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Visiting professors express concerns on how big data, mass surveillance will affect criminal justice system

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 6:00am

The University of Wisconsin Holtz Center for Science and Technology studies hosted a panel which discussed how both big data algorithms and individual actor decisions in the criminal justice system can lead to discriminatory practices.

The panel consisted of University of California-Irvine professor criminology Simon A Cole and Washington and Lee University law professor Margaret Hu. The panel was moderated by University of Wisconsin associate law professor Cecelia Klingele, who began the panel discussion by speaking about surveillance in the criminal justice system.

“The collection of data in Criminal Justice in the U.S is complicated by many factors. One problem is the fragmentation of data from criminal justice agencies,” Klingele said. “That fragmentation of data and the lack of controls leads us to the inability to gather aggregate data about the functioning of our criminal justice agencies, and the way they are either positively or negatively affecting our communities.”

Klingele said the criminal justice system is primarily governed at the discretion of powerful individual actors. But, the tough decisions these actors make could change remarkably as algorithms begin to dominate decision making.

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Hu delivered a presentation on big data and cyberspace in the criminal justice system.

Hu said the government uses mass surveillance to gather data on people. People are “flagged” based on what they do on the internet and when they do it, Hu said.

“In a big data, cyber-surveillance world, the analytical method is to start with the data,” Hu said. “The data becomes suspicions — it’s not necessarily that people are suspicious anymore. This leads to pre-crime ambitions — to stop crime before it starts.”

Hu talked about how recent changes in mass surveillance have marked a major transformational moment in criminal justice history.

As of 2000, 25 percent of all the world’s information was digitized. In 2012, 98 percent was digitized. Experts predict the amount of data we digitize will double every two years by 2020, at which point there will be 500,200 GB of data for every person on earth, Hu said.

“Extreme vetting and forms of data collection are going to eventually influence every right, privilege freedom and liberty that we have. We’re already at the earliest stages of it,” Hu said.

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Cole presented on the history of how the criminal justice system has identified criminals.

After talking about the discovery of fingerprinting, Cole discussed how race and individualization could factor into DNA and mass surveillance today.

“DNA brings about a kind of public policy problem: How big should the DNA database be, and who should be in it?” Cole said.

Cole recognized how important it is to keep the DNA pool “fair” by containing many people, but said the way people get into the system doesn’t always allow for fairness. He said arrests are usually not “neutral,” as they almost always allow for significant discretion to individual actors in the criminal justice system.

But, Cole said algorithms take away all individual discretion in the system, and could possibly target people who are not criminals.

Cole arrived at two solutions to keep the criminal justice system “fair”. He said to either include everything about everyone in the DNA database, or focus more on actual behavior — not a prediction based on algorithms.

“With criminal justice algorithms, we are just predicting who will be a criminal and who looks dangerous in these algorithms, which seems like it will be just as discriminatory in the end,” Cole said.

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Categories: Local Media

Trial set for homeless man accused of killing UW student studying abroad in Rome

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 10:11pm

A trial date has been set for Massimo Galioto, an Italian homeless man accused of killing University of Wisconsin student Beau Solomon.

Galioto allegedly pushed 19-year-old Solomon into the Tiber River in July 2016, causing him to drown. Galioto’s trial, which was set Thursday, is scheduled to take place May 8.

Solomon, a former UW student, went to Rome in the summer of 2016 for a five-week-long program with John Cabot University.

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On July 1st, 2016, he disappeared around 1 a.m. after drinking at a pub with other students. Three days later, his body was found in the Tiber river, according to reporting by the Wisconsin State Journal.

Solomon was originally from Spring Green, Wisconsin. He had just finished his first year at UW, where he majored in finance. After he disappeared, more than $1,700 was charged to his credit card, including a large purchase in the Milan. 

Galioto has been charged with petty crime in the past and has been the lead suspect in this case since the investigation began. At the time of Solomon’s death, a Rome news service reported Galioto’s then-girlfriend, Alessia Pennacchioli, told police she watched him push Solomon into the river after an argument erupted between the two men.

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While Galioto has repeatedly insisted on his innocence, he was arrested and charged with manslaughter by Italian police. He was released in December 2016 after Pennacchioli gave uneven testimony in court, WSJ reported.

News of Solomon’s death drew worldwide attention, resulting in a meet-up between Solomon’s parents and Pope Francis in the Vatican City.

Solomon’s parents have since filed a lawsuit against John Cabot University, claiming negligence on behalf of the university for failing to warn UW students of four recent deaths young adults which had occurred near the Rome campus under suspicious circumstances.

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Categories: Local Media

UW researcher works to reduce malnutrition, food insecurity in Ethiopia

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 9:34pm

As a part of the Food and the Wisconsin Idea series, a University of Wisconsin researcher held a talk on agricultural and health challenges in Ethiopia.

Heidi Busse, postdoctoral research associate in the school of human ecology, led the discussion, along with her colleagues from Centro Hispano, Community Groundworks and the International Potato Center’s Sweet Potato Project in Ethiopia

Busse has worked on a three-year project to introduce orange-flesh sweet potatoes to Ethiopia, a crop she said will lead families and communities to greater nutrition practices.

“The strategies we use to increase agricultural yields and cultural productivity are not the same strategies that are going to insure healthy nutrition for all,” Busse said.

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The project looked to increase nutrition, community health and agricultural income in Ethiopia, Busse said. She said the introduction of orange-flesh sweet potatoes was meant to help combat malnutrition arising from a vitamin A deficiency.

Mary Beth Collins, director of research and public affairs at UW School of Human Ecology, said looking at everything — from food to schools to communities and families — could help contribute to ensuring food security in the world.

“We wanted to bring together the disciplines on campus that possibly touch on issues of food,” Collins said.

Busse’s partner in Ethiopia, International Food Policy Research Institute senior researcher Namukolo Covic, joined the talk from South Africa to speak about food insecurity and malnutrition in Ethiopia. Covic explored pathways to accelerate the impact of safe and nutritious food in countries with malnutrition and food insecurity.

“We in Africa are not meeting a good state of food security and nutrition and neither are developed countries like the United States,” Covic said.

