personally contacted Austin and apologized to him. I have since resigned as chapter president. I am sorry for hurting my fellow students and my SigEp brothers, and I am committed to better representing my university and my fraternity — which both value a diverse and inclusive campus. To those whom I have offended with my words and actions,  I deeply apologize and ask for your forgiveness.”

In a statement, Ellick said that “in a moment of anger, Owen chose the most hurtful word he could find, and he unfortunately succeeded in causing deep pain.” Ellick said that he and the the organization believed Gaffney was remorseful. He also said this incident is not representative of Sigma Phi Epsilon as a whole.

“This incident does not represent who we are as a student organization and member of the Elon community. We’re committed to earning back the trust of our peers, faculty and staff,” Ellick said in the statement.

Sylvia Muñoz, interim director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education, weighed in on the incident. “How many times do we have to do these statements,” said Muñoz  “How many times do we have to say the university doesn’t uphold this type of behavior, condone this type of behavior, that the university does not tolerate this?”

Muñoz added that she doesn’t just want students to stop using racial slurs, she wants them to understand why using those words is wrong.

Elon’s Black Student Union issued a response to the issue in a letter to ENN, saying that the incident threatened the very existence and agency of their community, emphasizing an “unyielding commitment to unity and a perpetuation of resilience.” In the letter, which they called a “statement of solidarity,”  the BSU encouraged students who feel unsafe to speak out.

Dan Faill, director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said in an email statement that according to his knowledge, “the matter has been referred through the appropriate University channels.” Faill said that the incident would fall under the purview of the Office of Student Conduct.

While the Office of Student Conduct couldn’t comment on any specific case, Whitney Gregory, assistant dean of students, said, “The university takes all reports of bias-related conduct seriously and will investigate any reports of potential bias.”

With Trump nearing 100 days in office, Elon Poll takes temperature of NC voters

As President Donald Trump’s time in the office draws near to 100 days, polls across the nation are measuring the opinions of voters, charting the progression of how Americans feel about Trump’s efforts in running the country.

According to the Elon University Poll released on Wednesday, 49 percent of North Carolina respondents said that President Donald Trump is doing a worse job as president than President Barack Obama, while only 39 percent said Trump is outperforming his predecessor.

Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll, said even though North Carolina voted Republican on Election Day, this downward trend is something Trump is experiencing across the nation.

“This is really representative of the whole country,” Husser told Elon News Network. “The national Electoral College voted for him and his poll numbers are — for the most part — similar on the national stage.”
Another poll question addressed Trump’s consistency with his campaign promises. Fifty-six percent of North Carolina voters think Trump’s actions are consistent with his campaign promises. Among those promises was a plan to build a wall along the country’s southern border with Mexico. Nearly 60 percent of all voters oppose the wall, including 92 percent of Democrats who oppose the idea

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Ray Lin, Assistant Director of The Center for Race, Ethnicity, & Diversity Education, said he thinks that Trump’s approval numbers may have dropped because of his inconsistency with campaign promises.

“A lot of things that have been happening in this first 100 days didn’t work out as smoothly as he said they would in his campaign,” said Lin. “For the most part, his approach to being president has been as he said it would in the campaign, but there have been a lot of things that he hasn’t been able to do. That works for a campaign but doesn’t work when you’re in office.”

Overall support of Trump has declined among North Carolina voters, according to the poll. Trump was elected with 49.9 percent of the vote in-state, but only 41.6 percent of voters currently approve of the job he is doing as president, while 50.5 percent
disapprove.

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Approval numbers appear to align strongly with party affiliation. Eighty-seven percent of Democrats disapprove of Trump’s performance, while 88 percent of Republicans approve of the way he is handling the job.

“Though President Trump enjoyed considerable support among North Carolinians on Election Day, he has lost ground among the crucial independent voters responsible for his success over Hillary Clinton,” Husser said in a press release.

Husser also said because of the polarized political enviroment, it is “hard for any President to succeed,” which might explain some of the growing disapproval of Trump.

Survey results in this news release present responses from registered voters who were classified as likely voters in the Nov. 8 election and has a margin of error of +/- 4.36 percentage points.

The full survey results can be viewed here.

