Pew report analyzes skills workers need to keep up in the race with artificial intelligence tools

Multimedia reporting by Diego Pineda

The development of artificial intelligence in the past years has expanded so much that the smartphones people carry in their pockets today are more powerful than the computers used in the exploration of the moon.

Because of this growth in technology, Janna Anderson, professor of communications and director of Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, believes people need to be unafraid to move forward in the upcoming changes of artificial intelligence and robots.

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Janna Anderson

“It is important for us to be adaptable, be resilient, be able to work in teams, be able to be great leaders and understand the technology,” Anderson said.

Anderson was the co-author of a recent report on the future of job skills and jobs training through the Pew Research Center and the Imagining the Internet Center. This report included the answers of 1,408 technologists, futurists, and scholars. It found that most experts expect that education and job-training ecosystems will shift in the next years to use new virtual and augmented reality tools.

According to a news release of this report, 70 percent of those surveyed said that they do expect the emergence of new educational and training programs that will train workers in the skills they will need to perform the jobs of the future. 30 percent said that there will not be successful programs  since adaptation in these environments will not be sufficient to prepare these workers.Add heading (25)

Freshman Elena Polin agrees with the 30 percent that disagreed with the emergence of training and educational programs for workers in the future.

“In this day in age, technology is always advancing and people could be left behind,” Polin said.”We need to pay robots to do the work themselves.”

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Elena Polin

Polin says that though technology like robot machines will take up the workforce in the future, she acknowledges that humans bring a special element.

“Humans bring charisma and opinions and new ideas and robots cannot do that,” Polin said.

Whether or not humans will be able to keep up and adapt to emerging technologies is up to debate. Anderson’s report identified five themes from the overall responses of people they surveyed. These themes were that the training ecosystem will evolve with a mix of innovation in all education formats, learners mus cultivate 21st century skills, new credentialing systems will arise as self-directed learning expands, training and learning systems will not meet 21st-century needs by 2026 and technological forces will fundamentally change work and the economic landscape.

Sophomore Lexy Roberts says that humans will be able to work with technologies if they learn to do so

“There are some skill sets that are so mundane that you can teach a machine to do them,” Roberts said. “But with the skills earned with artificial intelligence, there is something about the way that we process things that you cannot teach a machine to do.”

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Lexy Roberts

Roberts says that a skill that is essential for those in the workforce is having “an eye for creativity.” She says that robots will never be able to have a creative mindset, but they will only require repairs while humans require health insurance needs and a salary.

In contrary to Roberts, freshman Aminata Harris, believes that though human emotions and perspectives matter, they may not be as relevant in the future.

“At some point, human beings are not going to be as special,” Harris said. “If there is good enough technology, a robot can really fulfill a job that human beings do.”

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Aminata Harris

Regarding the emergence of training programs, Harris and Roberts both agree that they are needed for humans to partner with technologies in the workforce.

Sophomore Asher Thompson sees a shift happening in as virtual and augmented realities are created especially to do more STEM jobs in maintain and creating those technologies.

He believes that advanced technologies have more capabilities than a regular worker who has a creative mindset.

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Asher Thompson

“Robots have the ability  to do mind numbing tedious work extremely efficiently and effectively,” Thompson said. “They are able to process large amounts of data faster.”

For Thompson, the only skills humans need to maintain their jobs and work along with technology is to work hard to remain relevant and up to date with all the skills and programs the job entails.

Anderson’s report showed that there are uncertainties about the coming years in regards to how well workers need to be prepared to keep up with artificial intelligence told and if market capitalism will survive.

Among the skills that the respondents believe will be of value were adaptability, resilience, empathy, compassion, judgement, deliberation, conflict resolution and the capacity to motivate, mobilize and innovate.

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Shawn Tucker

Shawn Tucker, associate professor of art, believes that out of all those attributes, adaptability is most important.

“Adapting is people’s only alternative,” Tucker said. “People need to be able to be flexible and open themselves up to new challenges and new opportunities.”

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First Cohort of Multi-Faith scholars encourages religious curiosity

By Diego Pineda

Elon University sophomore Sophie Zinn considers herself the person in her friend group that is constantly encouraging others to talk about religion, a subject she is very passionate about and believes is not talked about much.

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Sophie Zinn. Photo by Diego Pineda

“It’s not really in the public sphere of college life or America in general as something that’s positive,” Zinn said. “I think that there are a lot of positive elements to religious dialogue and learning from other people’s interest and faith traditions.”

Zinn was raised Jewish and has been practicing Buddhism for four years. She does not identify with one main religion but bases her experiences more on her religious studies experiences learning why various religious traditions matter to those who don’t follow them.

