Are you encrypting your texts? You should be — now more than ever.
Before the 2016 election, writing for TechCrunch, Steven Renderos and Mark Tseng Putterman observed that "for activists and people of color, strong encryption is essential."
Here in New Orleans, in the interim between the election and the inauguration, local firebrand Jules Bentley published a treatise on strategies for strengthening the resistance. In passing, he mentioned "using Signal for texting" as an easy starting place, even for people who don't think they're in a targeted group.
Bentley wasn't alone in recommending Signal for sending encrypted texts at that time. Trump's ascendancy led to a surge of downloads for the Signal app, leading Recode magazine to opine that "encrypted messaging is the new regular messaging."
I feel compelled to write to you, as you have written to me, in your letter, "Dear White America." We read your letter and your book, Backlash, in a book club here at the university where I work in New Orleans. I found your letter moving, and I want to thank you for your gift. I want to thank you for crystallizing issues with which I've been wrestling over the past months and years, complex issues of race and racism in America, of whiteness and white supremacy. Your book, and particularly your letter, distill some of these issues to their essence in a pointed and poignant manner. For this, I am grateful. ...continue reading "Dear Professor Yancy"
Every time you visit a website, information is flowing between your device and a server out there somewhere. In the early days of the internet, most all that information was transmitted "in the clear," also known as "cleartext," meaning unencrypted. Cleartext, if intercepted, can be easily read. That means a third party could monitor the content you're accessing. That's kind of like someone knowing what books you've checked out of the library, and even what chapters you've specifically looked at. Creepy! Ain't nobody's business but your own. If that doesn't concern you, consider what happens when the data transmitted includes sensitive information like usernames and passwords.
That's why, in recent years, we've seen more and more sites serving content over a secure connection. The mechanics of these transactions are quite fascinating, but the important point is that the information flowing between you and the server is encrypted. If it's intercepted, it's going to be difficult for that mysterious third party to figure out exactly what content was being transmitted. In short, encrypted sites are much more secure.
Encryption is so easy and so valuable, in fact, that it's becoming the rule rather than the exception. Google (the most popular search engine) gives preference in its search results to sites that serve their content securely. Chrome (the most popular web browser) flags insecure sites. The web is in transition. Truly pervasive encryption is not here yet, but it looks like the way of the future.
CAT+FD got with the program last year. With some help from our friends in ITC, we started encrypting all content from cat.xula.edu. You probably never noticed, but that makes our site a little more secure than it was.
In honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, I'm launching a series of posts on the subject of encryption in service of social justice.
I've long been fascinated with encryption. As a kid, I thought codes were cool. As an adult, I see the value encryption offers for keeping my personal data secure.
But what, if anything, does encryption have to do with social justice?
I got my first inkling in 2016, just after the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land. Under the prior administration, the apparatus of the surveillance state was developed to levels previously unimaginable. Obama handed that system to Trump.
Of course, if you're not concerned about our own government spying on us, perhaps you're concerned about foreign powers. There's no denying that international cyberwarfare is real. There are also hackers and straight-up cyber criminals. Not to mention those big corporations.
Whoever's doing the snooping, the harm is felt disproportionately by marginalized communities — as is typically the case when power relations are manifestly unequal.
Rights must be understood and exercised in order to afford us any protection. That holds as true for privacy rights in the digital realm as it did in the analog era of the civil rights movement.
Furthermore, scholars have a special interest in freedom of inquiry, germane to all those working in the field of education. Educating on these issues is aligned with Xavier's mission, and it's vitally important that our faculty and staff understand what's at stake.
Encryption and anonymity, today's leading vehicles for online security, provide individuals with a means to protect their privacy, empowering them to browse, read, develop and share opinions and information without interference and enabling journalists, civil society organizations, members of ethnic or religious groups, those persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, activists, scholars, artists and others to exercise the rights to freedom of opinion and expression.
Encryption is simply the practice of putting your data into a secret code so other people can't read it. It's an important tool for maintaining privacy and security online. Before the 2016 election, writing for TechCrunch, Steven Renderos and Mark Tseng Putterman observed that "for activists and people of color, strong encryption is essential."
In the days and weeks ahead, I'll be publishing a series of simple tips to help you get started using encryption more frequently. I'm far from expert myself, so I'll be learning as I go. If you have any questions or suggestions, don't hesitate to let me know.
Did you know that New Orleans ranks #7 for the percentage of people who bike to work, amongst cities with over 250,000 residents?
And yet we could certainly do better by our bike riders, our transit riders, and our pedestrians. As I've argued elsewhere, bikeped safety is an issue of social justice and aligned with Xavier's mission.
I would like to invite the Xavier community to help with a special effort to "Connect the Crescent." I've been designated as the XULA Green faculty and staff volunteer coordinator for this effort.