Covic explained that 31 percent of children under the age of five are suffering from chronic malnutrition in Ethiopia and seven percent of children in Africa are suffering from severe malnutrition.

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Covic went on to say that vitamin deficiencies are also a large problem, especially for vitamin A.

“Diet quality in general on the continent is a problem,” Covic said.

Busse said most of Ethiopia’s population work as farmers and consume part of what they grow, so their diets can become somewhat monotonous. Individuals deficient in one macro-nutrient are usually deficient in multiple others, Busse said.

Busse said a half cup of cooked orange-flesh sweet potato provides a mother with her entire daily dietary recommendation of vitamin A. The project results showed the implementation of orange-flesh sweet potato decreased vitamin A deficiency and decreased food shortages.

“Agriculturally, orange-flesh sweet potatoes can also benefit Ethiopian farmers because it can help them fill hunger gaps,” Busse said. “It has a shorter growing season than most cereal grain crops and a higher yield than cash crops.”

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Categories: Local Media

Say goodbye to UW’s ‘Cards Against Humanity’ — ‘College Cards’ to shut down after threat of legal action

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 7:55pm

“College Cards,” a University of Wisconsin-themed card game formatted in the style of “Cards Against Humanity,” has announced it will cease production after UW threatened legal action against the game’s creator for trademark and licensing infringement.

UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone said the company was illegally using intellectual property which belongs to the university.

“The university’s name, mascot, logos and so forth are intellectual property that belongs to UW–Madison. They can’t be used without express written permission,” McGlone said. “College Cards was illegally using the university’s name and marks.”

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McGlone said the company handling UW’s trademarks and licensing notified College Cards of its illegal use of UW’s name and marks Monday.

Two days later, the game announced in an email it would shut down operations by the end of the week. Founder and UW alumnus David Kemmerer said the company would continue supplying orders until Friday.

In the email to The Badger Herald Wednesday, Kemmerer cited the cost of a trademark dispute as the main reason for the company’s decision to cease operations.

“Sadly in cases like these, it’s not about who is right or wrong (as we were informed by our trademark attorney). It is about who has deeper pockets and can go the distance in a lawsuit,” Kemmerer said. “Seeing that the median cost of a Trademark Dispute in 2015 was $325,000, we really have no choice but to comply with the university’s demands.”

McGlone said the university must follow up in all situations of improper usage and the actions taken against College Cards were not selective or targeted in any way. At this time, no legal action has been taken against College Cards.

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The university has a pre-established licensing process for companies that wish to sell products branded with the UW trademark, McGlone said. This process includes a code of conduct to which all companies must adhere and which McGlone said benefits UW students.

“The code addresses such issues as workers’ wages and working conditions,” McGlone said. “Students also benefit from the licensing process — the income helps support student financial aid through Bucky Grants, a need-based program that has received more than $16 million in licensing revenue since 2001.”

Kemmerer said creating College Cards was “the most challenging thing” he had ever done in his life, as he personally oversaw the game’s creation, design, manufacturing, distribution, marketing and sales.

Kemmerer said he hopes the university and College Cards can resolve the dispute amicably.

“I have the highest respect for the University of Wisconsin, and I understand where they are coming from in this matter,” Kemmerer said. “College Cards LLC looks forward to resolving these matter amicably with them.”

The post Say goodbye to UW’s ‘Cards Against Humanity’ — ‘College Cards’ to shut down after threat of legal action appeared first on The Badger Herald.

Categories: Local Media

UW community gathers at candlelight vigil to honor Parkland shooting victims

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 10:18pm

University of Wisconsin and Madison community members gathered at Library Mall Wednesday evening for a vigil honoring the lives lost in last week’s shooting that killed 17 in Parkland, Florida.

Teenagers and adults stood together in below freezing temperatures to listen to UW students, Marjory Stoneman Douglas Parkland alumnus and gun violence prevention advocates. UW student Jordan Madden, the host of the event, set the tone by speaking on the danger of gun violence that many people across the country have to deal with. 

“I am reminded of how high the stakes really are for a lot of people in America,” Madden said.

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Throughout the following hour, individuals impacted directly or indirectly by the Parkland shooting took turns addressing the crowd through a megaphone. They spoke about how special MSD was, as well as the importance of unity and activism in the wake of the tragedy.

Lauren Goldberg, UW sophomore and MSD alumna, fought back tears while she shared her reaction to the shooting.

“This was not supposed to happen, not in Parkland, not in any high school in the U.S., but it did,” Goldberg said. “Not close to home, it was home.”

Goldberg lauded the activism demonstrated by survivors like Emma Gonzalez, who recently gave a speech passionately criticizing lawmakers and gun advocates. Goldberg’s sentiments were echoed by other speakers, who spoke about the shock and devastation they felt.

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Despite this, the speakers like MSD alumnus and UW sophomore Zach Kaufman emphasized the importance of unity and activism in the wake of this tragedy, though political division may prove legislation change to be difficult.

“There will be disagreements on what specific policy is best, however we are all united in our pursuit of protection and our love for humanity,” Zach Kaufman said.

Many vigil attendees shed tears during the speeches, which was followed by a silent march toward the Capital. This march symbolized a demand for policy change to be enacted in the community, according to the event’s Facebook page.

UW professor of entomology Daniel Young came as an educator, a father and someone who believes in stricter gun laws.

“I’m wondering, ‘what do I do if something happens in one of my classrooms?’” Young said. “I’m here to be with everyone else […] and to hopefully stand together and do some things that will make some changes.”

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Categories: Local Media

David Muir to give spring 2018 commencement speech

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 6:15pm

David Muir will give the spring 2018 commencement speech, the University of Wisconsin announced Wednesday.

According to a UW press release, Muir is an Emmy-winning journalist, the host of ABC’s 20/20 and has reported on various events around the world.

Known as a “tough and principled” reporter, Muir has interviewed President Donald Trump, Pope Francis and Hillary Clinton.

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The press release reported senior class officers chose Muir because his insights go beyond the classroom and embody the Wisconsin Idea.