“I think that our society has stigmatized religion as something that’s private and something that shouldn’t be talked about,” Zinn said. “However, because we have suppressed our religious identities in our country, we haven’t been able to interact on more personal levels with each other.”

Zinn, along with five other sophomores at Elon University, has recently been selected to be part of Elon’s first cohort of Multi-faith Scholars. The program combines academic coursework, undergraduate research and community engagement in multi-faith contexts. The students selected receive $5,000 annually in their junior and senior years to assist them in their development as engaged multi-faith leaders.

The idea of this program sprouted from the 2015 Multi-faith Strategic Plan of the Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society, which advocated for the development of this program. A $100,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis foundation supported the establishment of the program.

Amy Allocco, associate professor of religious studies and director of the Multi-faith

Amy Allocco

Scholars program, said that the money from the grant will be used to underwrite the program during its first years, and then the university will assume its funding.
Allocco said that the goal of the program is to be interdisciplinary. It stretches across the whole university, and its first cohort is composed of students with a variety of majors, backgrounds and research topics.

“We are privileging students who are not otherwise cohorted,” Allocco said. “This is a great opportunity for students who wouldn’t otherwise have a research platform to get involved in this.”

Though a requirement to be admitted to the multi-faith scholars program is to be a religious studies major or interreligious studies minor, its first cohort ranges from students majoring in public heath, English, strategic communications, religious studies and international studies.Add heading (24)

“Students who have multi-faith commitments will have the opportunity to pair classroom learning and a closely mentored undergraduate research experience with engagement outside of the university, with our local communities and use those three building blocks intersectionally,” Allocco said.

Sophomore Kristina Meyer, who is in the program’s first cohort along with Zinn, says she chose to apply to the program not only because of her interest in doing research with interfaith organizations, but also because she finds building relationships with her cohort as a valuable aspect of her experience.

“We each have different research topics,” Meyer said. “But the fact that we are engaging in multiple religions and engaging with people of multiple religions, we will be able to challenge each other and offer each other different perspectives.”

This two-year program requires the selected scholars to pursue their projects closely with faculty mentors. It also requires the students to engage with the local communities to promote multi-faith learning and diversity. During their first year, the scholars will work with their mentors to plan global engagement endeavors as well as research experiences that will assist in broadening their development as multi-faith leaders. During their senior year, they will take leadership roles on campus within different departments and lead educational events focused around religion.

Zinn hopes to gain a wider perspective of individual experiences not only from her cohort, but from those she engages within the community.

“I think a lot of the times its easy to associate different religions with particular belief systems or practices,” Zinn said. “But when it becomes more personal, I think that people’s convictions of others religions deteriorate.”

For Meyer, learning from other religions has made her more compassionate.

“I found that studying other religions and studying how people interact has strengthened my own faith,” Meyer said.

Meyer and Zinn are excited to see the expansion of the program and learn more about what they will be doing with their cohort and in their individual research projects.

Allocco hopes for the scholars to bring the communities that they engage with outside of Elon back to campus to facilitate conversations within the student body. She wants to see increased communication between religious communities at Elon and believes the scholars can change the conversation about religion at Elon. Her first meeting with the cohort will be Thursday, May 4. She hopes this meeting will serve as the “launching pad” for the cohort that she is looking to build.

“I hope we support one another in the challenging kinds of projects,” Allocco said. “Share resources and cheer one another along and ask hard questions to one another as we dig into these research projects and topics.”

Elon Poll shows decline in North Carolina support

By Diego Pineda

The Elon Poll conducted April 18-21, 2017 found that the support for President Donald Trump among North Carolina voters has declined as he approaches the 100-day mark.

getimage.pngThe findings showed that 51 percent of those surveyed disapproved with how Trump is handling his job as president. 42 percent approved it and seven percent did not know.

Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll, said that typically a president enjoys strong support during their first 100 days even from former opponents or critics, but Trump’s presidency has been different.

“His level of support on the first 100 days both for himself personally and for his key policies is as low as we’ve seen in the history of opinion polling,” Husser said. “Trump’s difficulty in presidential approval likely comes from two sources- his rhetorical and policy decisions which he has control over and a divisive polarized and dysfunctional political environment that makes it harder for any incoming president to function.”

Husser said that despite the low support, his core supporters remain loyal.

 

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Mollie Richter

Sophomore Mollie Richter believes that Trump is very unprofessional as president of the United States.

 

“In his twitter, he’s yelling at people and making accusations with no evidence,” Richter said. “I don’t trust my country in someone like that.”

The same poll showed that nearly 75 percent of voters showed that Trump’s use of Twitter is inappropriate while 55 percent said it was appropriate.