In September, Xavier volunteers will work to improve connections from Uptown to the Central Business District (CBD), the Lafitte Greenway to the French Quarter, and the Algiers Ferry terminal to the French Quarter or CBD.
Family-oriented biking and walking events will also be held with numerous opportunities for sharing feedback about the network from September through December.
Volunteers are crucial to making Connect the Crescent a success and there are many ways to get involved!
What does it mean to bring a contemplative approach to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning? That's the subject of an upcoming webinar from the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education....continue reading "SoTL Webinar"
If you've been using Google Drive (and who isn't?) you may have been notified that the Google Drive application is going away. To clarify, the Google Drive service will continue, but the Google Drive desktop app (that little piece of software that syncs your local files with the cloud) is being discontinued.
Xavier users have reported that Google is urging them to switch to a new app, Drive File Stream. However, there is another app, also made my Google, which fills much the same function: Backup & Sync.
What to do?
Google is pushing Drive Stream as the solution for organizations, while marketing Backup & Sync to individuals. However, both currently work on Xavier campus. Fortunately, there is a handy comparison of the features offered by these two products, so you can make your own decision.
I recently fielded a question that seemed so basic, so fundamental, that I thought it deserved a blog post.
Many faculty today are cognizant of licensing restrictions. They diligently hunt for content published under Creative Commons, or in the public domain, to use in their courses. That's a good thing: they don't want to infringe anyone's copyright.
Sometimes, though, that perfect piece of content is out there on the open internet, tantalizingly available, but published under plain old-fashioned copyright with all the encumbrances and restrictions that implies.
You don't want to embed a copyrighted video (for example) in your online course materials. But is there a workaround? Can you, perhaps, just share the link, send your students over to YouTube, let them watch the video over there, instead of on your course website or in your LMS?
In a word:
But don't take my word for it. Here's what the "boutique law firm" InfoLawGroup LLP has to say about it.
A recent federal court decision confirms that, without more, merely providing a link to copyrighted content is not direct infringement of the copyright in that content.
The distinction, as I understand it, is that embedding a video is like republishing it. You wouldn't republish a copyrighted book without permission, right? But sharing a link is like sending your students to the library to check the book out on their own.
Photo credit: "Link" by Aarthi Ramamurthy. Licensed under Creative Commons, of course!
A conversation with Dr. Kelly Young of California State University Long Beach (CSULB) on mentorship.
I'm a Full Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at California State University Long Beach. A CSU graduate from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I trained at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the Oregon National Primate Research Center at the Oregon Health & Science University. My desire to teach in both the classroom and the laboratory made returning to the CSU system a priority, and I'm proud to be a Chancellor’s Doctoral Incentive Program recipient. In my reproductive biology laboratory, my students and I examine the genes and proteins that regulate the gonadal transition between atrophy in the non-breeding season to fully functional in the breeding season. Most of the research in my laboratory has been conducted with CSULB undergraduates, and I focus on developing independent, productive, and confident undergraduate scientists who take the lead role in their research projects. My passion for engaging undergraduates in science extends into the pedagogical world, where my goal is to design and teach student-centered courses. I’ve been involved in several course-restructure projects to create more effective classroom environments where learning, grades, and motavation improve. I’m also thrilled to be working with fellow faculty members as we all work to better our teaching and mentoring techniques. In that vein, I developed a STEM-faculty learning community for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and a BUILD Mentoring Community at CSULB. My goal of enhancing student success and trying to make the world a more positive place drives me to work hard each day.
A conversation with Ms. Keyana Scales on enrollment management.
Keyana Scales is vice president for enrollment management at Xavier University of Louisiana. She is charged with strengthening the university’s enrollment through effective outreach strategies; overseeing the management of all aspects of the enrollment process; and ensuring that high ethical standards are maintained in admissions, recruitment, and financial aid policies and practices.
Ms. Scales has conducted presentations for national and regional associations within higher education. She attained both a BA in Communications and a M.Ed. in Counseling from North Carolina State University. She is a National Board Certified Counselor; an alumnus of the BRIDGES Academic Leadership for Women Program; a former member of the Southern Regional Council for The College Board; and a former executive board member of the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling.
Links for this episode:
In terms of helpful links to faculty, here is an article that may be helpful for faculty with high school-aged students as they prepare for the college admissions process. There is also quite a bit of literature that speaks to the trends related to increased anxiety levels students are currently presenting upon their arrival to college that may be helpful. A recent article featured in the NY Times speaks to this issue. There was also an article in Inside Higher Ed that talks about the increased number of students who present mental health challenges on college campuses. Finally, with regard to how faculty can best support students, our approach at Xavier will largely mirror what is described in the EAB whitepaper that can be found here.