RU IMPLEMENTS ‘EARLY ALERT’ SYSTEM FOR STUDENTS’ GRADES

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Roosevelt University has overhauled the Early Alert system in order to help students struggling with their classes.

By Dominic Gwinn
Staff Reporter
from Roosevelt Torch

In an effort to aid students struggling with their courses, the university has overhauled its Early Alert system so that students in danger of failing courses have a chance to save their grades.

While aimed at freshman, the idea behind the Early Alert system is to help guide students at all grade levels, including those at the graduate level, through the rigors of academia by connecting them with faculty, staff and support programs.

“What we’re trying to do is just employ whatever means we can to get students to the support that they need,” said Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Linda Jones, who helped work with faculty and staff on building the new alert system.

According to Jones, many of the problems faced by newer students are resolved simply through letting them know about existing resources.

“They don’t know about the tutoring center or writing center,” said Jones. “If they’re not doing well in a class a lot of students just default to, ‘I’ll avoid it,’ ‘If they don’t see me it’s not a problem,’ ‘If I don’t think about it, it’s OK,’ That kind of thing.”

If an an instructor finds a student in danger of failing, explains Jones, their first step should be to address their concern with the student.

“They don’t need to send in an early alert to send them to the writing center or tutoring, but some conversation,” said Jones. “Even if it’s an email, that should precede the alert so that it’s not a surprise to the student. That’s off putting.”

If that fails, professors have the option of filing an Early Alert from within RU Access based on several criteria that range from academic performance, attendance, class participation, preparedness, comprehension, Midterm grades below a C, as several others. Professors then offer a best course of action for the student, such as seeking support at the Academic Success Center, Office of First Generation Student Support Services, the Writing, Center, or to make an appointment with their academic advisor. Instructors then their concerns in some detail, and a copy of the notification is sent to the student, their advisor, and the appropriate support service.

In a statement to the Torch, Student Information Systems Specialist Laura Kehoe explains that, “The intention is to give faculty a way to easily connect students with resources early enough in the term to help them be successful.”

While similar services are common at many universities, and Roosevelt has had an Early Alert system in the past, it has been rudimentary and unhelpful. Faculty attempting to aid students by filing Early Alerts found their their concerns often fell into a “blackhole”, according to Jones, due to the lack of connectivity between students, faculty and support staff.

This new system, while not perfect, does seeks to use existing school resources to establish a bridge for students in need. Because of Roosevelt’s ongoing budgetary constraints, Jones, Kehoe, and several other members of Roosevelt’s faculty and staff including Elizabeth Meadows, Associate Provost Megan Bernard, and Director of Undergraduate Academic Advising Alicia Butler, felt that something must be done to help address problems common in many first year students .

Students shouldn’t over react when they get this,” said Jones. “You’re getting an early alert because somebody cares about you. It doesn’t mean you’re flunking, it will offer you an out, it will give you some options, some ways to deal with things.

GAGE BUILDING BEEFS UP SECURITY

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By Dominic Gwinn
Staff Reporter
from Roosevelt Torch

At the beginning of the Fall 2016 academic year, Roosevelt students utilizing the fifth floor of the Gage building found that their classrooms were under video surveillance.

Set unobtrusively in the ceilings of the classroom labs, the cameras were relatively unnoticed for the first few weeks of class with many students and professors simply unaware of their existence as there was never any notification from the Department of Communications or campus security.

Many students simply ignored the cameras and assumed that their installation was simply another layer of security, but when Roosevelt Journalism Professor John Fountain became aware that his classes were under constant surveillance he voiced his concerns within the Department of Communications, and in his weekly opinion column in the Chicago Sun-Times.

“There had been some departmental faculty discussion before the beginning of the semester about safety and security,” Fountain writes. “But I seem to have missed the memo on the decision to install cameras in Mac-equipped classrooms: two where courses are taught and that also serve as student computer labs; and another dedicated solely for student lab use.”

The Gage building’s fifth floor offers students enrolled in communications courses a variety of tools often required to complete assignments in journalism and media studies programs such as DSLR cameras, audio recorders and video cameras.

Labs within Gage’s fifth floor are also equipped with 27-inch Retina Display iMac computers that host photo, audio and video editing software required for students to complete class assignments. It is also home to student run media outfits like the Torch, the student radio and television operations, The Blaze, and RU Fire TV.

IMC Major Katie Hay wonders why no one was told about the cameras if they were indeed only to ensure the technology would be safe. “If it was for technology, why weren’t we told we were being filmed?” Hay said.

“I feel like it’s something more,” states 24-year-old Alexis Hauskin. “It’s not like someone’s going to carry out a whole desktop without someone noticing, you know?”

Currently, access to equipment is restricted to students majoring in degrees under Communications Department. Students seeking to check out equipment must first present a Roosevelt ID, and sign a release form which is logged into a system by a lab aide.

Equipment is rented out on a 24 hour basis. Lab computers are also limited to communications students, and monitored by a student lab aide Monday through Friday.

Paul Acosta, a 28-year-old junior, IMC major and military veteran, felt that the placement of cameras seemed odd. “A big part of security is being informed about security measures,” Acosta said. “The strangest thing to me is that we weren’t informed.”

“I was O.K. with them being in the labs,” admits 23-year-old RU Fire TV station manager Heather Rowlison, a senior Journalism major. “But when I found out that they were in the classroom it made me feel really uncomfortable because they had been running when we have had discussions in our classroom setting that, to me, I felt very secure and private.”

