Categories
News

Campus Ministry holds prayer service to end gun violence

Fr. Pete McCormick, assistant vice president for Campus Ministry, presided over a prayer service to end hatred and gun violence in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Monday.

The altar was lined with candles, each accompanying a notecard with the name of a city that experienced gun violence in the past month. Jan. 2023 was a month with a record number of 49 mass shootings.

A student speaking at the service said that according to the gun violence archive website, “a mass shooting is defined as an event in which a minimum of four people are injured or killed, not including the shooter.” 

The service began with an opening hymn and remarks from McCormick. Then, a passage from the Gospel of Matthew 5, known as the Beatitudes, was read. This well-known chapter of the Bible preaches blessings for all people, including those who mourn, peacemakers and those who are persecuted. 

The Gospel reading was followed by a reflection from Margaret Pfeil, a teaching professor in the department of theology and the Center for Social Concerns. Pfeil reflected on the Beatitudes and said that they are “an invitation to feel good” and a call to become peacemakers.

Pfeil discussed her personal experience with the Phillips family who were affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.  Pfeil concluded by quoting St. Francis of Assisi: “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.”

Two students then came forward to speak the names of 49 cities that experienced gun violence during the past month. The sheer amount of cities that the students listed emphasized the significance of the issue at hand. 

McCormick concluded the service by leading a prayer for those who have been involved in gun violence and for an end to gun violence.

“Give us strength to walk in more ways to stand against injustice, to pray and advocate for peace,” McCormick said.

Upon departure, Campus Ministry handed out an informational flier with statistics about gun violence in the U.S. and action items to take to prevent gun violence. The flier cited James 2:14-26, which says that “prayer bears fruit in action.”

Action items listed include sending a letter to representatives and other local leaders, joining various Campus Ministry faith and justice initiatives and promoting safety on campus. Contact Becky Czarnecki at rczarne2@nd.edu to stay involved with Campus Ministry faith and justice initiatives. 

Categories
News

From the Future: AI – Philosophical, political and practical issues

Artificial intelligence (AI) may seem like a distant technology, confined to Terminator-style sci-fi stories for the foreseeable future. But the rapid advances in AI capabilities, as exhibited recently with tools like DALL-E and ChatGPT, demonstrate that AI is already here and impacting our everyday lives. While AI holds the promise of advancing society and shaping the world for the better, it also has the potential to be harmful or outright destructive. So, ensuring responsible AI deployment is imperative to securing a flourishing future for humanity, or securing a future for humanity at all.

In this inaugural edition of From the Future — a new series highlighting transformative research occurring at Notre Dame — we profile three researchers who are investigating ways to tackle philosophical, political and practical challenges as humans attempt to implement AI into our society.

Novel frameworks for AI philosophy:

Carolina Villegas-Galaviz, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Technology Ethics Center

Carolina Villegas-Galaviz studies the philosophical implications of AI through the framework of ethics of care. | Courtesy of Carolina Villegas-Galaviz

As a philosophy student in her native Spain, Carolina Villegas-Galaviz discovered the 20th-century German philosopher Hans Jonas. Jonas observed that in approaching philosophical issues with technology, people were trying to apply theories from thousands of years ago. These ancient theories, Jonas argued, were no longer applicable. Instead, humanity needs new ethics for the technological age.

“When I heard his idea, I knew it was true,” Villegas-Galaviz said. “Right now what we need to do is to adapt the moral frameworks of the past that Aristotle and others more than 2,000 years ago proposed, and relate those to the new era.”

Among the myriad technologies that permeate modern society, AI presents perhaps the most profound philosophical problems. As a postdoctoral research associate at the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center, Villegas-Galaviz is moving beyond standard approaches like deontology or epistemology and employing novel ethical frameworks to meet the unique demands of AI.

One of Villegas-Galaviz’s main areas of research is the “ethics of care.” She finds four aspects of the ethics of care framework especially useful for thinking about AI.

First, ethics of care is grounded in a view of individuals as existing in a web of interdependent relationships, and these relationships must be considered when designing AI systems.

Second, ethics of care emphasizes the importance of context and circumstances. For Villegas-Galaviz, this means that AI algorithms shouldn’t be applied universally, but should be tailored with the local culture, customs and traditions in mind.

Third, Villegas-Galaviz notes that humans should be aware of the vulnerabilities of certain people or populations and ensure that AI does not exploit these vulnerabilities, purposely or inadvertently.

Lastly, ethics of care holds that giving a voice to everyone is essential. Understanding all perspectives is imperative for AI, a technology that promises to be truly universal.

