Constitution Day Part 2

Dr. Rhianna Rogers, Mentor, SUNY Empire State College, Anita Brown, Career Development Coordinator, SUNY Empire State College, and John Maiello, student, SUNY Empire State College

October 17, 2019

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Part One was published in the 10/3 issue of The Student Connection which you can find here.

In observance of Constitution and Citizenship Day, SUNY Empire State College hosted the Deliberative Conversation titled “What Should Go on the Internet? Privacy, Freedom & Security Online- A Joint Conversation,” on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at six campuses around the state. Below are the results:

Creating Joint Solutions – Conversation Outcomes

As previously mentioned, the goal of this Deliberative Conversation was to learn from each other and create joint resolutions around the topic. Here are a few suggestions participants created from across the state:

  1. SUNY Empire should have a space to discuss issues they have online (privacy issues and strategies.) We should also have access to SUNY Empire technology professionals (professors, IT experts, and Educational Technologists) to teach us the proper ways to go online.
  2. The college should have policies around netiquette, the institution should ask for student input, and share the rules around the internet in a college setting widely.
  3. SUNY Empire should regularly host best practices trainings around internet usage and safety and require them for the entire community.
  4. Individuals should take personal responsibility for what they put online, ask questions of experts when they are unsure about something, and create their own internet best practices. A few best practices were offered during the meeting:
    1. Use gift cards instead of debit cards when buying online to prevent fraud and potential hacker access to your personal accounts.
    2. Limit third-party site usage in college courses
    3. Read “Terms of Agreements” for all personal, professional, and academic applications
    4. Have meaningful family discussions about appropriate online behaviors
    5. Wait 1-3 days before responding to emotional emails and materials online
    6. Take courses (e.g., LinkedIn Learning and/or SUNY Empire courses) about digital studies to stay informed.


Case Study #1: Saratoga Student John Maiello

Post the conversation, R. Rogers asked SUNY Empire - Saratoga Springs student John Maiello to share specific details about his internet practices. The following was his response:

“I'm John Maiello from the Saratoga location and I'm reaching out as a follow-up from last night's discussion. I thought it was a great discussion and really enjoyed the information you [R. Rogers] presented. To continue on what I was discussing...VPNs (Virtual Private Network) in my opinion are a must for everyone who wishes to connect to and browse the internet. It allows the user to encrypt their internet connection and have a different IP address assigned to them based on their server location choice. This prevents a user's internet service provider from collecting data on them since they can't see the data that is being transmitted. I would recommend a VPN like Mullvad, who is very privacy oriented to the point where they do not even want to know who you are, so they allow payments like bitcoin or cash, and they generate a random account number when you sign-up. When selecting a VPN, it's important to not select a company based in the Five Eyes (USA, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand), because they may fall under the jurisdiction of the DOJ and the NSA.

When it comes to internet browsers, I mainly use Brave, which is based off of Chromium architecture (Google Chrome) but has been modified by Brave to be more privacy oriented and limit[ed] to the best of their ability [around] what data is collected. I would absolutely deter anyone and everyone from using stock Google Chrome. Firefox  is another great choice. The most privacy oriented browser I can think of though would be the Tor Browser. Similar to a VPN, Tor encrypts your connection after entrance and before exiting the internet, but I would still recommend using a VPN in conjunction with it. There are also extensions that can be added on to browsers. One popular extension is called uBlock Origin. I use that program to block as many ads and trackers as possible. FilterLists is a great resource of different block lists that can be added to uBlock. Once you have your VPN up and running, a quick check should be made to make sure you're not leaking any of your personal information such as IP Address, Geo-Location, and Domain Name Server (DNS) leaks. This can be accomplished at IP-Leak.

Lastly, there are search engines. As many of us know, Google is usually the go-to to look up virtually anything on the internet, however their collection of data [they retain] regarding [our] searches can be alarming. There are two great alternatives to Google that I personally use. I will admit, it was tough at first to leave Google behind as it has become a useful tool in research and honestly just part of muscle memory. The two search engines are DuckDuckGo and Startpage. DuckDuckGo uses their own search engine algorithm while Startpage uses Google's, but there is no need to worry, as Startpage does not collect information on the user like Google would.

