Reports

Phishing Emails Affecting Students in Numerous Ways

St. Lawrence University has been increasingly attacked by “phishing emails,” which attempt to garner personal information by tricking individuals. The repercussions of the phishing, however, have magnified across St. Lawrence, affecting both those who have responded and those who have not responded to the phishing emails.

Rhett Thatcher, manager of St. Lawrence’s server group at IT, believes that the primary targets and victims of phishing emails have been students. However, he adds that there is not one group of students more prone to reply. “Responses were fairly evenly distributed amongst all class years,” he said.

Within the last month, Information Technology (IT) confirmed that at least 48 individual email accounts were compromised after their owners gave out personal information. The perpetrators of this attack then used the compromised accounts to send out almost half a million spam emails.

Phishing involves using a fake website to lure people into willingly giving out personal information, such as passwords and social security numbers. Phishing is commonly confused with hacking. Hacking, however, involves bypassing security systems to get the same personal information.

John Johnston, a senior at St. Lawrence University, owned one of the 48 email accounts that was compromised. According to Johnston, the aftermath of the phishing emails was primarily just an annoyance. “Only thing that happened was a bunch of emails were sent out, no serious problems,” he said. Johnston does contest, however, that he did not give out his password, and he is unsure of why his account was targeted.

Clare Kelly, a sophomore at St. Lawrence University, is another victim of the phishing scandal. While Kelly’s email account was not directly compromised, the phishing caused her to miss out on a job opportunity. “I knew that the spam emails were trying to convince students to accept a ridiculous job offer—something like 300 dollars a day,” said Kelly. “So, when I got an email about a real potential summer internship, I deleted it thinking it was spam. I didn’t want to be tricked.”

Thatcher, however, believes that there is a simple solution to the phishing: “Never send your password via email and never click a link in an email and provide your password.” He believes that the more people who fall into the phisher’s trap, the more phishing emails St. Lawrence will receive. “It only takes one user replying to one email to wreak havoc,” he said.

Cameron June’14 and Kate Lagios ‘14 are eager for the phishing to stop. June says, “I’m tired of continuously getting spam emails or emails about spam. They get sent to my phone, and I feel like I never stop buzzing.” Lagios added, “I understand that it is a serious problem and we need to be informed, but I’m just hoping it stops sooner than later.”

Thatcher guarantees that phishing is not simply a St. Lawrence problem. He acknowledges that universities are the most common targets, but hopes that can help IT solve the issue sooner. “We’re all learning from each other in developing ways to effectively combat this issue,” he said.

 

 

SLU Looks to Add Sustainability Requirement

A group of faculty is proposing to add a sustainability requirement to St. Lawrence’s distribution requirements. Proponents hope to expose St. Lawrence students to the interdependence of humans and the natural system. Simultaneously, advocates of the sustainability requirement believe that a course focused on sustainability will help St. Lawrence create a cohesive marketing image for future students.

“Just as we believe that every student should have exposure to a humanities and social science course,”said Mary Hussmann, a professor in the English Department, “we believe that everyone should have a sustainability course.”   Hussmann acknowledged not only that the school has adopted the Climate Action Plan and the sustainability requirement would be a great way to support it, but also that the university advertises location and outdoors and the sustainability requirement would be a great way to supplement those marketing tools. The St. Lawrence website even advertises the school as “an ideal location.”

In fact, the implementation of a sustainability requirement has been suggested before. Eve Stoddard, a professor in the Global Studies department, was part of a group that previously attempted to execute a sustainability course. In response to the recession, Stoddard’s group was trying to “brand St. Lawrence,” while creating a more conducive learning environment. According to Stoddard, sustainability “seems like something that students at St. Lawrence are committed to.” She believes that a focus on sustainability would be an intriguing way to attract students.

After a faculty caucus, however, Stoddard’s movement came to a halt. “I think a lot of faculty members want to have fewer requirements,” she said. She also added that many believed St. Lawrence did not have the resources to fulfill the requirement. For example, the faculty seems concerned that there would not be enough teachers qualified to teach the courses. It is important to note, however, that while both proposals contain sustainability requirements, they are not identical.

