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Cornell W. Clayton: Universities must face new free speech challenges

By Cornell W. Clayton, professor of political science and director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at WSU

Cornell Clayton.

After decades of student apathy, university administrators suddenly find themselves struggling with messy political speech controversies on their campuses.

Here in Eastern Washington, Gonzaga is in the news for denying a platform to Ben Shapiro, the right-wing provocateur whom College Republicans invited to speak. Administrators say Shapiro’s hateful rhetoric runs contrary to the Jesuit school’s mission and they worry protests will create safety concerns. Gonzaga faced a similar public backlash two years ago when it attempted to limit the audience for another speaker, the conservative conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza.

Meanwhile, WSU College Republicans constructed a mock “Trump Wall” on campus in 2016, angering fellow students and prompting demands that administrators do more to prevent hate speech at the school. The club’s president, James Allsup, subsequently participated in a white supremacist rally at the University of Virginia, spurring calls for his expulsion (calls rejected by WSU). Now the campus Republicans plan to repeat the wall stunt this spring to show support for President Trump, and, according to the current club president, “own the libs mercilessly.”

As these and similar incidents around the country demonstrate, there’s a new dynamic governing speech controversies at universities. For those who remember the 1960s, such controversies usually involved liberal anti-war and civil rights activists muzzled by conservative administrators and legislators. Today it is conservative agitators often denied campus platforms.

University leaders are not just concerned that today’s conservative agitators purposely offend groups like gays, immigrants and ethnic minorities. They also fear liability when events turn violent, as they did recently when a man was shot during a University of Washington talk by Milo Yiannopoulous, the pugnacious editor of Breitbart News.

Let’s be clear, many of these conservative provocateurs are less interested in a meaningful debate over ideas than in weaponizing and commodifying culture war issues. Right-wing groups like Turning Point USA train undergraduates to provoke fellow students, film the angry reactions on smartphones, and then post them to conservative media. Unlike earlier conservative literati like William F. Buckley or George Will, today’s popular conservative speakers—the Shapiros, Yiannopouloses, Ann Coulters or Tomi Lahrens—are not erudite intellectuals. Their talent lies more in earning millions for themselves by turning offensiveness into entertainment, complete with Hollywood-style marketing.

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The Spokesman-Review


How different cultures shape children’s personalities in different ways

Masha Maria Gartstein.

As early as the fifth century B.C., the Greek historian Thucydides contrasted the self-control and stoicism of Spartans with the more indulgent and freethinking citizens of Athens.

Today, unique behaviors and characteristics seem ingrained in certain cultures.

Italians wildly gesticulate when they talk. Dutch children are notably easygoing and less fussy. Russians rarely smile in public.

As developmental psychologists, we’re fascinated by these differences, how they take shape and how they get passed along from one generation to the next.

Our work explores the way a society’s values influences the choices parents make — and how this, in turn, influences who their kids become. Although genetics certainly matter, the way you behave isn’t hard-wired.

In the past two decades, researchers have shown how culture can shape your personality.

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The Washington Post

WSU smart home tests first elder care robot

A robot created by Washington State University scientists could help elderly people with dementia and other limitations live independently in their own homes.

The Robot Activity Support System uses sensors embedded in a WSU smart home to determine where its residents are, what they are doing, and when they need assistance with daily activities.

It navigates through rooms and around obstacles to find people on its own, provides video instructions on how to do simple tasks, and can even lead its owner to objects like their medication or a snack in the kitchen.

Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe.
Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe

For the last decade, Diane Cook, Regents professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of the WSU Center for Advanced Studies in Adaptive Systems, and Maureen Schmitter‑Edgecombe, a WSU professor of psychology, have led CASAS researchers in the development of smart home technologies that could enable elderly adults with memory problems and other impairments to live independently.

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WSU Insider
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Historian collecting stories, artifacts of Northern Cheyenne scouts at Fort Keogh in Miles City

Ryan Booth.When Ryan Booth began his research into Indian scouts who were recruited by the U.S. Army, he discovered only two military forts had complete records of the scouts: Fort Apache in Arizona and Fort Keogh at Miles City.

“Other places had scouts, but their records were lost or burned,” said Booth, a Ph.D. candidate in history at Washington State University in Pullman.

Many of the Indian scouts attached to Fort Keogh were members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. So in December, Booth traveled to Lame Deer to talk with the tribe’s Cultural Committee to present his dissertation topic.

“They liked it,” Booth said. “They gave me some contacts, and said I need to make a formal presentation to the tribal council, since I want to do oral histories.”

Booth is hoping to connect with the descendants of those scouts, to discover what motivated their family members to serve as scouts. He’s hoping he might even stumble across artifacts linked to those days.

“Historians live in hope of the possibility of somebody coming and saying, ‘Here’s this shoe box with a diary or letters we’ve had all these years,’” Booth said. “I think there’s a good possibility that might exist for scouts but nobody has ever asked.”

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Ravalli Republic

Race & Sports: It’s not just a game

It has never been just a game.

History tells us that sports fields, courts, and victories have never been colorblind or devoid of politics. History also tells us that that the story of race and sports didn’t start by taking a knee.

This month, KING 5 is starting a new conversation series called Race & Sports. We’re going to peel back some of the layers and explore the intersection of race and sports from various perspectives. We’ll start by talking with a few high school coaches from the Seattle area. We’ll also talk to local fans and former athletes.

David Leonard.
David Leonard

David Leonard, professor in the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race, is among others interviewed for the series.

“When we look at our high schools, and we look at what sports are available at our high schools, that reflects political decisions,” Leonard said. “That reflects the histories—the ongoing histories—of housing discrimination. That reflects which school districts are being funded. And those decisions have consequences,” he said. “We need to have critical conversations about race so that we can have conversations about inequality and develop programs that rectify these inequities inside and outside of sports.”

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KING 5 News