            I hope you can find any information I provided useful. I must admit, I am just a hobbyist and do not have any degrees in IT or Computer Science, so always consult with the experts in these fields. However, I do take privacy very seriously and believe that if we are not free to our own privacy, then we are not truly free at all.”

Case Study #2: College Career Development Coordinator Anita Brown

Post the conversation, R. Rogers asked SUNY Empire - College Career Development Coordinator Anita Brown to share specific thoughts about her experiences with Deliberative Conversations. The following was her response:

 “One of the advantages of having these conversations over the last 2 years has been the civil and respectful discussions attendees have had even when faced with controversial topics (i.e., #MeToo and Immigration). During my own training process to become a moderator, I was asked to rank my feelings about the Opioid Crisis and how to fix politics. My ranking of values differed on both topics, which lead me to the realization: If my own values weren’t equal on topics, how can I tell someone else that their perspective and values right or wrong? These powerful conversations and reflections across a variety of topics have brought about interesting conversations and perspectives, which have given voice to a broader spectrum of SUNY Empire...Dr. Rogers’ facilitation of these conversations have expanded these dialogues and has led us all to a deeper and more thought provoking discussion.”

Closing the Loop – Food for Thought

Understanding Digital culture can help us better understand the modern world since it increases our digital literacy and opens our eyes to essential information, details, and facts we may have never known or understood. As this deliberative conversation suggested, one such way to keep our students and colleagues informed is through regular engage in deliberate dialogues around important topics, like this one. The more know-how we have, the more we avoid threats. That said, it is worth keeping in mind that digital privileges of some may not be the same for others. Minimal access to technology, familiarity with digital learning, technophobia and digital illiteracy or misuse of technology also impact how people understand the internet. Though this was a great conversation, we, as an institution of higher education, still have many questions to answer like: Do inequities in digital culture hinder student learning? What about places in the world that SUNY Empire engages with that does not have access, or similar access, to us? (It is worth noting that within the Buffalo Project survey data, some of our own students admitted that they do not have computers and others indicated that they only had one smart phone within their family.) In light of digital inequities in certain populations, including those represented at SUNY Empire, what should we do? Are there ways to address inequities in digital culture as a whole college? How might we do it as individuals? Some stakeholders have suggested the movement to Open Educational Resources (OERs), or open access resources, is one option for cutting down or eliminate textbook and learning costs. Others have suggested providing students with computers or rentable laptops and/or partnering with tech companies to “even the digital playing field” at SUNY Empire is something that administration should seriously look into sooner rather than later. Still others have suggested using more digital textbooks from our digital library rather than major publishing houses could help our students. There are many possibilities, but taking action is critical if we are to truly “close the loop” on these conversations.

That said, I would like to close with this quote from The Washington Post "It’s true that our new communicative technologies can create space for many voices, but the Internet also reflects and often amplifies real-world inequities. It is open but also unequal… Money and celebrity still dictate who gets attention (front page placement isn’t cheap and neither is a tweet from an A-list star). And algorithms, which tend to show us more of what we’ve already “liked,” and reinforce the already familiar, don’t always help matters. There are many ways in which the digital sphere is less democratic and diverse than we might want." (The Washington Post, Five key questions – and answers – about how digital culture is hurting art, 2014.) Thus, the importance of continuing these types of conversations is even more imperative in the 21st century. Finding additional spaces (both on- and off-line) to continue these types of conversations/trainings is key. Deliberative Conversations is one such vehicle to do so.

Upcoming Deliberative Conversations include:

Fall 2019 Term

  • “Challenges in Adult Learning,” in honor of the late Wales Brown ‘15, ‘18, which will take place during the Fall Student Conference, Tuesday- Thursday, Oct. 24-26, 2019
  • “Developing Community in times of Social/Political Unrest,” Monday, Dec. 2, 2019

Spring 2020 Term

  • “Gentrification in NY State: Reframing the Conversation,” Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.
  • “Get out to Vote: Political Fix,” date to be determined.
  • Student Choice: TBD

Other News

Winter Commencement 2019, Margaret Madigan, student editor, SUNY Empire State College

Social Corner Contributors

Margaret Madigan

Rhianna Rogers