“We are so excited that David Muir will be delivering the keynote address to our graduating class,” Senior Class President Ariela Rivkin said. “[Muir] uses his influence as one of the most recognized and celebrated journalists around the world to share news, messages, lessons and insights far beyond the boundaries of his newsroom, his state and even his country. Because he and his work embody the Wisconsin Idea, he has a profound message to share with every Badger.”

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Categories: Local Media

Cook pleads guilty to five felony counts, forced to register as sex offender

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 5:37pm

Former University of Wisconsin student Alec Cook pleaded guilty to five felonies at a court proceeding Monday, including three counts of third-degree sexual assault, one count of stalking and one count of strangulation and suffocation.

Cook’s attorneys announced his intention to plead guilty to five unnamed charges Monday. The five counts Cook will ultimately face sentencing for were revealed in the court proceeding Wednesday.

Dane County judge Stephen Ehlke presided over the proceeding as Cook pled guilty to one count of strangulation and suffocation, one count of stalking and three counts of third-degree sexual assault. After he pled guilty to the five charges, Ehlke informed Cook of the maximum legal punishments he could face for each count.

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For each of the three counts of third-degree sexual assault, a Class G felony, Cook could face a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or a fine of $25,000. The counts Cook pled guilty to correspond to three separate victims and three separate encounters over a 20 month period from March 2015 to October 2016.

According to a police report from one incident on Feb. 12, 2016, the victim told Cook numerous times she did not want to engage in sexual intercourse.

“[The victim] knows that she told Cook ‘No’ that she wasn’t going to have sex with him prior to finding herself on top of him and definitely numerous times over the course of the relationship,” the report said.

For the stalking charge, a Class I felony, Cook could face at most a $10,000 fine and/or three years and six months in prison. Cook pled guilty to stalking incidents which occurred over a period of months from Sept. 2015 to Feb. 2016.

According to a police report about the incident, Cook would stare at the victim while she studied late at night at College Library and follow her home — even after she, her friends and the police told him to stop.

“[The victim]… told her parents that she was experiencing anxiety due to the defendant’s actions and was actually gaining weight because she would go to the snack shop to get away from him,” the report said. “She also said she had nightmares about him following her and had problems sleeping, thinking about his behavior in the library.”

The strangulation and suffocation charge, a Class H felony, could land Cook six years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000. The incident which Cook pled guilty to occurred Aug. 28, 2016.

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According to a police report, Cook choked the woman multiple times after she removed his hands and asked him not to.

“[The victim] said [Cook] began pressing on the front of her throat with his hand, which [the victim] found uncomfortable,” the report said. “She said this happened four times of which she is certain, two of those times it was difficult to breathe.”

Cook reportedly responded defensively when the victim pushed him off of her, and the victim said he forced her to engage in sexual activities later that night.

In total, the five counts Cook pled guilty to could result in a maximum of 39 years and six months in prison and a fine of $95,000. He will face a sentencing hearing at an unspecified date later this year.

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Cook’s decision to enter into a plea deal means the seven trials which were set to be held against him later this year have been dissolved and the remaining 16 charges against him have been dropped.

Some of the charges which were dropped include second-degree sexual assault, false imprisonment, disorderly conduct and fourth-degree sexual assault.

As a part of the plea deal, Cook will be forced to register as a sex offender. Additionally, the judge will face no restrictions outside of preexisting legal limits on how he ultimately decides to sentence Cook.

Before his sentencing hearing, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections will conduct a pre-sentencing investigation of the counts Cook pled guilty to. Cook’s attorneys requested the investigation not result in a recommendation for sentencing. The prosecuting attorneys did not object, and Ehlke accepted the request.

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Categories: Local Media

Students should worry about debt crisis, speaker says

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 8:00am

University of Wisconsin College Republicans hosted fiscal and economic expert from The Heritage Foundation, Romina Boccia Tuesday to discuss the current debt crisis and its impact on the younger generations.

While most people may not find the fiscal sector interesting, it should still be a concern to citizens because it is their money being used, Boccia said.

“If you care about financial security, your economic success, your ability to be able to choose what to do with the money that you earn when you come out of this university, to be able to invest in yourself and not have so much of it taken by the government … those are the things we care about,” Boccia said. “If you care about those things, then you need to care about the national debt.”

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Currently, the debt levels as a percentage of gross domestic product is the same as during the World War II era, but the United States is not currently paying for a war, so that is concerning, Boccia said.

Right now, the country is paying for entitlement benefits, like Social Security and unemployment, which places a burden on future generations, Boccia said.

“Our national debt, ultimately, is a tax on future generations,” Boccia said.

Boccia said lawmakers exercise little to no fiscal restraint when dealing with spending because it is not their money and they are not always held accountable by their constituents.

While politicians may think when the economy is doing well they are able to spend more money, it is actually the opposite, Boccia said. When the economy is doing well, that means the private sector is thriving and the government should not interfere.

“You don’t need the government to consume resources, to throw money at people,” Boccia said. “You have the private sector creating money like it’s supposed to.”

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Going forward, all citizens — especially students — should call their representatives to voice their opinions, Boccia said.

Boccia also said The Heritage Foundation did a study on the number of phone calls it takes for a lawmaker seriously reconsider their stance on an issue.

“It only take 30 to 40 constituents to call about an issue to make [a lawmaker] reconsider,” Boccia said.

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Categories: Local Media

ASM supports Student Judiciary for reallocation of freshmen seats

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 7:55am

The Associated Students of Madison Student Council met Tuesday to reevaluate the number of seats freshmen hold on the Council.

Legislation was proposed in Student Judiciary to dissolve freshmen seats in ASM and reallocate seats to other bodies of students.

Student Council voted on whether or not to support Student Judiciary regarding keeping the freshmen seats.

Rep. Dylan Resch and others expressed their concerns for the liquidation of freshman seats.

Several representatives said freshmen are coming out and speaking on important topics more than they have in the past and have been showing up to vote in bigger numbers.

“I am scared that when we take away those seats, freshmen lose their voices on certain issues,” Resch said.

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Student Judiciary Chief Justice William Olson said over the years of ASM, freshmen have been given special treatment and seats on the council.

Freshmen should be on the council to look out for the incoming class, Rep. Iris Huang said.

