The Crisis Text Line Responds to Scrutiny Over Sharing Data with For-Profit: The nonprofit organization stops sharing data with artificial intelligence company after immense criticism.

Trigger warning: This article discusses themes of suicide and mental illness. 

The Crisis Text Line is a globally-recognized mental health support service that uses text messaging to help people through traumas such as self-harm and suicidal ideations. Since initially launching in 2013, Crisis Text Line has exchanged 6.7 million conversations through text, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. The organization has stretched from the United States to Canada, the U.K. and Ireland. Unaffiliated with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Crisis Text Line has recently faced scrutiny for selling caller data to for-profit organizations. 

Loris.ai, the organization’s for-profit branch, has been using information from the nonprofit to produce and sell customer service software. “Crisis Text Line says any data it shares with that company, Loris.ai, has been wholly ‘anonymized,’ stripped of any details that could be used to identify people who contacted the helpline in distress,” Politico stated. Despite the anonymity of people’s identification, media outlets have questioned the ethics surrounding the nonprofit’s usage of private information for company expansion.

Ethics and privacy experts expressed several concerns with this revelation. First, studies of other datasets have demonstrated that tracing records to individuals is possible despite goals of anonymity. Second, it is questionable whether people who are seeking help are consenting to having their data shared regardless of anonymity. Although the helpline provides a link to a 50-paragraph disclosure when individuals first seek help, ethics and privacy experts have wondered if people going through immense mental turmoil are in the headspace to fully consent. 

Responding to criticism, both entities have emphasized that their goal is global improvement. Loris.ai explained that their aim was to make “customer support more human, empathetic and scalable,” Loris.ai shared. On Feb. 1, several days after Politico published a viral article critiquing the sharing of data, The Verge published an article explaining that the Crisis Text Line has stopped sharing conversation data with Loris.ai. 

“We hear you. Crisis Text Line has had an open and public relationship with Loris AI. We understand that you don’t want Crisis Text Line to share any data with Loris, even though the data is handled securely, anonymized and scrubbed of personally identifiable information,” Crisis Text Line explained. Loris.ai will remove any data that has been acquired from Crisis Text Line. 

Sources: Crisis Text Line, Politico, The Verge

Happy Valentine’s Day!: Fun ways to celebrate, no matter who you’re with.

In the words of George MacDonald, “It is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another.” Whether you are in a romantic relationship or single, MacDonald’s quote rings true for every type of love that one shares with another. As Valentine’s Day draws closer, there are a variety of fun activities that you can take part in to celebrate the holiday regardless of your relationship status.

For adventurous souls seeking a Valentine’s Day that involves traveling, there are many different options that are inexpensive yet memorable. Eastern University’s close proximity to Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love,” allows for you to walk under a glittery skyline alongside your loved ones without having to travel an extensive distance. Specifically, Center City’s gorgeous fountains and intricate architecture provide a backdrop to a romantic (or platonic) evening. The wide-range of Philadelphia cuisines allows for further exploration of the city’s eateries. The beauty of the city illuminates the Valentine’s Day mood while helping loved ones forget the aggressive Philly driving as they make their brief journey home. 

For those seeking to stay away from the cold February weather, indoor options can involve an equivalent amount of adventure. Playing games using romantic comedy movies are cheap yet hilarious ways to get to know your loved ones. For example, you can pause well-known romantic comedies at random parts and take turns completing the last line that was stated. In addition to this, loved ones can purchase each other’s favorite snacks and participate in a “snack swap” to delve into delicious food while spending quality time alongside one another. 

As Valentine’s Day centers around feelings and expressions of love, celebrating this holiday does not have to be expensive nor extravagant. Going for walks surrounded by beautiful scenery or laughing over cheesy romantic comedies exemplify the simple ways that quality time can be spent with your loved ones.

Italian Government Enforces New Vaccine Mandate: Italian residents over 50 years old face vaccine regulations to control rising COVID-19 numbers.

As Italy struggles with rising cases of the Omicron variant, the Italian government approved a mandate that requires the vaccination of people who are 50 years or older. On Jan. 5, this mandate was formally approved and publicized to the residents of Italy. Roughly 78-percent of Italy’s population are entirely vaccinated with 36-percent having attained the booster shot. Italy aims to raise these percentages with the goal of prioritizing the safety of healthcare staff and Italian citizens. 