“The people who like him are radicals and extremists and that is the crowd that he appeals to,” Richter said. “Anyone who has a rational state of mind and is logical can see that he’s not running things effectively.”

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Darius Moore

Senior Darius Moore agrees with the Elon poll findings and said that Trump’s use of twitter is not filtered or intelligent.

 

“Trump has done a really good job of being a grassroots kind of like connecting to the people leader,” Moore said. “He needs to work on being an intelligent speaker and less of a reality television star.”

The poll also found that voters in North Carolina oppose the border wall with Mexico and it showed an even split on the Affordable Care Act.

The Elon poll is a live-caller survey done through landline and cell phones of 506 voters. These were registered voters who were classified as likely voters in the Nov. 8 election. It has a margin error of +/- 4.36 percentage points.

Math Tools- Chapters 9-12

Chapter 9- Directional Measurements

Add heading (22)The basic formula for time, rate, and distance problems is the same even when the components get switched around. It is important to keep the units of measurement the same when working with these problems. It is also important to know the difference between speed and velocity. Speed measures how fast something is going while velocity also indicates its direction. As a reporter, you will need to only e interested in calculating speed. To find the average speed, you need to divide the average distance traveled by the time it took to get there.

Mass is a measure of amount. Weight is a measure of the force of gravity pulling on an object. Momentum is the force necessary to stop an object from moving.

Momentum = mass x velocity

Example:

Sarah Johnson was covering a local town race for The Daily Tribune. The cars traveled a 30-mile course. The winner made it in 45 minutes. What was his average speed?

45 minutes= .75 of an hour

Average speed = 30/.75 = 40 miles per hour

Chapter 10- Area Measurements

Knowing how to explain area measurements is vital for journalists. There are two methods to explain measurements. One is by analogy and the other is by using numbers.

Formulas:

Perimeter = (2 x length) + (2 x width)       

Area = length x width

The radius of a circle is the distance from any edge to the middle. Knowing the radius is key to finding the circumference. To find the circumference, multiply 2 and pi with the radius.

Example: The city of Raleigh has created a new garden in Falls Lake park that has two sides measuring 15 feet, one side measuring 10, and the other side measuring 12 What is the perimeter of this garden?

A = 15 + 15 + 10 + 12 = 52

Chapter 11- Volume Measurements

Add heading (21).jpgVolume measurements play a key in a variety of articles. Liquid measurements apply to liquids in recipes, bodies of water and other fluids. In order to find a formula for the volume, one needs to multiply length times width time times height.

When dealing with tons, make sure to know the different types of tons:

  •  A short ton is equal to 2,000 pounds
  • A long ton, also known as a British ton, is equal to 2,240 pounds
  • A metric ton is equal to 1,000 kilograms, or 2204.62 pounds

Example: What is the volume of a box that is 13 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 6 inches tall?

A = 13 x 5 x 6 = 390 cubic inches

Chapter 12- The Metric System

The metric system is an important part of international commerce and science. The international decimal-based metric system is based on multiples of 10. Every measurement uses standard language for each level (giga, mega, milli, micro, etc.) Once you learn the language, it becomes easy to use.

Basic definitions and facts of the metric system:

  • The meter is the basic unit of length
  • Mass is also derived from the meter
  • The metric unit of force is the Newton
  • Volume traces its origins to the cubic decimeter
  • The unit names used are meter (length), gram (mass) and liter (volume)

Make sure to know how to convert measurements to American and vice versa.

There are also style rules that should be used when dealing with the metric system. Make sure to know how to write the names of units, symbols, and prefixes. A space is used between the number and the symbol to which it refers. If a hyphen is used, write out the name of the metric quantity with the hyphen between the numeral and the quantity. Do not use a period with metric unit names and symbols except at the end of a sentence. The dot or period is used as the decimal point within numbers. In numbers less than one, zero should be written before the decimal point.

Example: The Elon running club announced that it would sponsor a 6 km run to raise funds for their competition in Georgia. Convert the kilometers to miles.

A = 6 x 0.62 = 3.72 miles

 

 

Math Tools: Chapters 5-8

Chapter 5- Polls and Surveys

Polls and surveys offer public opinion. Though they sometimes may be skewed, it is up to the reporter’s jobs to understand how to read polls/surveys and interpret their validity.  Polls are an estimate of public opinion on a single topic or question. They’re most frequently used in political circles and are representative of different samples of the population. An important aspect to consider when evaluating polls is random selection. Researchers rely heavily on samples to generate a picture of the population.