“If freshmen aren’t on this council, we wont know if we are subject to conflict,” Huang said.

Freshman representatives Huang, Julia Warheit, Ethan Carpenter and Maggie Nead challenged the liquidation of the freshman seats because freshmen make up a large portion of student interest on the University of Wisconsin’s campus. With 5,000 freshman on campus, having only four seats available to them is not a large enough representation of the diversity of such a large group, Huang said.

Freshmen are also counted in their colleges that are represented on the Council, but if that freshman wanted to hold a seat, then they should have to go through the appropriate nominations, Resch said.

Other groups  like graduate students and the School of Business — currently have few representatives, Olson said. 

“For further permanent solutions, move the elections to the fall so that freshman have an opportunity to get on to Council,” Resch said.

The legislation failed 8-13-1, and Student Council supports Student Judiciary in the liquidation of the freshmen representative seats.

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Dean Lori Berquam and director of the Office of Compliance Cathy Trueba also spoke to the council regarding sexual harassment.

Online mandatory training on preventing sexual harassment and sexual violence launched in July 2017 in multiple languages and everyone from the chancellor to professors are required to take the training, Trueba said.

“We don’t want behaviors to be ignored, we want everyone to know that this is a problem,” Trueba said.


Correction: A previous version of this article stated Student Council condemned the actions of Student Judiciary. The article has since been updated to reflect the fact that the legislation failed, so Student Council supports the Student Judiciary on their decision to liquidate the freshmen representative seats. The Badger Herald regrets this error.

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Categories: Local Media

After Parkland shooting, Soglin calls for municipalities to have more power over gun laws

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 7:00am

Mayor Paul Soglin held a press conference Tuesday to express his support for the victims of the Parkland school shooting and to discuss his thoughts on gun regulations.

The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 — which left 17 people dead — is different than past shootings because the survivors of the shooting are taking control of the conversation instead of letting the incident fade from the nation’s “collective memory,” Soglin said.

“We are going to be followers,” Soglin said. “They are going to lead this discussion. And they are going to test our values as a state and as a nation.”

The United States Conference of Mayors agreed to impose stricter gun laws, Soglin said.

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But Soglin said Madison is preempted by the State Legislature, which took away the city’s power and authority to implement gun laws of its own.  

“Even though we may have some ideas and solutions on how to address this great public health problem, we are powerless,” Soglin said.

When the State Legislature passed its concealed carry law in 2011, Soglin said Madison was given some leeway in deciding which places can permit concealed weapons. 

In 2017, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Madison’s ordinance forbidding weapons on city buses. When Soglin went to the State Legislature asking them to let the city decide what weapons can and can’t be brought onto buses, he said the legislators laughed in his face.

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Soglin said if he were elected governor, he would give power back to municipalities in the state to decide gun laws on their own, like when Madison banned all handgun sales in 1975.

“What I think a governor ought to do is first strengthen the laws on a statewide basis and secondly give local authorities the independence to enact tougher laws if they wish,” Soglin said.

Since concealed carry was enacted, more illegal guns have been found circulating in the state, which puts Madisonians at greater risk of death and injury, Soglin said.

Soglin said he looks forward to working with Madison high schoolers and is hopeful about the walk out, planned for March 14, in high schools across the nation in protest of political inaction on stronger gun laws.

“This may be the time when the last shooting doesn’t fade, but is kept in the forefront,” Soglin said.

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Categories: Local Media

‘I should feel safe’: Madison high school students speak up, call for gun safety

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 6:15am

Madison high school students joined Assembly Democrats Tuesday to call on legislative leaders to take action on gun safety measures to protect students.

After previewing his priorities for this week’s floor session, Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said the biggest issue in this state and country is what is not being addressed. He then gave the floor to high school sophomore Lydia Hester who is concerned about gun violence in Wisconsin.

“Compulsory education laws state I am legally required to attend school, I should feel safe in a place where I am legally required to be,” Hester said. “How do you expect students to be successful when they have to worry about themselves, their friends and their teachers being shot?”

School shootings have been a reality for Hester her whole life, she said. Learning how to sit under a desk and be quiet as a 5-year-old is not something students should have to do, she added.

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Assembly Democrats sent a letter to Gov. Scott Walker, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Speaker Robin Vos, asking them to take action on “common sense gun safety” measures.

Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, was one of the members to sign the letter and believes Wisconsin can do more.

“As a State Legislature, we have the ability to take action to save lives,” Sargent said. “The bills that we want to move are just a handful of many proposals that have been made over the last number of sessions that we know are pragmatic and will actually save lives because they have done so in other communities.”

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The requested bills include Assembly Bill 65, Senate Bill 34, Assembly Bill 567, Senate bill 563 and Assembly Bill 616. These bills would institute universal background checks, prohibit individuals convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from possessing a firearm, and prohibit the sale, manufacture, transfer, use or possession of bump stocks, respectively.

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, believes these bills are an important step in the right direction.  

“We know [these laws] can save lives, we know that background checks can keep weapons out of peoples hands that are dangerous to themselves or the people around them,” Taylor said. “Twenty percent of gun sales have no checks on them at all.”

There is no reason the U.S. is one of the deadliest countries in the world, Taylor said. Something can be done changing that.

Taylor also said student support, especially college students’ voices, can help lead the fight for stricter gun control laws.

“And I think college students’ voices are so important as well,” Taylor said. “It should be a Big Ten effort to get rid of gun violence.”

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According to the Assembly Democrats’ letter, thoughts and prayers are not enough anymore, and making sure dangerous people do not have access to guns should be first priority. Additionally, the letter stated these bills are a real way the state of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin children can be kept safe.

According to a press release from Taylor’s office, this effort follows a school shooting in Florida that occurred on Feb. 14 in which a 19-year-old entered a school with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, killing 17 people. This was the eighth school shooting in 2018, and one of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern history, the release said.

“This has been a very deadly year for students in schools,” Sargent said. “The students that were here in the capitol building today, were saying that it is time for us to take proactive, common sense steps to address gun safety in Wisconsin. People are dying every single day in our country at a rate which does not match any other country in the world. We are doing something wrong here in America.”