During a Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Mario Draghi explained that this decision was based on concerns surrounding the higher risks of hospitalization for older individuals who are unvaccinated. This decision aimed to “reduce the pressure on hospitals and save lives,” Draghi stated. 

Draghi’s politically diverse Cabinet counterparts held different viewpoints on the matter; however, the decree achieved approval within a nearly three hour meeting. Right-wing members argued that the mandate was being passed “without scientific foundation, considering that the absolute majority of those hospitalized with COVID are well over 60,” Reuters explained.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza informed reporters that individuals who are 50 years or older will receive a “super green pass” prior to entering their workplaces. The “super green pass” is given to people who are vaccinated or who have newly recovered from COVID-19. “Refusal results in suspension from work without pay, but not dismissal,” Reuters stated. This workplace precondition for workers in both private and public sectors will go into effect on Feb. 15. 

The Cabinet additionally declared that individuals working in university settings are required to be vaccinated regardless of their age. Individuals obtaining services in beauty parlors and establishments alike must have a negative COVID-19 test if they are not vaccinated or have not newly recovered from the virus. This regulation also applies to shopping mall stores, post offices, and banks. 

Sources: The Associated Press, Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Man receives Moderna vaccine at the Music Auditorium in Rome, Italy.

Interfaith Philadelphia Explores Identity in New Course: A look into an interactive and six-session course titled, “Exploring Identity: How Faith and Race Shape Us and the Ways We Lead”.

Originally founded in 2004, Interfaith Philadelphia strives to establish hope and reconciliation amongst communities. This organization unites people of varying religious backgrounds as they “get to know each other as people and to learn how to value and respect the ‘other’ while maintaining (and often strengthening) their own religious identities,” Interfaith Philadelphia explained. In light of this mission, the organization is providing a six-session course titled, “Exploring Identity: How Faith and Race Shape Us and the Ways We Lead”. 

The development of this course has involved the collaborative work of Interfaith staff, Rev. Dr. Phaedra Blocker, Trina Gary and Asheq Fazlullah. Dr. Blocker, an affiliate professor at Eastern University, and Gary will serve as facilitators for the course. The curricular team started with a retreat in which they examined aspects that are important for people “to know and experience on a journey to religious and cultural literacy, and then took those pieces and began to work — separately and together — on a format and sequence,” Dr. Blocker stated. Eventually, this course will become a part of a larger certificate program through Interfaith Philadelphia’s Leadership Institute. 

Expectations for participants of the course include the opportunity to “explore their own stories and the influence of life, experience, culture, race, spirituality, and social context,” Interfaith Philadelphia explained. Participants will be encouraged to consider how they create space to delve into and appreciate the identities of other people. 

Dr. Blocker hopes that this course will have profound impacts on participants. First, Dr. Blocker hopes that people will exit the course knowing themselves better. “As I teach my spiritual formation students, it’s important that, as we seek to be transformed by God, we have a good sense of who the person in that process of transformation is,” Dr. Blocker stated.

Second, Dr. Blocker believes that, as Martin Luther King Jr. stated, we must “learn to live together” rather than “perish together as fools.” In doing so, people must nurture a profound sense of dedication to honor our collective humanity. “This requires that we learn to look beyond — and I don’t mean ‘look over,’ but ‘look through’ — the labels and categories and rhetoric that we sometimes apply to those different from us, to really see and appreciate each person (including ourselves) as a cherished and individual image of God,” Dr. Blocker explained. 

Participants will meet each Tuesday from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. throughout the time frame of Feb. 22 to March 29. For aspiring participants of this course, further information can be retrieved at https://www.interfaithphiladelphia.org/exploring-identity

Photo: Interfaith Philadelphia 

“Exploring Identity” will involve deeper engagement with others and insightful reflection.

2021 Photo Gallery: Eastern students recollect 2021 through photographs encompassing the history we have lived through this past year.

 

CNN

January 2021: Traffic piles up as drivers wait for COVID-19 tests outside of the Los Angeles Dodgers Stadium.

 

 

 

Reuters 

January 2021: Police munition causes explosion as 2,000 to 2,500 supporters of Donald Trump storm the Capitol Building following President Biden’s election.

 

 

The New York Times

March: Marie Fabrizio, 95, sees her son, Dan Fabrizio, 59, at her assisted living home for the first time in a year following the pandemic lockdown.

 

 

 

Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post

March: Vice President Harris swears in Deb Haaland as the 54th secretary of the Interior, making Haaland the first Native American cabinet secretary.