Some of the formulas used for sampling are:

  • Census
  • Cluster sampling
  • Multistage sampling
  • Quota sampling
  • Probability sampling

Margin of error indicates the degree of accuracy of the research based on standard norms. This is expressed as a percentage and is based on the size of a randomly selected sample. Confidence level is the level or percentage of which researchers have confidence in the results of their research. The formal definition is the probability of obtaining a given result by chance.The confidence level should always be reported in stories because it gives readers a chance to assess the results for themselves.

Add heading (11)The U.S. Census surveyed every household in the United States.  It releases adjusted and unadjusted numbers for every level. Journalists should also have basic knowledge of z and t scores since they’re often used in reporting the results of studies.

Example: Researchers are looking to do a cluster sample in Raleigh about what residents think about the HB2 law. Explain how this sample will take place.

The people doing the poll will choose a zip code, 27616, for example. This will give them a cluster sample for the city.

Chapter 6- Business

Due to the many sources of business news that exist, it is importnt to understand and analyze business reports. Financial statements are formal documents available to shareholders, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders interested in a company’s performance. The profit and loss statement shows whether a company is making money or not. Though different methods exist when determining profit and loss, every business calculates profit by subtracting expenses from income. It is important to note how a company is doing before certain expenses.

add-heading-12.jpgIt is important to note how a company is doing before certain expenses. The earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) is a useful figure to compare companies. It shows how much cash a company is earning without regard to items unrelated to current business.

 

A balance sheet is a written financial statement of a company’s assets, liabilities, and equity. It basically shows the stability of a company. The common denominator of all balance sheets is that the assets side of the balance sheet always equals the liabilities and equity side.

Assets = Liabilities + Equity

Ratios are calculations that are used by analysts and business owners to evaluate a company’s cash situation, profitability, operating efficiency, and market value. They tend to be used to compare a company against others of the same field. It is important to remember that ratios are only indicators of a company’s strengths or weaknesses. A current ratio is a liquidity ratio that measures the ability of a company to meet its liabilities.

Current ratio = current assets / current liabilities

Quick ratio is a liquidity ratio that measures the ability of a company to meet its current liabilities with cash on hand. Debt-to-asset ratio is similar to the current ratio except it includes all assets and all liabilities.  This is a better indicator of the long-term health of a company than a current ratio. The dept-to equity ratio tells us how deeply a company is leveraged by comparing what is owed to what is owned.

Return on total assets is a profitability ratio that measures the return on the investment on all assets. Return on equity is a profitability ratio that measures the return on the investment made in equity. Price-earnings ratio is a value ratio that measures the return on the investment based on stock price.

Example: Sarah designs her own dresses and begins selling them. The cost of making a dress is $150 and she sells them for $275. What is the gross margin?

$275 – $150 =$125

Chapter 7- Stocks and Bonds

Understanding the basic numbers behind stocks and bonds is important for a journalist. Stocks are sold by corporations to raise cash and people buy stocks as investments. Once an individual buys a share of stock in a company, they become a part owner of the company. The more people who want to buy a stock, the higher the price goes. Corporations and governments raise money by selling bonds. A bond is a loan from an investor to their government or other organization selling the bond. Bonds earn interest at a set rate and tend to be low-risk investments.

Journalists may be more interested in calculating the actual cost of a bond issued by a municipality. Stock indexes track the prices of certain groups of stocks, giving investors a snapshot of overall market conditions without having to examine dozens of individual stock prices. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the NASDAQ are two popular indexes. the Dow Jones Industrial Average is the total value of one share

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the NASDAQ are two popular indexes. the Dowdowjones Jones Industrial Average is the total value of one share each of 30 select stocks divided by a figure called the divisor. The divisor takes into account dividends, splits, spinoffs, and other applicable corporate actions.

NASDAQ is an automated quotation system that reports on trading of domestic stocks and bonds not listed on the regular stock markets.

Example

Jack paid $600 for a $2,000 bond with a 7 percent interest rate. What is his current yield?

Current yield = (7% x $2,000) / $600 = 23.3 %

Chapter 8- Property Taxes

According to Wickham, property taxes are the largest single source of income for local governments, school districts, and other municipal organizations. Understanding how the taxes are calculated is important for journalists since a lot of articles on these type of taxes make the front page. The property tax rate is determined by taking the total amount of money the governing body needs, and dividing that amount the property owners in that taxing district. It is important to note that property taxes are applied to assessed evaluations, not to the actual price a home would sell for on the open market.

A major issue that is to be considered when writing about property tax is the reappraisal. A reappraisal updates real property values to reflect current market value of all taxable properties within a taxing district. Property is often taxed by more than one governing body. It is important to consider the possibility that the percentage used to calculate the assessed value might differ based on the type of property. In order to prevent local governments from playing games with the tax rate, many state laws provide for adjusting the tax rate to prevent local governments from benefiting from significant extra funds in reappraisal years at the expense of the taxpayers.