According to Hussmann, the sustainability component could now be fulfilled in a plethora of departments, meaning it would not be extremely difficult for students to complete the distribution or for the school to afford the distribution. In fact, Hussmann struggled to think of any department that could not incorporate a course that would fulfill the requirement. Even without sustainability as a distribution requirement, over 60 percent of students have taken a course that would fill the potential obligation.

Robert Thacker, an academic advisor, echoes the idea that a sustainability requirement would be rather easy to fulfill. He concludes that the only distribution requirement that is particularly difficult for students to fulfill is arts and expression. According to Thacker, “AEX has become a bottleneck,” meaning when students want to accomplish their AEX requirement, they have trouble finding the course.  He concludes that a sustainability course would not have the same problem, as sustainability is more interdisciplinary.

The implementation of a sustainability course is far from definite. The faculty still needs to vote on the plan, and they might reject it. Even if it is passed, it would have to get approved by the state. Therefore the earliest a sustainability requirement could possibly be added to the distribution requirements would be the fall of 2013. According to Thacker, for that to happen “the stars would have to align.”

 

New Admissions Policy Causes Controversy

St. Lawrence Admissions Office mailed out the last enrollment decisions on Friday, March 16, marking the conclusion of the first year of its new admissions policy. The Policy was enacted to reduce the University’s deficit. The long-term implications of the new policy, which will ultimately admit more students, particularly more full-tuition students, are controversial. While the Admissions Office claims to be devoted to the integrity of St. Lawrence, some members of the community have raised concerns that the policy could inhibit students’ learning and living environment.

Jeff Rickey, vice president and dean of admissions & financial aid, claims that the Admission’s Office had “no trouble meeting—or exceeding—the quality of students [they] wanted.” Statistically, the mean GPA of admitted students is the same as it was a year ago. The average class rank and mean SAT/ACT test scores of admitted students are greater this year than last year. Rickey does acknowledge, however, that these are the statistics of accepted students, not enrolled students. Therefore, the statistics might not effectively represent the quality of students that will decide to come to St. Lawrence.

Despite the rising test scores, many remain apprehensive about the influx of new students, claiming they will overcrowd the community. Fred Exoo, chair of the Admissions and Financial Aid Committee, fears that the new policy will increase the number of students in the classroom and create a lack of community space. “It is easier to teach and learn in smaller classes,” Exoo said. “As the number of admitted students grows, there is less opportunity for small classes.” He added:  “The lack of lounges and public space causes problems that are antisocial.”

While Exoo recognizes the gravity of these possibilities, the prospect of diverting back to what he refers to as “the poison ten” is worse. This term refers to the late 80s and early 90s, when the University was tuition desperate and willing to admit full pay students that would not normally qualify. Exoo hypothesizes that the University accepted a portion of these full-pay students despite the fact that they were not morally adequate, which helped create a culture of superiority, where the fraternity system “ran things on sexist and elitist values.” During this time, it was not uncommon for students “to trash fraternity houses, the campus and other students.”

Unlike during “the poison ten,” the Admission’s Office claims that it is unwilling to accept morally bankrupt individuals—regardless of the potential economic profit. “Because we do a holistic review, we look for signs of character and civility,” Rickey said. “We would never knowingly admit a student we know to be problematic to the University.”

Exoo expressed that some potential effects of the admissions policy could have been avoided if the school was willing to cut the budget, rather than accepting more students in an attempt to get more tuition. Widespread budget cutting, however, was rejected quickly—before extensive debate of what would be cut. Even as increased admission has been unable to completely stop the deficit, St. Lawrence chose to raise the tuition instead of undertaking massive budget cuts.