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Categories: Local Media

State street brewery employee threatened with sheath knife

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 5:51pm

An off-duty employee of the Wisconsin Brewing Tap Haus was threatened by a customer Monday night.

According to a Madison Police Departmet incident report, a customer threatened the employee with a sheath knife after being told to quiet down.

The victim called authorities and the suspect, Oscar Elliot, was contacted as he made his way from the restaurant.

It was determined that Elliot had a 9-inch knife on him, although he denied taking it out while at the bar. Elliot was arrested for disorderly conduct while armed.

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UW alumnus recognized as one of top 35 millennial influencers

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 9:00am

The Next Big Thing Movement named University of Wisconsin alumnus Keven Stonewall as one of the top 35 Millennial influencers late January.

The Next Big Thing Movement seeks to bring together top millennial influencers from across the U.S. to help make a social change for humanity.

At 17 years old, Stonewall started conducting medical research for Rush University Medical Center. It was there he began his first cancer-based research, working toward determining the impact age had on a mitoxantrone-based tumor vaccine in mice.

The experiment Stonewall conducted consisted of injecting the tumor vaccine into mice, both young and old, followed by a second injection of aggressive colon cancer cells. The vaccine was effective on the young mice in just three days, and the results of Stonewall’s research have put a vaccine for elderly people with colon cancer in the works.

Having started his work at such a young age, Stonewall felt honored to receive such a high recognition from the Next Big Thing Movement.   

“I’ve put in a lot of hard work and sacrifice over the years, so it’s a great feeling to be recognized on the same platform as [other millennial influencers],” Stonewall said.

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During his undergraduate years at UW, Stonewall continued the cancer research he’d started during his internship at age 17. At UW, Stonewall studied preclinical models of allogeneic blood and marrow transplant to treat osteosarcoma and neuroblastoma.

Stonewall said it was his time at UW that introduced him to his ability to impact the world.

The starting point of his realization was working under the mentorship of UW assistant professor Dr. Christian Capitini conducting pediatric cancer research, Stonewall said.

“Four years ago, if you would have told me I would be graduating from one of the top research universities in the world, I would not have believed you,” Stonewall said, “I met some pretty amazing people here at UW, and I am confident that Badgers truly are the future leaders of the world.”

Stonewall focuses his research mainly on the fight against colon cancer but has broadened his work to include studying a type of cancer called neuroblastoma.

But Stonewall’s research has not stopped inside the lab.

Stonewall said he shares his findings and spreads medical knowledge through various speaking engagements such as TEDx talks, and in media outlets like USA Today, the New York Daily News, MSNBC and Chicago Sun-Times.

“Increasing healthy literacy is a crucial step in order to eradicate diseases such as cancer and diabetes,” Stonewall said.

Stonewall also gives motivational speeches to a wide range of people, from high school and university students to members of churches and civic organizations. He shares with them his story of how he got involved with cancer research at such a young age.

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Stonewall said he uses his established platform to increase health literacy and wellness for all members of society, focusing his work as a motivational speaker on people from underprivileged communities.

Stonewall hopes to prevent citizens from those demographics from becoming the next victims of illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. Those diseases tend to be silent killers of underprivileged communities who don’t have the access to health resources affluent groups do, Stonewall said.

“Through [this focus], I am inspired to pave the way for the next generation of students interested in pursuing careers in medicine and science, technology, engineering and math,” Stonewall said.

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Plant Dane program promotes cleaner lakes by making native plants increasingly accessible

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 8:45am

Dane County announced plans early February to continue the Plant Dane program this upcoming spring.

The program’s goal is to protect the Dane County lakes, rivers and streams by selling native plants at a fraction of the regular price, said Dane County’s Land and Resources Department stormwater education coordinator Christal Campbell.

The only stipulation is the plants have to be planted within Dane County, Campbell said.

Customers can choose from more than 40 native plant species.

All orders must be placed by March 19. Plants are $2.25 each and will be ordered in multiples of four.

“Native plants have very long roots, in comparison to non-native plants,” Campbell said. “That helps for more infiltration so the water doesn’t run off as quickly into the streets, where it goes directly into the storm sewers.”

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Unlike North Chicago or Milwaukee, Madison’s storm sewers go straight into lakes, rivers and streams without being filtered, Campbell said.

Native plants also don’t need to be fertilized. Less fertilizer means less nitrogen flowing into lakes and rivers, University of Wisconsin professor emerita Joy Zedler said.

“[Lately], we have more nitrogen and phosphorous and total suspended solids in surface water, runoff and flowing into our streams and rivers, wetlands and lakes,” Zedler said.

Zedler said the increase in nitrogen and phosphorus in waters has been linked to a wider trend in the U.S. in the last decade — the spread of aquatic invasive species.

As Dane County lakes receive more phosphorus, an algae bloom develops, turning the lakes into “pea soup,” Zedler said.

Increased levels of nitrogen in county wetlands trigger invasions of Reed Canary Grass (RCG), Wisconsin’s worst invasive wetland weed, Zedler said. Where waters are nutrient rich and a bit salty, they likely favor invasive species more than natives, she said.

“RCG outcompetes our native wetland plants,” Zedler said. “It uses nitrogen more efficiently, so it overgrows them. My student found RCG reduces plant diversity by one half, as it invades our native sedge meadows. With so much wetland area already lost to urbanization, we need to keep every remaining bit and prevent it from being transformed by weeds.”

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While Plant Dane doesn’t directly prevent the spread of invasive species, in the past 14 years the county has seen an improvement in the water quality, Campbell said. But there are many programs in place to create better waters, Campbell said.

The goal of Plant Dane, Campbell said, is to inform the public of what they can do to help.

“What we’re trying to do is to encourage people to implement practices that reduce runoff into our storm drain, that leads to our surface waters,” Campbell said.

Campbell also noted they want to promote infiltration, as dirt acts like a filter, cleaning stormwater before it gets into lakes.

While Plant Dane will help to decrease the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in the waters, there is much more contributing to the county’s polluted waters, Zedler said.

“Everyone everywhere [causes poor water quality],” Zedler said. “It’s caused by agriculture, urban lawns, street runoff and vehicles that have tires.”