 

 

News18

Expressions of gratitude are given to healthcare workers as they have confronted the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

ABC News

April: Black Lives Matter activists protest for Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old who was fatally shot by a police officer.

 

 

 

Tasos Katopodis/UPI/Shutterstock

August 2021: Team USA receives gold medal in the women’s 4×400 relay during the Olympics in Tokyo.

 

 

Wakil Kohsar / AFP via Getty Images

August: Afghans climb on a plane in Kabul’s airport in hopes of leaving Afghanistan.

 

 

 

Caroline Brehman/EPA

November: Brittany Spears’ fans celebrate at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse after discovering that Spears’ conservatorship has been terminated.

Petey Greene Program Implemented at Eastern University: A look inside the important work that Eastern students and faculty will accomplish through the Petey Greene Program.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, studies have revealed that recidivism rates are reduced by 43-percent for incarcerated people who have received postsecondary education. Given that 95-percent of incarcerated people return home, postsecondary education programs amplify their likelihood of obtaining employment and pursuing life outside of prison. Eastern University’s Prison Education Program (PEP) has tirelessly aimed to increase the postsecondary educational opportunities for individuals experiencing incarceration. 

Established in 2008, the Petey Greene Program (PGP) provides over 3,000 people experiencing incarceration with educational opportunities each year. The program is named after Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene, Jr., a formerly incarcerated 1960s activist and television personality who engaged in a lifelong pursuit of prison reform. Charlie Puttkammer, PGP’s founder, was so inspired by Greene’s legacy that he named the program in his honor. 

PGP envisions a world in which high-quality academic programs are accessible to people experiencing incarceration. Hence, PGP aims to inspire alumni – both students and volunteers – to become lifelong advocates, to take on leadership roles centered on reimagining the criminal legal system. 

Throughout the upcoming spring semester, Eastern students and faculty will be travelling to State Correctional Institution (SCI) Chester to provide college-level academic courses and tutoring to learners experiencing incarceration. Eastern students will serve as Teaching Assistants and tutors to their fellow students residing in SCI Chester. 

Marie Dileonardo, the division manager of the Philadelphia PGP, has explained that Eastern students who have applied and been selected as tutors will complete the mandatory, online PGP training in Jan. 2022. Tutoring will take place in-person on Thursdays beginning in mid-January and continuing throughout the spring semester. “Tutors will support incarcerated students by providing assistance with course work, reviewing assignments, and sharing study, test-taking, and note-taking skills,” Dileonardo stated. 

In addition to this, the first study hall at SCI Chester will occur in 2022. This will support Eastern students experiencing incarceration who are working towards an associate’s degree from Eastern. “This is especially meaningful work for us at PGP because we believe incarcerated people who participate in college-level courses should receive college credit and should be able to pursue a degree-bearing program if they so choose,” Dileonardo stated. 

“PGP believes that everyone deserves a chance, that we cannot discount anyone, and are responsible for each other—it is the central life-long lesson our volunteers learn when they tutor students who are incarcerated, or have been recently released,” The Petey Greene Program declares. 

If you would like more information about this program, please reach out to mdileonardo@peteygreene.org

Sources: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Petey Greene Program

Bid to Erase Arrest Records of Civil Rights Activists Considered By Courts: The arrest records of Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. are being considered for expungement by U.S. courts.

As Claudette Colvin, a civil rights pioneer, aims to have her records erased from her role in the civil rights movement, similar considerations have arisen regarding the clearance of the arrest records of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. The convictions of Parks and King are still upheld in Montgomery, Ala.

At the age of 15, Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white person in which she was forcibly removed by police officers, arrested and put on unspecified probation. Nine months following this occurrence, Parks, a black seamstress and activist, refused to give up her seat to a white person in which she was arrested and fined $10. Parks refused to pay the $10 fine she had been given. Likewise, King’s role in leading the subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott led to a conviction and hefty $500 fine after courts ruled that he trespassed a law banning boycotts in 1956. 

“Montgomery County Circuit Clerk Gina Ishman said expunging court documents removes convictions from defendants’ record but generally does not result in the destruction of documents, such as the historical police and court records involving people like Colvin, King and Parks,” The Detroit News stated. Similarly, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey, the chief prosecutor in Montgomery, expressed his support towards the expungement of the arrest records of King and Parks. However, Bailey explained the need to attain specifics of these arrests prior to responding in court. 