Failure to cut the budget and rising tuitions are not a St. Lawrence phenomenon. Don Soifer, from the Lexington Institute, asserts that budget ambiguity is a major public policy issue. “We have seen the tuition growth in particular, but have little information about the changes in the budget,” he said. While he does not believe in big government, Soifer contends that the government has a responsibility to ensure clarity. “Subject those who increase their tuition to increase transparency in their budget as well,” he argues.

The idea that government should interfere with tuition, however, is not a universal idea. George Leef, from The Pope Center, believes that the government should have no influence over college and university politics. He refers to previous government interference as one of the “greatest national mistakes.”

Specifically at St. Lawrence, however, the consequences of the new policy will show with time, as the plan cumulates the number of students each year. “It is still early in the game,” Exoo said. “We just finished the first year of a four year plan.”

 

Effects of Pipeline Controversial Between Parties

With the recent increase in gasoline prices, the Keystone XL Pipeline has become a prominent political issue, which has accentuated the differences in conservative and liberal perspectives on how the pipeline will affect gasoline prices, the job market, and the environment. According to conservatives, the 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas refineries, would create job security and decrease gasoline prices, while having little impact on the environment. According to liberals the pipeline is not guaranteed to sufficiently change the job market or gasoline prices, but the pipeline will have significant environmental impacts.

Nicolas Loris, a conservative Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, contends that after a three-year review conducted by the Department of State, it is apparent that “the Keystone XL Pipeline poses no significant threat.” According to Loris, environmental activists’ “relentless opposition” has exaggerated the risks associated with the implementation of the pipeline. Loris does, however, acknowledge that, “with any environmental project, there are some risks.”

Loris believes the risks associated with the pipeline are minimal enough to be outweighed by the significant advantages of Keystone XL are worth its construction. Loris believes that one of the noteworthy advantages to building the pipeline is the effect the pipeline will have on gas prices. He argues, “The best way to combat rising oil prices is to raise the supply.” Currently, he suggests that most effective way to raise the supply is through the completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Loris does not believe, however, that the pipeline will always be the most efficient way to create energy: “I will happily switch over, when biofuels become competitive in the market. For now, oil is the most economical.”

The other major upside of building the pipeline, according to Loris, is the jobs the pipeline will create. “It is wrong to only look at how many jobs would be created,” he said. “Whether 500 or 5000 jobs are created, the increase in jobs will add value to our society. I think it is important to consider the value added.”

Conversely, Daniel J. Weiss, a liberal Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progess, contends that there are significant environmental risks associated with the implementation of the pipeline: “There are two elements of KXL that are risky.  First, its route through Nebraska is undetermined.  It is unclear how far it will be from either the Ogallala Aquifer or the Missouri River.  A pipeline spill could harm either of these two water resources that are vital for agriculture.   The second is that the pipeline would enable oil sands production to double, which would produce significantly more carbon dioxide pollution.”

Weiss also believes that the implementation of the pipeline would not significantly affect the price of gasoline. While Weiss acknowledges that the pipeline would create around 6,000 jobs, he does not believe that is a sufficient reason to risk environmental catastrophe, adding, “It will not enhance our energy security since there is no guarantee that the refined products made from the oil sands shipped through the pipeline will be sold in the U.S. instead of exported.”

Alison Walter, secretary of the Environmental Action Organization, also opposes the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Like Daniel Weiss, Walter believes the extensive environmental risks of the pipeline outweigh the potential economic gains. Walter adds that insufficient knowledge contributes to the support of construction saying, “I think that the majority of the people who support the pipeline believe that it will create a significant amount of new jobs and lower fuel prices. From the evidence that I have seen, both of these claims are false. I find it hard to believe that oil companies would be supporting the construction of the pipeline if it would lower domestic fuel prices, as it would decrease their profit and they don’t want to lose money.”

The contradicting viewpoints of conservatives and liberals stem from their conflicting political interests. While the liberals’ voting base is filled with environmentalists, the conservatives’ voting base consists of large business—many oil businesses would benefit from the implementation of the pipeline. There has still been no final decision regarding the pipeline.