Add heading (13)Appraisal value is based on the property’s use, the property’s characteristics, current market conditions as determined by sales in the immediate area over a specific number of years, and a visual inspection of the property by trained appraisers. The mill levy is applied to assessed valuations.

Assessed value = Appraisal value x rate

Example: Raleigh assesses residential property at 15  percent of the appraisal rate. If one townhouse is appraised at $200,000 what is the assessed value?

$200,000 x .15 = $30,000

Sexual Assault- It Happens Here, Too

Multimedia reporting by Diego Pineda

All Takeva Mitchell could think of was getting clean, showering, hoping to erase the disgust, guilt and pain she felt. When her roommate found her crying she encouraged her to call the Elon Town Police. It was March 13, 2014. She had been sexually assaulted.

The sophomore at Elon University lived in the same apartment complex as Adrian McClendon, then a junior. They were hanging out for the first time until things took an unexpected turn at around 11:45 p.m. Mitchell struggled to fight him off. All she could think about was that she could use her strength to escape the touching, groping and pushing.

“It wasn’t until he got real physical with me that I realized, ‘Oh this is about to happen,’” Mitchell said. “Anything I did, he was on me. He was on my every move.”

Eventually, Mitchell yelled for McClendon to stop and let her go. He stopped and shooed her away. She gathered her belongings. As she approached the door of the apartment, he followed her. He reached out and put his hands inside her pants. She broke away.

—-

Sophomore Crystal, a sophomore whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was walking home from a fraternity party after consuming alcohol. She texted another sophomore to see if they could meet. Crystal always made sure to tell guys she had consensual non-penetrative contact with that she wanted to wait for marriage to have sexual intercourse. It was Sept. 3, 2016.

As they laid naked in his bed, he kept on asking Crystal how certain contact felt. She responded saying it was fine but warned him not to go further or he would be inside of her. As she laid on top of him, he aggressively thrusted his hips and penetrated her after she had clearly told him she did not want that.

case studies“I hopped off and went to the bathroom and there was a lot of blood. That was the most terrifying part of it,” Crystal said. “I looked down and there was blood everywhere.”

Unfortunately, these women’s experiences are like those of about 20 percent of college women. It is estimated that one out of every five college women will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault before they graduate.

Reporting or remaining silent

When Mitchell reported her case on the night of her assault, she remembers that her mind was going crazy. She did not know if the officers were going to believe her story and if they would take it seriously. After telling the officers who arrived at her apartment what had occurred, she was then taken to the station to give an official statement. She recalls the process of officially reporting the assault being long and tedious.

“They want you to tell where were you standing when this happened and where was he standing and where was his dresser at and where was his TV at and where was his bed,” Mitchell said. “Still to this day I can tell you exactly like how his bedroom was lined up.”

Mitchell said that the information she had to give in her statement had to be very precise with time and with specific details of what exactly had occurred.  She said she understands why many victims do not report their cases. Going through the reporting process requires victims to constantly remind themselves of an experience they want to forget or not talk about.

Add heading (17)The 2015 Elon University Annual Safety and Fire Report, the most recent report, states that there were three reported cases of rape and one of fondling. This is the same number of reported cases of rape and fondling in 2014 and two more than those reported in these areas in 2013. Because of the different avenues students have to report their cases, this is not a clear estimate nor does it say that only four sexual assault reports occurred that year.

When Crystal walked home after her assault, she called the university’s 24-hour confidential support hotline, Safeline, through which an advocate told her the options she had if she wanted to report the case as well as if she wanted to go to the hospital to complete the rape kit. The morning after the assault, she went to the hospital to complete the rape kit which she said was almost as bad as her original experience.

“I had to tell the story about seven or eight times, which is a nightmare because it just happened so I had to relive it over and I cried every single time I told it,” Crystal said.

According to the Elon Department of Health Promotion, students who believe they have been victims of sexual assault can report the incident by contacting law enforcement whether that be Campus Safety and Police or Elon Town Police, Elon University Student Conduct, Human Resources or filing a Title IX Report. They have the right to report in one or all of those avenues. They can also contact the Safeline and keep it confidential through the coordinators for violence response or counseling services.

Before choosing to report, Crystal was contacted frequently by the Safeline responder to remind her of the options. Though he was her friend and she knew there would be social repercussions that would affect both sides if she decided to report, Crystal chose to make her official statement on Sept. 16, 2016, through student conduct. She did so because according to the National Sexual Assault Violence Resource Center, about 60 percent of those who commit sexual assault are likely to do it again.