Beyond the ethics of care, Villegas-Galaviz received a grant from Microsoft to study the intersection of AI and empathy. Her research so far has focused on how empathy relates to the problem of “moral distance,” where concern for others diminishes when people don’t have to directly interact with those affected by their actions. This is a pertinent problem for AI, where developers deploy algorithms in a detached fashion.

“It’s interesting to see how empathy can help to ameliorate this problem of moral distance,” Villegas-Galaviz said. “Just to know there’s a problem with lack of empathy with AI … we’ll be in line to solve it. Those who design, develop and deploy [AI] will know that ‘I need to work on this.’”

Villegas-Galaviz says her research is grounded in a critical approach to AI. However, she noted that this does not mean she is against AI; she believes humans can solve the philosophical issues she is studying.

“I always try to say that AI is here to stay and we need to make the best out of it,” Villegas-Galaviz said. “Having a critical approach does not mean being a pessimist. I am optimistic that we can make this technology better.”

Finding balance with AI regulation:

Yong Suk Lee, Assistant Professor of Technology, Economy and Global Affairs, Keough School of Global Affairs

Yong Suk Lee researches the effects of AI on the business sector. | Courtesy of Yong Suk Lee

While promoting new philosophical frameworks for AI will help ensure responsible use to an extent, humanity will likely need to create concrete legal strategies to regulate AI.

Such is the research focus for Dr. Yong Suk Lee, Assistant Professor of Technology, Economy and Global Affairs in the Keough School. Lee notes that the rapid progress AI has made in recent years is making governance challenging.

“The pace of technological development is way ahead and people, the general public especially, but also people in governance — they’re not aware of what these technologies are and have little understanding,” Lee said. “So with this wide discrepancy between how fast technology is evolving in the applications and the general public not even knowing what this is — with this delay, I think it’s a big issue.”

An economist by training, Lee’s research has primarily focused on the effects of AI on the business sector.

In a 2022 study, Lee and fellow researchers conducted a randomized control trial where they presented business managers with proposed AI regulations. The goal was to determine how regulations influence managers’ views on AI ethics and adoption.

The study concluded that “exposure to information about AI regulation increases how important managers consider various ethical issues when adopting AI, but increases in manager awareness of ethical issues are offset by a decrease in manager intent to adopt AI technologies.”

Lee is currently researching the ramifications of AI adoption on jobs in the banking industry.

To some extent, Lee’s research aligns with the common assumption that “AI is stealing our jobs.” He is finding that as banks adopt AI, demand for “front-end” jobs like tellers decreases. However, demand for analysts and other technical roles is actually increasing. So, while AI isn’t taking all of our jobs just yet, according to Lee, “it is definitely changing the skills demanded of workers.”

In thinking about what successful AI governance might look like, Lee considers two facets to be critical. For one, Lee would like to see more up-front regulation or supervision determining how AI is deployed.

“I think there needs to be some way where regulation or agencies or academia can play a role in thinking about whether it’s good for these types of technologies to be out in the public,” Lee said.

However, Lee doesn’t want regulation to stifle innovation. Lee noted that AI is a geopolitical issue as the US, China and other countries “race” to develop advanced AI faster than others. 

“With this in mind, you think ‘okay, we do want to regulate to some degree, but also we don’t want to stifle innovation,’” Lee said. “So how we balance that I think is going to be a key thing to consider going forward.”

Though the challenges are significant, Lee feels that successful AI regulation can be achieved.

“I think we will find a way,” Lee said. “There’s going to be trial and error. But we won’t let AI destroy humanity.”

Collaborating to create AI for good:

Nitesh Chawla, Frank M. Freimann Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, College of Engineering; Director, Lucy Family Institute for Data and Society

Nitesh Chawla runs the Lucy Family Institute for Data and Society and coordinates projects focused on the potential benefits of AI. | Courtesy of Nitesh Chawla

Assuming humans overcome the above philosophical and political issues (and, of course, that AIs and other advancements don’t destroy humanity), what is the potential for AI in helping our society?

Nitesh Chawla, Frank M. Freimann Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and Director of the Lucy Family Institute for Data and Society, is focused on finding applications where AI can be used for good.

“We are advancing the field [of AI], we are developing new algorithms, we are developing new methods, we are developing new techniques. We’re really pushing the knowledge frontier,” Chawla said. “However, we also ask ourselves the question: how do we take the big leap, the translational leap? Can we imagine these innovations in a way that we can implement them, translate them to the benefit of a single person’s life or to the benefit of a community?”