Softball tops UNCG behind three runs from freshman catcher

by Alex Hager

 

The Elon University softball team beat the University of North Carolina at Greensboro on Wednesday afternoon, topping the Spartans 7-2 under overcast skies at Hunt Softball Park.

The Phoenix got the victory behind a four-run fifth inning, scoring on a stretch of shaky pitching from UNCG. Two runs were scored on a single by freshman catcher Walker Barbee, and two more runs crossed the plate on a bases-loaded walk towards the end of the frame. Barbee had three runs on the day, including an RBI single in the third.

“It felt great,” Barbee said. “The team, the whole season, has done really well. To be able to step in today and have a big role was awesome.”

Head coach Kathy Bocock shared praise for the freshman, who made the twelfth start of her career Wednesday night.

“She stepped into her role and did exactly what she needed to do,” Bocock said. “I’m really proud of her.”

Senior left fielder Alaina Hall added a final run to put the Phoenix up 7-1 in the sixth, hitting a solo home run that just escaped over the right field fence.

Junior pitcher Kiandra Mitchum started the game for Elon, striking out three and only giving up one hit through three innings. Freshman Kenna Quinn (11-4) earned the W in the circle for the game’s final four innings.

The Spartans collected their first run in the fourth when first baseman Marisa Sholtes homered to left with the bases empty. Their second run only came in the bottom of the seventh, as a batter was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

UNCG’s Alicia Bazonski (15-2) got the loss in the contest, giving up three runs through four innings.

Wednesday’s victory marked the Phoenix’ third win over UNCG in 2017, outscoring the Spartans 29-9 through for games. After the non-conference win, Elon has a record of 29-15 on the season, and 7-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association.

They’ll look to add a few conference wins this weekend, as the team travels to Hempstead, NY for a three-game series against Hofstra, starting with a doubleheader on Saturday. Sitting at fourth in the CAA standings, the Phoenix have only ten games remaining this season, all against conference opponents.

“Our girls love competition and they love a challenge,” Bocock said. “so we’re hoping that they’re going be ready to play. The one good thing is, win or lose, they’re going to bring it all because that’s just who they are. So we’re looking forward to it.”

Into the minds of the radicalized: the psychology of extreme ideas


By Alex Hager

Our television screens flash with images of a city in mourning, a gunman has opened fire in a restaurant, an attacker has driven a truck into a crowd. Terrorist attacks have seized international attention in recent years, and many are left scratching their heads. How could a human being be driven to such an act? What would lead a person to such a position of rage, such a violation of respect for humanity?

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In this age where terrorism seems to be on the rise, international focus has shifted to try to understand exactly why and how terrorism happens. As with so many political and ideological issues, the essence of terrorist motivations exists beyond the organizations, governments, and causes involved. In reality, the best answers to these questions can be found by examining the people behind the events and headlines.

Becoming a terrorist implies that a person has gravitated towards extreme ideals. This idea of drifting towards, or being pulled towards, an ideological pole is identified as radicalization. Radicalization describes the process by which someone moves towards this ideological extreme or the process by which someone becomes more entrenched in their extreme ideas.

In efforts to curb terrorism before it starts, experts have tried to identify the psychological reasons and tangible factors that drive people towards those extreme ideas.

While experts have pored over batches of radicalized individuals looking for patterns in their personalities, behaviors, and identities, there doesn’t appear to be much of a clear answer as to what makes someone a prime candidate for radicalization. However, that has only made their studies grow deeper and more interesting.

More than just terrorism

Radicalization has been an idea at the forefront of the international terrorism and violence prevention conversation for quite some time, but it’s important to understand that radicalization is not a concept that pertains exclusively to terrorism. Radicalization is certainly a psychological process that plays a large role in our understanding of the psychology behind terrorism, but also exists in contexts far away from radical extremism.

Just as radicalization can describe the process by which a person gets involved in a group preaching radical ideas and carrying out violent actions, it also describes the process by which someone comes to align themselves with any kind of extreme ideas that are on the polar end of an ideological spectrum, even when those ideas are not tied to violent action.

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“Radicalization is now synonymous with discussions of terrorism, but twenty years ago it was different,” says John Horgan, a professor of global studies and psychology at Georgia State University and an investigator and research affiliate at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). “It was seen as a good thing, it was synonymous with someone becoming more politically aware, more politically active. It’s only very very recently that the term radicalization has become synonymous with terrorism.”