“Every time I was going through the process and I was tired and sad and didn’t want to do it anymore, the responder said, ‘Why did you choose to press charges in the first place?’” Crystal said. “I didn’t want this happen to another girl. I can’t let this happen again.”

According to the National Assault Hotline, females of ages 18-24 who have gone through sexual assault, do not report to law enforcement due to fear of reprisal, the belief that the police will not do anything to help, not wanting to get perpetrator in trouble, the belief that it was not important enough to report and the belief that it was a personal matter. Most students surveyed said they did not report due to other reasons.

Add heading (18)The U.S. Department of Justice special report on Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, states that approximately 80 percent of sexual assault victims knew their offender.

Students Promoting Awareness, Responsibility, Knowledge, and Success (SPARKS) at Elon try to advocate for social justice and wellness. SPARKS peer educators such as senior Sara Blough mentioned that the reporting process can be traumatizing for someone who was just assaulted that day.

“We currently don’t live in a society that is welcoming to supporting survivors and still has victim blaming undertones,” Blough said.

Blough also mentioned that there is a lot of stigma and shame that only exists in society but also in police stations since there is a lot of victim blaming during the interrogation process.

Stepping into the Reporting Process

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Randall Williams, director of student conduct at Elon Univerity.

Randall Williams, director of student conduct, says that it is up to the student to decide if they want to report and press charges either through student conduct or campus police. Even if a student goes to student conduct to report, they are still reminded of resources available to them such as counseling or if they want to take the case to the police.

“What happens is that students have their choice. You don’t force a student to report to us,” Williams said. “We don’t force a student to go to the police. There are a lot of different avenues in which a person can report this information.”

Both Mitchell and Crystal carried out their case through student conduct. This office investigates under the standards that they follow. They take the information found to their Title IX coordinator and share what they have found to the respondent and defendant.

Williams believes a lot of students choose to report through student conduct because this office uses a lower standard of proof in holding someone accountable than when reported to the police. Students chose to report through student conduct because this civil system is more likely to find someone accountable for their actions and sanction them.

“We’re dealing with sanctions as it pertains to the university,” Williams said. “In a criminal process, it pertains to someone’s freedom.”

Under the student conduct investigation, both sides provide statements on what occurred on the night of the assault along with statements of witnesses.

In Crystal’s case, her perpetrator was found not guilty of non-penetrative sexual assault but found responsible for nonconsensual sexual intercourse and penetration. He had a one-year suspension, which he appealed under procedural error and then his sentence was reduced to six months.

Crystal’s case exceeded the 60-day timeframe on decision making under the Department of Education’s school’s obligations under Title IX. It took about 90 days for the decision on her case to be made. This frustrated Crystal. So did the perpetrator’s appeal, which was based on the fact that he had not been told the reasoning behind his sentence. According to Crystal, both parties received the same email and the reasoning behind the sentence was offered in the final report that the student conduct office offered to both.

“It’s very hard for me because I wanted him to be responsible for his actions,” Crystal said. “If he isn’t held responsible then it can occur again without any repercussions and that’s problematic, but I also didn’t want to ruin his life.”

In Mitchell’s case, McClendon was charged by the state in March 2014 for sexual battery and false imprisonment by the Town of Elon Police. In a May 15, 2014, Alford plea in which the defendant maintains innocence but admits the state can convict, the sexual battery charge was dropped and the sentencing for false imprisonment was dropped for two years.

Through student conduct, Mitchell’s case had a hearing to decide what would be the university’s decision regarding the case. McClendon was placed on preliminary suspension, a decision that frustrated Mitchell. She had asked the hearing board to suspend him for a semester.

“I felt everything was a slap in the face, I should have never reported. I should have never gone to the school,” Mitchell said. “Because at the end I took a loss. He didn’t take any Ls- no he got to stay on campus, he is still on the football team, he still started that following year.”

Though McClendon admitted to touching Mitchell without her consent, she did not understand why he did not get disciplined the way she had hoped.

“When is enough, enough? What does a woman have to go through for justice to really be served when it comes down to sexual assault or rape?” Mitchell said. “What are the qualifications for real justice for sexual assault and rape?

Entering the healing process

beccaBecca Bishopric Patterson, coordinator for health promotion, serves as an advocate for sexual assault survivors.

“There is no right or wrong or normal way to feel or heal after an assault and that’s going to look vastly different for many different people,” Patterson said.

The effects that come after the assault can affect a person’s physical, emotional and psychological aspects. A person’s personal, social, professional and academic responsibilities can be affected as well. Though every experience and its effects afterward are different, similarities exist within the reactions that survivors feel.