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As tire treads become smooth, the material wears off onto the street, rainfall washes the water into the gutter and the water flows to the streams, Zedler said. Additionally, salt on the streets during the winter washes off sidewalks and streets and into the surface water.

But Zedler believes the Plant Dane program is a good start and will help the public realize their effect on the environment.

“A small garden project can have a huge impact by teaching people to be more mindful of the soil and native vegetation,” Zedler said. “When we all get the message, there will be visible effects wherever large areas are set aside and managed for native species.”

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UW Health’s lupus clinic aims to help patients take control of their lives

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 8:30am

University of Wisconsin Health opened a clinic Feb. 12 dedicated to offering comprehensive care to lupus patients.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease more common in women than in men, and especially in young women, UW professor of medicine Kevin McKown said in an email to The Badger Herald.

Common symptoms of lupus include fatigue, fever, joint pain, facial rash and chest pain.

“The body’s own immune system attacks the body by mistake,” McKown said. “Any part of the body can be affected, but skin, joints, kidney and brain are commonly affected.”

UW Health rheumatologist Shivani Garg noticed other effects of the disease on patients during her fellowship.

As Garg built relationships with young lupus patients and noticed the patients were under stress as they were receiving treatment, the idea of the clinic began to grow.

“When I was going through my fellowship I developed a bond with lupus patients,” Garg said. “[I saw] how much social and psychosocial stress they’re undergoing and how lupus diagnosis affects a human being overall, not just physical health but mental, emotional and financial health.”

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Garg said a gap exists in the treatment of the disease, as patients receiving treatment self-report poor qualities of life.

The UW Health clinic has emerged to seal that gap.

“After controlling the disease we still found that the patients are struggling through life and their quality of life isn’t that great,” Garg said. “These are young females who should not feel that way.”

Garg said lupus involves both nonspecific and specific symptoms. Nonspecific symptoms include fatigue, headache, hair loss, rashes, joint pain and oral sores.

Specific symptoms are often more serious and can cause permanent damage, Garg said.

“More serious problems can affect any part of the body and include seizures, strokes, myocardial infarction, inflammation or blood clots in the lungs which can interfere with breathing and loss of kidney function, leading to the need for dialysis or kidney transplantation,” McKown said. “As a group, patients with [lupus] have higher rates of depression and more difficulty with daily function and being employed.”

The UW Health clinic aims to help patients with all symptoms to help patients reclaim their lives from lupus, Garg said.

The clinic will offer comprehensive care to address all patient needs and provide patients with support at all levels, Garg said.

“The multi-disciplinary nature of the UW lupus clinic will improve the care of patients with [lupus] by giving them access to rheumatologists who are lupus specialists, social workers who will be instrumental in getting social, emotional and psychological support to the patients and their families, and pharmacists who will discuss their medication plans in-depth,” McKown said.

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With regular treatment, many patients are able to lead normal lives with their lupus in remission, though there is still a stigma around the disease, Garg said.

Garg said the clinic will help raise awareness about lupus and the struggle lupus patients face.

“We still feel that lupus is a very well-known disease but still there is a stigma behind not telling or how to express how other people would take a diagnosis of lupus,” Garg said. “This would spread awareness and then patients would be benefited in a comprehensive manner in better knowing their disease and expressing it out and living with lupus instead of letting lupus live their lives.”

It is not only Madison residents who will benefit from the clinic’s services. Garg said the clinic serves the people of Wisconsin, as well as neighboring states.

While the clinic isn’t free, it offers resources for those whose insurance does not cover its service, Garg said.

“For the patients who don’t have insurance, we do have a UW charity fund,” Garg said. “If they don’t have insurance, definitely there are resources available, and we try to help them as much as we can.”

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The clinic is available to UW students living with lupus, Garg said. The clinic offers flexible hours to work with with class schedules, including early morning appointments and lunch hour options.

The lupus clinic will be open Mondays from 8 a.m. to noon, and from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

“This clinic makes [lupus patients] manage their own symptoms and take their lives in their hands rather than just leaving it up to lupus,” Garg said.

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Technology developed by UW Hospital professor could revolutionize decision-making process of doctors

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 8:15am

A new form of medical technology designed to save hospitals money by helping doctors make more effective decisions is in the works at the University of Wisconsin Hospital.

UW Hospital neurosurgery professor Joshua Medow is the brains behind the creation of this new software — known as the “Digital Intern.”

The Digital Intern software helps medical professionals set goals, Medow said. Using the software, a doctor could set a goal of getting a patient’s platelet or hemoglobin count or get it to a certain level. The Digital Intern would run a series of complex algorithms surrounding the goal and offer a suggestion to the doctor on the best course of action to achieve it.

“We’re able to improve the quality of medications that are being used and reduce the costs,” Medow said. “That’s really the value that we want to provide.”

The Digital Intern software also takes into account a hospital’s electronic medical records and is capable of adapting to individual needs.

The software also prioritizes less expensive means of treatment.

“Sometimes a doctor just uses a drug because they like it, but it happens to be a really expensive drug,” Medow said. “[The software] allows organizations to prioritize drugs that are less expensive and actually reduce costs.”

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Medow likened the Digital Intern technology to an autopilot mode on an airplane.

By no means does the software override the doctor’s intuition and judgment, Medow said. Instead, it aids their decision-making process, saves time and vastly improves the quality of care delivered to the patients.

The Digital Intern would also allow doctors to manage significantly more patients.

Medow gave an example of how if there is only one doctor in an Intensive Care Unit with three patients who are doing poorly and a fourth patient who is an organ donor and already brain-dead, the doctor’s focus would mainly be on the first three patients, rendering the fourth patient a less-viable candidate for organ donation. Medow believes the Digital Intern could change that.

“It became pretty obvious that you could do something far more complicated to improve the quality of medical care provided in the right circumstances, ” Medow said.

Cutting down on unnecessary costs is not just a matter of concern for UW Hospital, UW Hospital neurologist Luke Bradbury said. Any hospital is working on cost containment, Bradbury said.