For Chawla, the quest to find the most impactful AI applications is not, and should not be, an endeavor only for computer scientists. Though a computer scientist himself, Chawla believes that advancing AI for good is an interdisciplinary effort.

“A lot of these societal challenges are at the intersection of domains where different faculties or different expertise have to come together,” Chawla said. “It could be a social science piece of knowledge, it could be a humanist approach … and then the technologist could say, ‘let me take that into account as I’m developing the technology so the end user, the person I’m interested in making an impact for, actually benefits from it.’”

Embracing this interdisciplinary mindset, Chawla’s work at the Lucy Family Institute involves a range of applications in a variety of locations.

Chawla discussed a project here in South Bend, where the Institute is working with community partners and using AI to help address childhood lead poisoning. In another health-related study, AI is being used to analyze and propose solutions for healthcare disparities in Mexico. Further south in Colombia, the Lucy Family Institute and the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies have teamed up to apply AI toward understanding peace accords processes.

“The institute is committed 200 percent to leveraging data, AI [and] machine learning towards the benefit of society and enabling teams of faculty, students and staff on campus to get together to take on some of these wicked problems and address them,” Chawla said.

Like Villegas-Galaviz and Lee, Chawla is optimistic about AI. Chawla envisions a future where humans don’t just passively deploy AI, but where humans and AIs work together to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

“It’s going to be a human-machine collaboration, where the humans would still be necessary for certain higher-order decision-making, but the machine just makes it easier,” Chawla said. “It’s going to be a partnership, in many ways.”

Chawla said that AI will not be a substitute for human work.

“I don’t believe [AI] is going to be displacing mankind,” Chawla added. “I believe that top scholars and practitioners can come together to enable progress in technology while also thinking about how we democratize its use and access in an ethical way.”

Contact Spencer Kelly at skelly25@nd.edu.

Categories
News

Launch celebrates Provost McGreevy’s new book on history of Catholicism

On Friday, Notre Dame celebrated the launch of Dr. John McGreevy’s new book, “Catholicism: A Global History from the French Revolution to Pope Francis.” The event represented a collaboration among numerous campus organizations, including the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, the College of Arts & Letters and Provost McGreevy’s own home department, the Department of History.

The launch opened with a welcome from Kathleen Sprows Cummings, professor of American Studies and history and director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. She commented on the longstanding tradition of the Department of History to mark colleagues’ book publications with events that are “both scholarly and celebratory.” 

Following an introduction by Professor Elisabeth Koll, chair of the department of history, the event’s guest speaker, Samuel Moyn, began his remarks. Moyn is the Chancellor Kent professor of law and history at Yale University and has written widely on themes such as international law, the law of war, human rights and European intellectual history. 

In his speech, Moyn commended McGreevy’s work and remarked on the significance of Catholicism as a previously underrecognized framework for global history. He went on to highlight nine key precepts that distinguish the significance and skillful delivery of McGreevy’s latest book. 

To start, Moyn commented on the sophistication and precision of McGreevy’s writing, which came across as effortless without distracting from his purpose. He further admired McGreevy’s construction of each chapter as “a complete story in itself,” featuring thoughtful selections of characters and clear illustrations of broader takeaways. 

In addition to these underlying skills, Moyn reflected on McGreevy’s portrayal of the Church’s global history and personal nature, providing a variety of Catholic personifications “while avoiding tokenism and representation for its own sake.” 

According to Moyn, McGreevy adroitly depicts the interplay between Catholic tradition and innovation in the modern age, while also contextualizing the faith in the cultures that surrounded it and illustrating its significance to secular figures and events. McGreevy honestly reflects the challenges that the Church has faced and divisions within it without trying to advocate for one view over another. 

Moyn pointed out that McGreevy’s scholarship of the material in his field and thorough degree of research are on full display, topped off with some sources from Notre Dame. Even while crafting his own work, McGreevy demonstrates a true sense of collaboration and community with other intellectuals in his field.

Finally, Moyn concluded his speech by acknowledging McGreevy’s way of connecting this history with the current era, making it relevant to both the present and future. 

McGreevy took the floor following Moyn’s speech. He first thanked his family and colleagues and then turned his attention to answering, as he said, “Why this book? Why now?”

He described his motivation as twofold, one of which was to illustrate the significance of the Catholic Church on the global and historical stages. As he said, “A better understanding of Catholicism enhances our grasp of the modern world.”

“No institution is as multicultural or multilingual. Few touch as many people…only the Catholic Church includes extended networks of people and institutions in Warsaw, Nairobi and Mexico City as well as the most remote sections of the Amazon.” 