“It is devastating for both parties,” Williams said. “You’re bound to see changes in behavior, some students become depressed, some students have high anxiety or stress.”

After the assault, Mitchell had a hard time sleeping, did not do well in classes and did not have a  desire to be around people. She recalls being scared and could not be alone. Though at some moments she wanted to leave Elon, she knew that if she had made that decision then she would know that her perpetrator would have won and that would have hurt her even more.

“I’ve done all the crying, the moping, the depression, the weight loss, the not eating. I would sometimes pee on myself at night,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t want to be around guys. I didn’t want anybody to touch me, to hug me.”

Seeing McClendon on campus made her uneasy, scared and nervous. Her family and friend support system along with her faith is what she believes helped her recover.

“I pushed through and I knew at some point through my faith I kept thinking, God, I have been through a lot I know you can get me through this,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell studied abroad in Australia the following Spring after the assault. She refers to Australia as her “healing place.” There she could find peace and the ability to be comfortable with herself and around others. Though she has not spoken to McClendon since the time of the incident, she said she used to pray for him and for his healing as well.

“Life is so short, it is not worth being depressed and sad over one thing that happened in your life,” Mitchell said.

Crystal still has not told her parents. She has made a conscious decision not to and says it is a cross she is willing to bear. After the assault, Crystal recalls having a difficult time being alone and reliving the experience. She went through withdrawal and had a lack of motivation. Despite having a cease contact order, which was issued by student conduct to prevent any communication with her perpetrator, there are aspects that she still recalls from him.

“It’s the small things that you don’t even think about,” Crystal said. “The way he talked, the way that he moved, you think you see him at the corner of your eye and it’s not him.”

The support from her friend system as well as from the coordinators for violence response has helped her through this process. She considers herself on the path to recovery.

“I am not back to normal because that won’t exist anymore,” Crystal said. “This is part of something that happened and this is part of who I am now, but it’s not all of who I am.”

Defining sexual assault

A problem exists within the definition of sexual assault.

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The Elon University 2016-2017 student handbook defines sexual assault in two categories- non-consensual sexual contact and nonconsensual sexual intercourse. Sexual exploitation can be linked to the definition of sexual assault as well.

For Mitchell, a simple definition would be any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent.

Crystal would define sexual assault as an unwanted or unwarranted sexual advance. She acknowledges that people of all gender identities will have their own definition of this term since everyone’s views and experiences with sexual assault are different.

roysterLeigh-Anne Royster, director of inclusive community well-being at Elon, said that though the definition of sexual assault not only varies between states but also between institutions it is also an umbrella term that can cover a lot of different offenses.

According to the 2015 Elon University Annual Fire and Crime Report, the North Carolina definition of sexual assault is “an offense that meets the definition of rape, fondling, incest, or statutory rape as used by the National Incident Based Reporting system. A sex offense is any act directed against another person, without the consent of the victim, including instances where the victim is incapable of giving consent.”

“I think that sexual violence is such a severe epidemic with severe consequences for such a huge proportion of our population,” Royster said. “We don’t even consider it to be the same kind of issues as other epidemics that cause detrimental effects for folks. It is critical because it is largely ignored by much of our population.”

She recalled that when she began working at Elon 12 years ago, there had only been about one or two incidents of sexual assault reported. Once she began working to improve and add resources that could assist victims with the reporting and healing processes she saw the numbers steadily increase to 32 the following year after she arrived.

The percentage of sexual assault is not clear on college campuses due to the divide that exists between reported and unreported cases. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center states more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.

Senior Emily Seligman and SPARKS peer educator said that the rates of people who experience sexual violence on Elon’s campus are comparable to the rates of national college statistics.

Addressing society’s stigmas

Since there is no normal healing process, Patterson believes that an aspect that consistently helps is that whomever the survivor confesses to the first time on the assault responds positively and is willing to help them, then the survivor may seek other resources. If that person responds in a way that blames the victim, the number of those survivors that will speak out and seek help drastically declines.

Crystal believes that victim blaming makes society easily wrap their head around the subject of sexual assault.

“I blamed myself when my friends didn’t blame me,” Crystal said. “The whole culture of victim blaming is so innate to both human nature in rationalizing these actions.”

Though Elon offers the HAVEN program for incoming first years, skits during orientation, speakers and events throughout the years, and many other resources, work still needs to be done to raise awareness and create an environment where survivors feel comfortable reporting according to Crystal.

“We have to continue to change the narrative of what sexual assault looks like,” Williams said. “There’s got to be deeper conversations about consent and college culture.”

Patterson, who works closely with the educational aspect of sexual assault and other issues on campus believes that the most powerful way to educate people is through peer to peer interactions. Through these interactions, people know how to respond and handle sexual assault incidents.