In the 1950s and ‘60s, large quantities of people faced arrest across the South throughout the civil rights demonstrations. After the city of Birmingham offered pardons to people who endured arrest during these demonstrations in 1963, many former protesters expressed that they viewed their arrest records as a badge of honor towards civil rights. Hence, many people refused to receive the pardon offered by the city of Birmingham. 

Colvin explained that the conviction had never distressed her, but her family was concerned because she had never been given any notice stating that her probation concluded. According to Colvin, the worst part of the ordeal was losing friends from high school due to her act of resistance. “They didn’t want to be around me,” Colvin shared. 

As Colvin seeks to have her arrest records wiped away, she notes the symbolic nature of this decision as she aims to honor the justice that so many Black people fought and continue to fight for within the United States. 

“My mindset was on freedom,” Colvin stated as she concluded filling out the expungement request. 

Sources: The Detroit News

Europe Returns Numerous Stolen Artifacts to Africa: European institutions reckon with colonial past and return stolen artifacts to Africa.

On the week of Oct. 27, multiple European institutions officially returned looted African art. Jesus College of Cambridge became the first institution in the United Kingdom to return one of the Benin Bronzes, famous bronze sculptures from the Kingdom of Benin, which historically was located in modern-day Nigeria. The University of Aberdeen quickly followed suit. The Benin Bronzes are viewed as some of the most culturally significant artifacts from West Africa, so their ownership has been a highly contested question. A few days later, the Quai Branly Museum also returned 26 unique pieces; however, these 29 pieces are not even close to the 5,000 works Nigeria has requested be returned to them.

Other museums have agreed to return their pieces as well; Germany said that they will begin returning looted artifacts next year. However, there are still many museums who have not publicly declared that they will return artifacts to their country of origin, including the British Museum in London, which has a massive collection of works from all over the world. Many of these artifacts were acquired through colonial conquests. The British Museum has announced their openness to displaying the pieces they currently own in Nigeria, but they have remained silent on the prospect of transferring ownership.

France especially has been a loud voice in Europe that artifacts be returned. French President Emmanuel Macron said in 2017 that it was unacceptable that France should continue to claim ownership of so many looted African pieces. In 2018, he commissioned a report that recommended that French museums return works if they are requested to do so.

Just because a museum has transferred ownership of a piece does not mean that the artifact will be permanently housed by its new owners. Plenty of museums lend their pieces out to be displayed elsewhere in the world. Anyone who has visited a museum might remember seeing advertisements for a special gallery or exhibition; sometimes, these traveling exhibitions cost extra to see. Despite this, even though a piece might travel and be shown all around the world, many have argued that it still matters who has ownership of the piece. As many view ownership as a form of power, this transfer of looted artifacts symbolized an effort on the part of many European institutions to reckon with their colonial history.

This move does not erase the history that has led to this point. However, now that some institutions and governments have been public and vocal about their intentions to give these looted artifacts back to their countries of origin, many have wondered if this may spark a chain reaction wherein beautiful works of art can be a source of pride for their country and a source of beauty for people everywhere.

Sources: NBC, Reuters

SGA’s Newest Proposal Aims to Provide Grant for Several Student Leader Groups: SGA pursues grant for student leaders involved in MAAC and Student Chaplain Program.

The Multicultural Awareness Advisory Board (MAAC) and the Student Chaplain Program consist of student leaders who provide resources and support to Eastern University’s student body. In recognition of the hefty workload and contributions made by both MAAC and the Student Chaplain Program, the Student Government Association (SGA) has established a proposal advocating for the implementation of a grant. This grant would act as a means of compensating students who serve within these organizations. 

SGA has noted that both MAAC and the Student Chaplain Program are not standard clubs on Eastern’s campus, as they provide in-depth services and resources to the student body at large. “The MAAC board helps create and foster dynamic, innovative and diverse programming for the education of the student body,” SGA explained. Throughout each semester, the MAAC board has hosted and continues to host a variety of speakers and events, such as dinner and discussion events.

The Student Chaplain Program serves as emotional and spiritual support for Eastern’s students. “The Student Chaplain Program’s purpose is to be an in-residence emotional support, prayer, and community partner to residential students; ultimately they are required to live on campus and are assigned to every residence hall,” SGA stated. 

As the Students Activities Board (SAB) and the SGA Executive Board are recipients of a grant for their work in the community, SGA have used this reality to emphasize how MAAC and the Student Chaplain Program do not receive similar benefits despite also making substantial contributions to Eastern. 