With Digital Intern’s capabilities of prioritizing less-expensive medicines and forms of treatment, hospitals across the country will receive a helping hand in minimizing expenses, Medow said.

Medow aims to have this new technology implemented in hospitals across the country and anticipates it being a fairly simple process. One of the most crucial steps in introducing this software is getting access to a hospital’s electronic medical records (EMRs), Medow said.

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Hospitals allowing this new technology access to its EMRs are a critical part of Digital Intern’s operations. Without records of how patients react to certain things and without a knowledge of the patient’s medical history, it would not be able to perform up to its full potential, Medow said.

“I think the biggest obstacle [will be] actually getting people to try it. Nothing like this has ever existed to this degree,” Medow said. “Most people, when they think about algorithm-based designs, think about an algorithm that’s rigid . . . and that’s not what medicine is. This machine is able to learn and adjust accordingly.”

Other obstacles include possible mishaps from doctors, like setting the wrong target and having the machine guide them towards a false goal, Medow said. There is also the potential for interns working at teaching hospitals to become far too reliant on the guidance of the software — their digital counterpart — and not fully learning medical processes for themselves.

Medow believes it is possible to avoid these complications by assuring interns are still able to learn under these new circumstances and successful operation of the new system ultimately comes down to faculty and individual workflow.

“It is the future of medicine,” Medow said. “Most people didn’t even think this was possible to do, and we have actually accomplished it.”

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Wisconsin hospitals suffering from prologued IV solution shortage

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 8:00am

A prolonged shortage of intravenous (IV) solution has begun to take a toll on hospitals and health systems throughout Wisconsin.

In response to a February survey by the Wisconsin Hospital Association, 49 pharmacy leaders responsible for over 70 hospitals and health systems reported actively rationing IV solution to mitigate the effect on their patients and staff, according to a WHA press release.

This shortage in solution is due to the hurricane season in Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria damaged, and temporarily closed, major drug manufacturing facilities. Months later, hospitals across Wisconsin and the U.S. have felt the repercussions — small-volume IV bags, amino acids and other treatment therapies are now increasingly unavailable.

WHA vice president of workforce and clinical practice Ann Zenk said WHA was highly suspicious of a shortage following the hurricane. By mid-October, many hospitals had stated a shortage in IV solution, Zenk said.

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As a result of the shortage, a few organizations particularly low on IV solution have been forced to reschedule procedures or send patients to other facilities, according to WHA’s press release. As of now, however, no hospitals have had to transfer patients or postpone treatments.

Hospitals are having to cope with the shortage in solution by implementing different methods in which they administer drugs to patients, which can reduce efficiency among staff and raise healthcare costs, Zenk said. 

Jessica Benjamin, a medical safety pharmacist at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, said her patients are fortunate as St. Mary’s is still able to give them the necessary drugs. Benjamin said, however, the shortage has imposed an extra workload on staff.

At an intermediate level, Zenk said, hospitals are no longer using large IV-fluid bags which hang from a pole and drip through IV-fluid lines. Instead, hospitals have begun using syringes to administer fluids to patients.

“Whereas before the shortage we were able to buy ready-made solutions, [pharmacists] now have to compound the fluid ourselves and make it accessible for syringe use,” Benjamin said. “We have to think about now, how will this solution be OK for a syringe.”

This method of treatment does take more time compared to the IV-drip line, Zenk said. Patients with an IV drip can take their treatment with no nurse in the room, but the syringe method requires a nurse to come in periodically and sit by the patient’s bedside to administer the fluid.

Zenk also said substituting certain IV fluids for other IV fluids is also possible in some cases, and all hospitals are willing to share their supply of fluids if a neighboring hospital is lacking.

“We are used to a waxing-waning of shortages in things like small vials of sterile water used for injections, different kinds of medication, etc.,” Zenk said, “But because this shortage has been so prolonged, what we are seeing now is a domino effect. First, it was mini bags, then bigger bags, then IV solution and now syringes.”

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According to Zenk and Benjamin, the shortage of solution has only compounded the effects of the flu season, with a much higher census of patients seeking influenza treatment and needing the necessary fluids to bring them back to health. Combined with the prolonged shortage, the flu season has the potential to be longer too, they said. 

“We have not had to turn patients away though,” Benjamin said. “We are trying very hard to maintain our inventory, to conserve and be mindful.”

WHA is also urging members of the Wisconsin Legislature to sign a letter by the American Hospital Association encouraging the Federal Drug Administration to address the crisis with all its available resources.

While the FDA has recently taken steps to alleviate the crisis by allowing the importation of saline products from other countries and also approving new saline products, the letter addresses hospitals nationwide who are concerned about the uncertainty as to when these products will be available and if there are any long-term solutions to this prolonged shortage.

Hospitals everywhere are hoping to see this shortage come to an end soon, Zenk said.

“We were told it would be months until this shortage ends,” Zenk said. “But now we are hearing relief in the coming weeks and months.”

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SSFC recommends Blank make emergency contraception more affordable, accessible

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 10:17pm

The Student Services Finance Committee voted Monday to include a recommendation that allocates University Health Services funds to subsidized emergency contraceptive for all University of Wisconsin students.

SSFC will propose the recommendation, which passed the committee in 13-1-1 vote, to UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank. 

Co-sponsors Rep. Sophia Alzaidi and Rep. Jordan Madden recommended UHS continue working with members of SSFC on expanding accessibility and affordability of emergency contraception and long-term birth control for UW students.

Madden said he and Alzaidi made the proposal more vague in the week since SSFC discussed the initial recommendation after discussions with UHS officials informed them of the programs already in place for survivors of sexual assault and uninsured and underinsured students at UW.

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The committee also approved the formation of a six-member reproductive health care sub-committee tasked with identifying barriers for access to emergency contraception for students and working with UHS to address accessibility issues.  

“The recommendation that was received last week was significantly different, but with increased information on our parts, we think that a recommendation that is vague but also specific in focusing on accessibility and affordability of emergency contraception and long-term birth control is important to include in this budget,” Madden said.

Rep. Henry Galles, the sole opposing vote, said he didn’t like the new recommendation because it was too vague. He said the old recommendation was better because it provided a clear path to providing access to oral contraceptives for UW students.