“The more student voices we have spreading the word all over campus, the better the culture is going to get,” Patterson said. “We’re all participating in this culture and we’re either participating or challenging it. We all have a responsibility in this.”

Elon faculty discuss causes and implications of U.S. military intervention in Syria

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(left to right) Jason Kirk, Baris Kesgin and Haya Aijan discuss their insights on President Trump’s recent action on Syria.

Multimedia reporting by Diego Pineda

President Donald Trump’s recent decision to launch a cruise missile attack on Syria has raised many questions in the university community.

In an effort to answer these questions and give background knowledge about this complex situation, Elon faculty held a panel on April 11. The participants discussed the U.S. relations with Syria as well as with Russia and the international community, humanitarian and legal issues, and political consequences. The event was sponsored by the International and Global Studies Program, the Department of Political Science and Policy Studies, and the Council on Civic Engagement.

Haya Ajjan, associate professor of management information systems, is a Syrian-American and shared her personal accounts of how she felt when the missile was launched last week.

“What we saw on Tuesday was the most severe chemical attack we have seen inside Syria since 2013,” Aijan said.

She described her husband and her being “glued” to the TV when they saw the news of the attack and recalls they were both crying once they saw what was occurring.

Aijan considers herself against war and wanted to remind those at the panel discussion that across Syria, people have seen death in every form- from barrel bombs to torture.

“In the past six years, we Syrians have experienced an endless nightmare of loss,” Aijan said. “I really think that this is a very strong symbolic message to the Assad regime that atrocities are no longer tolerated.”

Despite the implications of the attack, Aijan said she did not know what impact this would have on the war in Syria. What she was sure of was that her people want to rebuild Syria and have peace again.

Baris Kesgin, associate professor of political science said that nobody is aware of what happened behind closed doors that led to the order of the missile attack. He believes that President Trump may have acted on his emotions at the moment

“We are probably safe to assume that this is pretty much dominated by the president himself at the moment,” Kesgin said.

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Baris Kesgin talks about recent actions of the U.S. administration. 

The mixed signals the public is receiving from the Trump administration are confusing. Kesgin said that maybe this may be a strategy from administration to be intentionally confusing.

“To my reading, this has been a big great power contestation since the U.S. somehow intervened through the region of powers,” Kesgin said.

Kesgin said that the administration has signaled that the issue is not centered around Assad and his regime. There is more to understand, but there is also a lot that Americans are missing when discussing issues like the U.S. relations with Russia.  According to Kesgin,  people are forgetting attacks such as the ones ISIS has in Mosul or countries that play a role in these issues like Yemen.

Jason Kirk, associate professor of political science and policy studies, mentioned that the U.S. strategy lacks clarity in its purpose and goals. He referred to President Trump’s action as “a symbolic action without clear symbolism”

Though the disorganization in the administration of any U.S. president in his first days in office is normal throughout historical standards, President Trump’s administration seems to be intrigued by having good weeks or bad weeks and not looking at the overall progress of the administration. Kirk said that this reflects the lack of staffing in key positions.

“If we look at features of the strike there’s more to suggest that that it was calibrated to be a swift response,” Kirk said. “I think  we should understand that if that’s the intended symbolism, we should recognize what that means in terms of practical limits.”

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Jason Kirk speaks at Syria Panel discussion.

For Kirk, one of the biggest issues is the multiple statements that have come from the president and his surrogates which “have broadened the symbolism behind the symbolic action.”

Kirk said that President Trump’s decision may have seemed appropriate for him to make during last week’s period.  Kirk’s own interpretation of the decision may be different next week, next month or in the following years due to the implications that are evolving.

“In the context of last week, it made sense but the question is moving forward what is the larger storyline?” Kirk said.

Kirk compared the way President Trump is governing to a reality show, focusing on having good narratives each week.  The stakes are high for the U.S. and its actions since there is a national and international audience that is still confused on what Trump meant with is action.

Kaye Usry, instructor in political science and interim assistant director of Elon Poll, provided insights on why the attack occurred and what the polls have revealed since.

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Kaye Usry talks about poll results during the Syria panel discussion.

Usry said that polling showed that 51 percent of Americans supported President Trump’s action and 32 percent refused it. In regards to what the political parties believe, 80% of Republicans and 30% of Democrats supported the action.

The public response and views of left or right news organizations have shown that the issue does not lie within parties, but instead, it lies within the elite of the U.S. administration.

“Under Trump, we are seeing very different trends in presidential approval,” Ursy said.

Usry said that it was important to note that people’s perceptions of the attack affect whom they think the attack was for.