The objective of this proposal declares: “We seek to advocate for student body advocates at Eastern University to receive a nominal and tangible grant for their work,” SGA shared. Therefore, SGA has recommended the implementation of grants in addressing the financial needs of MAAC and the Student Chaplain.

Regarding MAAC, SGA has proposed that the president receives $500 annually and other leadership members receive $250 annually. Regarding the Student Chaplain Program, SGA has proposed that the president receives $500 annually, other leadership members receive $250 annually and each chaplain receives basic housing rates. Overall, this proposal cost roughly $3,000 to $3,500 in yearly grants for Eastern.  It is important to note that “Since this proposal involves other groups, it does have a few stages left before it is submitted,” SGA stated. 

The enactment of proposals goes through several processes. First, the proposal is initially created, presented to the SGA senate for approval and finalized. Next, Dr. Jackie Irving is sent the proposal which is then sent to the Leadership Team. Finally, the Leadership Team discusses the proposal in which one of three options normally takes place: the proposal is approved, the proposal is denied or the proposal is sent to the Board of Trustees for further review. 

According to SGA, the inspiration behind this proposal stems from the recognition of the immense contributions made by both MAAC and the Student Chaplain Program to the larger Eastern community. “Both groups put in countless hours of training, work and dedication to their jobs and are essential components of the Eastern University community,” SGA explained.

Eastern’s Anticipated Football Team & Sexual Assault Concerns: A deeper dive into the selection process of Eastern’s future football coach, Title IX procedures, and student concerns.

According to a 2018 study, the amount of reported sexual assaults with 17- to 24-year-old victims during football games increased by 41 percent on home game days and by 15 percent on away game days. Given that these studies only recorded the number of reported sexual assaults, research indicates that nearly 80 percent of sexual assaults remain unreported. However, the universities used for this study contain a larger population in comparison to Eastern and consist of different regulations and values. 

As Eastern University prepares to welcome its first football team in the upcoming years, such studies and other factors have raised concerns amongst Eastern students regarding the preventative measures and resources available. Dr. Jackie Irving, Vice Provost for Student Development and Title IX Coordinator; Eric McNelley, Athletic Director; and the Student Government Association (SGA) provided insights on Eastern University’s anticipated football team and concerns related to sexual assault. 

Student leaders within the Student Government Association have acknowledged the statistics linking football game days and increased sexual assault cases. “There needs to be a clear institutional stance on sexual assault that holds perpetrators accountable, doesn’t victim blame,” SGA explained. 

Eric McNelley shared how the entire athletic department, including the athletic staff, graduate assistants, and student athletes, complete Title IX training and standard intervention annually. McNelley has a personal understanding of the impacts of sexual violence and is very passionate about this issue. Speaking of the anticipated football team, “My goal is that I do not want anyone to feel fear. We are so driven to get this right for the community,” McNelley shared. 

In addition to this, McNelley discussed the selection process for aspiring Eastern football coaches. First, McNelley initially evaluates the applicants from a football coaching perspective. In other words, the applicants are assessed on whether they have the skills and knowledge to be a successful football coach. 

 Second, the applicants that pass this evaluation participate in a second round of interviews with panelists such as Dr. Jackie Irving, Ashlee Williams, two student representatives, and several others. “We had 13 people represented on the panel – none of which have any idea of what it takes to coach a sport,” McNelley explained. In having so many diverse voices on the decision-making panel, McNelley shared his aim, as well as the entire committee’s aim, to find an aspiring football coach that will enhance the entire Eastern community. 

“All of [the applicants] talked about character and the care for the community, so I can’t wait until students get to talk to whoever they choose because I think they’ve done a really good job of vetting the coaches,” Dr. Irving emphasized. 

As student enrollment is predicted to increase, Dr. Irving explained that Eastern will be hiring a Title IX deputy, as well as other services for students. “When you increase enrollment, you have to increase services,” Dr. Irving stated. The “It’s On Us” campaign will also continue to promote educational resources and opportunities to nurture an environment of consent. 

Dr. Jackie Irving, Eric McNelley, and Student Government Association are available to address any concerns or questions that students may contain. “Anyone that would like to come speak to me, my door is always open,” McNelley explained. Students who would prefer to talk to a female athletic director regarding their concerns are always welcome to reach out to Heidi Birtwistle. “The goal is to make sure that we are doing what we need to do to support students academically, socially, emotionally, developmentally, and spiritually,” Dr. Irving stated. 

Sources: American Economic Journal, Brennan Center for Justice