Horgan says that it’s important to make a clear distinction. Radicalization is not a process exclusive to terrorism.

In fact, that form of nonviolent political radicalization has seen a sharp rise lately. If you live in the U.S., it’s been all around you for the past year or two. The media has gone on endlessly about growing political polarization in America throughout this past election cycle. That idea of drifting towards an ideological pole, getting deeper entrenched in your ideas, that can be described as radicalization.

“In today’s contentious political environment it’s common to have strong views about a particular issue,” says Horgan. “That doesn’t mean that a person is going to engage in violence. They may get involved in protests, nonviolent protests which normal and perfectly healthy and shouldn’t be equated with terrorism.”

Although some parts of the process look the same, radicalization to terrorist action is entirely different from radicalization of ideas.

Disconnected, disaffected, and ready to be radicalized 

Getting entrenched in a belief can happen to anyone. The journey from belief to entrenchment often looks the same from case to case, but the people who drift to an ideological pole rarely do.

Although experts haven’t been able to identify a particular profile of a person that is prone to the radicalization of ideas, they have established some reasons explaining how and why a person might get radicalized. However, Horgan cautions that the reasons vary from person to person and are far from a hard and fast set explanation.

Many people considered “radicalized” arrive at an ideological extreme as a result of some outside motivation. In some cases, they are pushed towards that pole as a result of a large-scale political event that affects their lives, or are attracted to a group that identifies with some of their beliefs, but also holds more radical beliefs.

The one most consistent factor, though, is that the process is almost always gradual.

“It’s not that people somehow change their views overnight,” says Horgan. “Nobody wakes up an extremist.”

While the radicalization of ideas has been harder to study, researchers have made more progress analyzing the process of radicalization to action, especially in cases where a recruiter or an organization reaches out to a yet-to-be-radicalized civilian.

Recruiting techniquesTo analyze that process, they have been looking at some of the psychological techniques used by recruiters trying to attract people towards their extreme. While it is possible that people can develop extreme ideas on their own, those who become radicalized to be terrorists are often pulled towards extremism by a recruiter.

To pull someone towards extreme ideas, a recruiter will gradually exploit and condition a victim over time, building a rapport. They will often prey on the disaffected, people who have gone through some personal turmoil or people who are trying to find a place in the world. They will bait their subject with the idea that joining their group will somehow give them the answers to their questions and that they will be able to achieve more with the group than they will on their own.

Specifically in the context of terrorist radicalization, experts like Clark McCauley, a professor of psychology at Bryn Mawr college and investigator and research affiliate at START, have begun to form profiles of people who might be radicalized to violent action.

The first of these, McCauley calls the “caring compelled.” This person feels strongly about the suffering of others and feels that they can’t stand by idly, their emotions driving them to action.

“Usually we think of empathy and sympathy as quintessentially human virtues,” said McCauley, but we’re suggesting that there is a dark side to empathy and sympathy, that there can be an emotional push to do something violent.”

The other kind, McCauley calls the “disordered and disconnected.” These people, he says, have very little to lose and a lot of pain in their lives. In efforts to escape from their pain, they will often gravitate towards a group that can provide distraction or support. However, they do not always turn to terrorism. McCauley suggest that they might just as easily join a cult, but joining a terrorist group might just be “a matter of accident.”

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A common thread in McCauley’s descriptions of those radicalized to violent action is that the individuals are often succumbing to normal human emotions. It may be easy to perceive terrorists as psychologically disturbed, but research has shown that the people radicalized are rarely psychotic. A 2009 study of people who had committed to carrying out a suicide bombing, but had been derailed for one reason or another, showed that none of them were found to be psychotic.

Even those who had been drawn to commit extreme violence as the result of radicalization were not mentally ill, they had just been radicalized.

Out of the home and into terrorism

There seems to be a common assumption that young people are the most likely to
become radicalized, especially in the context of terrorism.

“People assume terror is a young person’s game because their political and social identities are still forming, making them malleable or suitable to be radicalized,” said Horgan.

He emphasized that this assumption is an overly simplistic view of radicalization, and that studies show a much broader age range for those who are radicalized to action.