Galles said he worries a vague recommendation will end up not accomplishing anything. He said a plan which cites the efforts other campuses have made in providing oral contraceptives in vending machines would be better.

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“This doesn’t read tangibly to me,” Galles said. “I just feel like there’s got to be something to ground this or else this is typical student government stuff where it says a bunch of stuff but nothing is really done.”

Madden said it was valid to be concerned with the proposal, but assured SSFC representatives a vague proposal paired with a specific sub-committee with communication lines with UHS are the best next steps for increasing accessibility and affordability of emergency contraceptive on campus.

Rep. Zaakir Abdul-Wahid agreed with Madden and said a less prescriptive proposal is better because it will heal the rift which has developed between UHS and SSFC over these issues.

“I think that this is a better solution than the hyper-specific model because [representatives from UHS] disagreed with that version, and this will allow for us to collaborate in the future in order for us to actually come to a good conclusion that we both find to be amenable,” Abdul-Wahid said.

The committee also voted 14-0-1 to approve the budget for UW Recreational Sports. 

The SSFC’s list of recommendations will be brought to Chancellor Blank on March 23, after which she will decide whether to follow the committee’s list of recommendations or not.  

The committee will tour Memorial Union at their next meeting.

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Women entrepreneurs discuss experiences in male-dominated fields

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 9:01pm

A panel of women entrepreneurs met Monday to discuss the opportunities, preparation and logistics needed to create a successful startup.

The panel was the first session of a Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation lecture series called “Entrepreneurons.”

Laura Gomez, chief executive officer of talent recruitment firm Atipica, was Monday night’s first keynote speaker.

Center for Technology Commercialization representative Idella Yamben, Propagate Health CEO Laura Strong, University of Wisconsin professor of nutritional science Denise Ney and Wisconsin Investment Partners manager Andrea Dlugos joined Gomez as speakers.

Gomez, a Silicon Valley native, said she has been interested in technology since an early age. Interning at Hewlett-Packard before studying at the University of California — Berkeley, Gomez later went to work for Twitter in its early days.

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Gomez discussed how Twitter played a major role in the 2011 Arab Spring protests, as users were taking to the platform to warn about natural disasters, inform about government policy and create a mass following and support for uprisings.

“We really thought we were building the future of communication,” Gomez said.  “Our optimism did not allow us to see what it would become, how it would affect democracy.”

Gomez went on to explain her current work as the founder and CEO of Atipica, a company that predicts hiring needs for companies based on historical, current company and applicant behavior data. They use this data to guide companies.

Gomez discussed the challenges of getting a company off the ground, especially as a woman in a male-dominated field.

“Only 2 percent of venture capital went to female founders in 2017,” Gomez said. “When we have more female founders, we will then be able to think of wealth of creation, and ecosystems will thrive.”

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The need to include more women in technology sparked Project Include, a non-profit community accelerating meaningful and enduring diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

Gomez was one of eight founding members of the organization.

“We were all just eight women who decided we cared enough about something to do something about it, and we wanted to accelerate inclusion in the tech industry,” Gomez said.

Gomez and the panel described their personal journeys as entrepreneurs, what it means to be one, who can be one and how success and failure are defined.

The conversation was centered on the individual and the panelists shared tips on the ups and downs of being a female entrepreneur.

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Ney described herself as a non-traditional entrepreneur but said anyone with an idea can be an entrepreneur. She said her work with the nutritional management of metabolism disorder phenylketonuria made her an entrepreneur.

The panelists agreed that being an entrepreneur can mean many things and all entrepreneurial endeavors start with an idea that has the potential to help people.

“You don’t have to be a scientist, the one with the idea, or the owner of a company,” Dlugos said. “You just have to help make those project what they are. It takes a team, and if the idea is smart enough, people will join you.”

The next Entrepreneuron seminar will feature keynote speaker Gordon Nameni and will take place Wednesday, Feb. 28 at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

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Theta Chi fraternity suspended after drug, alcohol violations

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 5:39pm

The University of Wisconsin announced in a statement Monday it had suspended the Theta Chi fraternity due to violations largely involving drug and alcohol abuse.

According to the news release, the fraternity is suspended from “all university activities” until Oct. 21. The suspension comes after the student-led Committee on Student Organizations found the fraternity had violated sections of the code of conduct on three separate occasions.

The first occasion, which involved underage drinking by a female high school student, occurred on Nov. 4, 2017. According to the news release, the girl became incapacitated and was taken to the hospital for alcohol detoxification treatment.

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The student’s friends later reported that hospital staff found rohypnol, a powerful tranquilizer commonly used in cases of sexual assault and rape, in the girl’s system. The news release said there was no evidence the girl was sexually assaulted.

The second occasion occurred two weeks later and also involved instances of underage drinking. The Madison Police Department shut down a Theta Chi tailgate after fraternity members ignored police warnings about the size of the party and after an underage woman was found to be drinking alcohol.

In the third occasion, which occurred just two days later, a Theta Chi fraternity member was reported to have asked a woman to write “rush” and “chi” on her breasts and send him a photograph. According to the news release, the incident was reported to a Fraternity and Sorority Life staff member.

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Kevin Helmkamp, UW associate dean of students, said the university takes conduct violations “very seriously.”

“Theta Chi’s actions show that it has failed to ensure a safe and respectful environment for members of the campus community,” Helmkamp said. “The chapter will have to demonstrate a commitment to safety and to upholding campus and organizational values of respect and inclusion by completing the sanctions.”

The suspension prevents the fraternity from admitting a fall pledge class at the start of the fall semester this year and mandates fraternity members undergo workshops on “healthy and respectful” relationships and sexual consent.

Following the expiration of the suspension in Oct., the fraternity will be on “probation with alcohol restriction” until Nov. 25, which restricts the fraternity from serving alcohol at any of its functions.

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Following the month-long probation with alcohol restriction, the fraternity will then undergo a year of general probation.

According to the news release, the fraternity could face penalties up to and including termination if it is found to have violated any parts of the code of conduct during its 8 month suspension and yearlong probation.

The fraternity has the right to appeal the decision, which was delivered to the fraternity today.

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