Rowlison’s disagreement with the cameras in the classrooms stems from the revelation of personal details about her life during the course of a class, and her lack of knowledge about the cameras.

“I would definitely say it made me feel very, very uncomfortable. I shared things in class that are part of my personal life, and I just would worry if someone were to hack into — years down the road, you know? Would it affect my chance of running for some sort of office? I don’t know that I will or won’t, but if they dig up some of this private stuff it would be very harmful to me.”

The camera’s footage, according to a source, are housed within the Communication Department’s private server, and any access is restricted to only a select group of trained Roosevelt staff. However, it remains unclear at this time what, if any, information was recorded, viewed or stored within the server.

Illinois state law does allow for video surveillance in public settings like classrooms, however audio recordings are restricted to “one-party” consent. Anyone wishing to record a conversation, according to the state law, must first obtain the permission from any individuals before recording.

The U.S. National Institute of Justice Research Report conducted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice in 1999 concluded that cameras cannot be used in places where one has “a reasonable expectation of privacy,” and that while surveillance of classrooms is often a contentious topic, “it is probably wise to use cameras in classrooms only when the teacher is given an option and notification that a camera is to be used.”

The report further states that, “Signage can be an important legal component in the use of video cameras in schools.”

In a statement to the Torch, Professor Fountain states, “The presence of surveillance cameras in the classroom isn’t something I could ever support because it potentially inhibits or discourages free and open discourse which ought to occur in the sanctity of a university classroom. The idea of surveillance cameras in the classroom, particularly a journalism classroom, seems to undermine free speech, free expression, a free press and violates the assumption of privacy within the classroom, even at a private university, especially one where we embrace “social justice.”

Fountain questioned if being recorded made some students less likely to participate in classroom discussions on certain subjects.

“I’m sure they were. And as a professor, I found it disconcerting having an electronic eye over my shoulder,” Fountain said.

After pressure from students and faculty, the cameras were removed during the first week of October. A brief statement was sent to students outlining new security protocols for accessing the Gage’s fifth floor. Students are now required to tap their Roosevelt IDs to a small electronic lock when accessing the the floor, similar to how students, faculty and staff already must tap their ID’s when entering the Wabash or Auditorium Building.

In a statement to the Torch regarding the cameras and subsequent security measures, Marian Azzaro, Chair of the Department of Communications at Roosevelt stated, “The Department of Communication installed security cameras when the computer labs were upgraded. The purpose was to protect the university’s investment. When a member of the community voiced concern regarding the security cameras, we discussed and took steps to select an alternative method and that alternative is currently being implemented. If members of the community have thoughts on safety or security, we hope they will speak to Campus Safety or their Department Chair.”

“I wouldn’t mind tapping into to get into the communication labs,” Rowlison said of the newly implemented security measures. “I’m a communication student, I utilize the equipment; I utilize the labs, and I feel that extra security is good because we have a lot of valuable things on this floor.”

“Transparency equals trust,” Hay said. “When you are transparent about that, what you intend to use this information for then we can all feel confident and not have to question why they’re doing this.”

An Irritating Sound

Those new Sirens that the D.C. Police use, the ones that make your brain vibrate, and your bones rattle are truly a modern marvel. The Rumbler Sirens maker says, “[its] vibrating tones provide feel with emergency warning sound” is seems like an absurd statement until your walking down the street and see a cop flying towards you, making you actually feel the dread of police presence instead of just the standard emotional drawback.

It makes me wonder, What’s next? Is this new siren capable of weaponization? Could tomorrows cops and G.I.’s be carrying Sonic-Rifles that make you compulsively shit your pants or rattle your brain until your head explodes? The thought of a weaponized “Brown Noise” is both hilarious and terrifying (unless you work for Fruit-of-the-Loom or sell washing machines that is).

I can see the merit that the police have with installing this on some their cruisers, though. I myself have grown accustomed to the high-pitched whines of emergency-service crews racing through city streets. It’s just something you inevitably adapt to when living in an city ripe with urban sprawl (if not you’ll probably go insane and begin shouting at innocent people from some umpteenth-story apartment window). More over, as people today tend to become lost in an audio abyss as they carry out their commute listening to iPods and car radios with sub-woofers, it seems pertinent to gain the attention of distracted motorists and mildly-deaf pedestrians for the benefit of society as a whole by any means necessary. It’s an emergency, after all, so wake up and get the hell out of the way.

I mean, I’d be kind of upset if I were laying in the back of an ambulance, hemorrhaging enough blood to rival old-faithful, while some prick in a Mercedes was too busy rocking down to Electric Avenue on a one way street.

Despite this, however, I can close my eyes and imagine police in riot gear shooting sonic waves at protesters. The scene would horrible: hordes of political dissidents shitting themselves uncontrollably as riot police bring protesters literally to their knees in puddles of their own crap. The smell would spread with wind, entire city blocks would be forced indoors as an irradiated stench smothers the senses.

“What if someones rectum prolapses?”, I wonder, “What if some poor old lady is shot with a sound wave and she just shits herself so hard that her anus literally falls out of her body?” Technically speaking, you can live if your rectum prolapses, but you’d undeniably be in a considerable amount of pain. Does this make it cruel and unusual punishment or effective, non-lethal crowd control? Is something that makes you wish for really death non-lethal?