Gun Intimidation

Me at the office where not allowed a gun
Me at the office

In my naive freshman year I was arriving at campus around 7:30am to get a relatively decent parking spot and only have a ten minute walk to class. I could arrive at 7:45am, but the walk would be closer to fifteen minutes. Plus, I could use the extra 20 minutes to study before my 8:00am class. What I failed to account for was the white female student who was arriving to campus about the same time and walking to the same building. Some days we were not in sync and I never saw her. Other days she’d be slightly behind. The days where she was slightly ahead became scary when the Campus Safety officer started showing up and placing himself between us with his hand on his gun watching me. The message was clear that the officer was ready in case of danger. But, I also suspect the officer used this to signal a message of intimidation that he would have no problem shooting me if there was a need. So, I would sit in my car until 7:40am and place myself outside the dangerous window of time.

It was a common occurance for me that Campus Safety officers would hold their gun still inside the holster while talking to people of color. African-American males would hang out on the Quad joking around the same as they might on their home front porches. Campus Safety would show up and order them to disperse while holding their weapon. The Quad was the only designated area of campus where students are allowed to gather. White students were okay, but black males must disperse under duress of armed officers holding their guns “just in case.”

When interacting with my white friends, these same officers never touched their gun. The message was also clear that the officers did not feel in danger around my white friends. This held true even when my white friends were antagonizing a visiting preacher and causing a very tense, uneasy situation. These were college kids looking for a fight, but intimidation was not warranted when the pale kids were aggressive.

This was not the experience with all law enforcement during the same period. City, county, and state officers who pulled me over for speeding or a not working tail light often did the same hand on the gun thing. An off duty city police officer would work security midnight to 8am at the Waffle House knockoff where my friends and I would hang out Saturday and Sunday mornings. He never did the hand on the gun thing for anyone that I saw. Even when belligerent drunks were about to throw down, the threat of using the gun was not suggested. When I asked about the behavior of officers holding their gun while interacting with others, he expressed concern about the threatening posture of it. Talks about what he liked doing the job was helping people and building a rapport and de-escalating tense  situations. He had the gun in case, but for him it was a tool for a very specific job that he would rather not cause.

When people talk about civilians carrying a gun, I think back to these encounters. The presence of a gun would make them more intense and dangerous not less. The officer would be more terrified of what I might do. My darker skin adds to the threat calculus. Enough so I feel like I would be more likely to be shot carrying than not. We are supposed to be safe by complying with an officer’s orders. Lately the citizen videos seem to show that is not necessarily the case. Tell the officer you are armed and have a permit might just make the officer more twitchy. They have the gun to use deadly force if necessary but the threat of deadly force is a tool to intimidate us unarmed citizens. It maybe makes them more confident knowing they could protect themselves against me if needed when I am unarmed. Having my own gun removes that confidence making it more likely that I end up shot.

 

AMLS Rec Engine

Now anyone can tap into the Amazon Machine Learning Service (AMLS)?

I’d love to see Ellucian’s Banner product make smart recommendations based on AMLS. Students register for university classes through Banner. I could see Banner leveraging AMLS to figure out that students who like certain classes might be interested in other classes. There already is a market trying to improve retention by detecting students who have trouble on certain classes or tests or questions get flagged for extra attention. I could see AMLS helping the other spectrum. Students who take a certain class might be interested in certain cooperative education opportunities, clubs, or campus events. Or vice versa, such as students who join the environmental protection club might be interested in an elective class about the impact of biological pest controls vs pesticides.

Or maybe AMLS going beyond class recommendations is more appropriate for Ellucian’s Luminis portal product.

Higher education is full of opportunities for connect students to things about which they are oblivious. Flyers on various walls easily miss students. Enormous daily emails go straight to junk mailboxes. Students (and staff and faculty) deserve smarter ways to connect to the things that will make their experience better. Done right, I could see AMLS filling that need.

TED Talk: Pursuit of the Perfect Spaghetti Sauce

This is an older TED Talk by Malcolm Gladwell just before his book Blink dropped. He tells the story about how the food industry figured out that there is not a single perfect product that meets everyone’s needs. Instead there are a number of different clusters that meets the majority of wants.

We find this in the Learning Management System world where there is no perfect product for every student, teacher, department head, dean, or administrator. Maybe just maybe the solution is many different approaches to tools for online learning that meet the needs. The LMS, the Personal Learning Environment, digital textbooks, publisher sites, synchronous communication tools, and anything else an instructor can successfully achieve students mastering course objects probably is good for students. This would suggest the rigor part of Laura Gekeler’s post on LMS Evaluations the most important. But not to arrive at a single LMS but to identify the clusters of needs and what tools best help meet their needs.

Even worse, people will self-report what they like as being what they think we want. So identifying their needs probably is not looking at what they say they need. Analytics probably tells a better story of what is effective.

The mind knows not what the tongue wants. — Dr. Howard Moskowitz