However, when terrorism is the end result, McCauley argues that young people may be more prone to violent action simply because they have less connections to the world. While an adult might have an established life, career, or family to worry about, a young person is more likely to have  no significant people in their life and may have moved away from their home city or country.Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 2.15.38 AM copy

Scott Atran, an anthropologist, spoke to the United Nations Security council in 2015, addressing the role of youth in violent extremism, especially their involvement in ISIS.

“They are mostly youth in transitional stages in their lives,” said Atran in that speech. “Students, immigrants, between jobs or mates, having left or about to leave their native family and looking for a new family of friends and fellow travelers with whom they can find significance.”

Although there is a chance that anyone could be persuaded into radicalization, the circumstances which make people want to seek out a peer group to provide them with significance are definitely more prevalent in the lives of young people.

Traditional recruiting methods and causes have historically not discriminated by age, but the emergence of social media as a platform for terrorist recruitment have narrowed the field to a slightly younger demographic. Those who are more likely to communicate and form deep connections via the internet and social networks are, by extension, more likely to be radicalized on those same mediums.

A 2015 New York Times report looked in to ISIS recruiting in America, finding few similarities in the profiles of recruits. However, John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security, said that of all terrorism-related arrests in the previous 18 months, 80% of those arrested were younger than 30, and 40% were younger than 21. The report cites a trend in social media recruitment as the main factor behind such a large contingent of relatively young recruits.

On those mediums, the approach by terrorist organizations is often tailored to younger people.

“[ISIS] also generates releases that cater to a younger population more familiar with popular culture, said Nicholas J. Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center in a testimony recorded by the Department of Homeland Security. “These releases often reference Western brands—including popular video games—to appeal to thrill seekers and youth looking for fulfillment. They have also coined pithy ‘memes’ such as, ‘YODO: You Only Die Once. Why not make it martyrdom?’”

While terrorist organizations are not at all exclusively targeting young people, they have identified a demographic that is easily accessible all over the world, and it is no surprise that they’re ready and willing to seize on that population as long as it remains a convenient option.

New online mediums, same old tactics

Recently, that idea of radicalization via the internet or social media has become a major talking point. Just as out digital connectedness has come to creep into every corner our daily lives, it has had an impact on the way radicalization patterns are carried out.

Horgan explains that this impact isn’t necessarily a The New York City Subway System is the largest subway system in the world, with 468 train stations and 26 subway lines. That's one massive subway system!change in the way that people are radicalized to action, but rather a shift in the channels through which people are radicalized. In terms of terrorist radicalization, he sees the internet and social media as recruiting tools.

“It’s a mistake to say that people become radicalized exclusively online,” said Horgan. “Online radicalization is something thats just part of involvement in terrorism. The internet and technology have just given terrorist groups more platforms to engage recruits.”

The perception that people are being radicalized to action simply by reading tweets or viewing other social media posts does not paint the full picture. While terrorist groups use social platforms to spread propaganda, the actual radicalization element is still mainly playing out in conversations. However, the groups have a much wider reach because these conversations can happen on platforms like Skype and in direct messages.

A 2015 report from George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security shows many examples of ISIS followers sharing messages of support and sympathy for the group’s actions on Twitter, but cites other instances of more productive two-way communication between ISIS members and recruits through Twitter direct messages.

Horgan and the GWU report agree, while social media platforms have been flooded with widely-available posts supporting terrorist activities, the real recruiting is still happening in one-on-one conversations, albeit within a digital medium.

But in terms of the radicalization of ideas, social media has had a more profound impact on the way people shape their opinions.

“Social media and communication technology create ‘filter bubbles’ around us,” said Michael Stefanone, a professor at The University at Buffalo whose work focuses on the psychology of communications. “This means that we are able to consume only the information that supports our world view, and we can filter out any information that challenges our beliefs.”

Whereas terrorist radicalization over the internet involves a deliberate path of communication between a recruiter and a radicalized person, radicalization of ideas can be done entirely on one’s own. People can pick and choose from a wide array of opinions, even extreme ideas that don’t often see the light of day in normal conversation or the mainstream media. By shutting out opposing viewpoints online, every day spent in that “filter bubble” is filled with increasingly polarized information, concentrated to a specific viewpoint.

Just as research on terrorist motivations and radicalization has developed to consider the involvement of the internet and social networks, the internet will surely evolve even further, pulling researchers and counterterrorism officials further into new frontiers of radicalization study.

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