He went on to emphasize Catholicism’s truly universal nature, remarking, “Nation states matter for the study of modern Catholicism… but people, devotions and ideas cross national borders with surprising ease.”

He recounted the second part of his motive by depicting the combination of “vibrancy” and “turmoil” that characterizes the current Catholic Church, explaining its implications for those at Notre Dame. 

He acknowledged how grateful he is, and as we all should be to attend, or work at such a premier Catholic institution, adding, “This good fortune means that we have an opportunity, maybe a responsibility, to confront the challenges we all now face.”

He finished with a recognition of the change currently happening within Catholicism and the world, as well as the potential of everyone at Notre Dame to contribute to its new identity. 

The event concluded with lunch and a book signing. When asked his thoughts on the event, McGreevy described it as “thrilling,” saying he was “really honored to be [there].”

Contact Keira Stenson at kstenson@nd.edu.

Categories
News

Indiana lawmakers propose bills regarding marijuana

The Indiana legislature has proposed a number of bills regarding the legality of marijuana use, possession and sale in the state. 

These include the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, the legalization medicinal marijuana, the development regulatory processes for the sale of marijuana and the creation of a defense for someone operating a vehicle who is not intoxicated but has marijuana in their system. 

The proposal of these bills comes at a time when all of Indiana’s neighboring states have legalized marijuana in some capacity, according to The Indianapolis Star. ​​Both Illinois and Michigan have legalized recreational marijuana use and Ohio has legalized medicinal marijuana. An executive order put into effect by Kentucky Govenor Andy Beshear on Jan. 1 has partially legalized medicinal marijuana for certain people with one of 21 severe medical conditions.

David Campbell, professor of political science at Notre Dame, said the legalization of marijuana in the surrounding states could have been part of the reason for the creation of these bills. 

“Once neighboring states have enacted a policy change it makes it not only a lot easier, but it actually provides a pretty strong rationale within a state to change its policy,” Campbell said. “Think of Indiana, which is bordered by both Illinois and Michigan where marijuana is legal.”

This phenomenon is known as policy diffusion Campbell said. A certain policy will be enacted in a single or small number of states. Policymakers in other states will then enact the same policy. 

The legalization of marijuana in Indiana could also be in part due to difficulties with policing marijuana across state borders. Campbell said St. Joseph’s County could be specifically difficult to police because the area is close to both Michigan and Illinois.

There has also been a shift in the mindset regarding the danger of marijuana among citizens and lawmakers. Marijuana was targeted by Nixon administration’s implementation of the War on Drugs, Theodore Beauchaine, a professor of psychology who currently teaches a course called psychology of addiction, said. But as of January 2023, 21 states, Washington, D.C. and Guam have acted to legalize recreational marijuana, according to U.S. News

This change does not have one identifiable cause. Rather, it could be the result of many reasons, Campbell and Beauchaine said. 

“It’s undeniable that [marijuana] is not as damaging as some other drugs. There is such a thing as marijuana addiction, but that affects fewer people,” Beauchaine said.

“People recognize this, and they look and they see what the toll of drinking is on our society, and they can see that it can’t be any worse for marijuana.”

Campbell said the shift in public opinion occurred around the early 2000s when more Americans were claiming to not have any religious affiliation, a factor correlated with views on drugs. Even so, the legalization of marijuana is not something that religious leaders have specifically spoken out on in comparison to other issues, such as same-sex marriage, Campbell said. 

Furthermore, such a massive shift in public opinion has forced politicians to reevaluate their positions on marijuana. 

“As a political scientist, I’m always inclined to think about what incentives politicians have to push one issue versus another,” Campbell said. “We can only conclude that politicians decided that public opinion was moving so rapidly in favor of legalization of marijuana that there simply wasn’t any political benefit to opposing it.”

Many of these bills were authored by Republicans and have bipartisan support, but Beauchaine and Campbell are skeptical about the bills passing. 

Beauchaine said he thinks none of these bills will pass due to the state’s conservative nature. Campbell said there could potentially be a change, specifically on the medicinal front. 

“It seems unlikely, just given the political complexion of Indiana that at least in the short term, say in this session or in the next few years, that we would see legalization of recreational marijuana. But I wouldn’t be shocked if Indiana did legalize medicinal marijuana, which is an easier sell for people,” Campbell said.

“If I might coin a term, but in the same way that marijuana is sometimes described as the gateway drug in your high school, you might think of legalization of marijuana for medicinal use to be the gateway to recreational use.”

Contact Gabby at gbeecher@nd.edu.

Categories
News

University responds to emergence of ChatGPT in education

By Liam Price and Isa Sheikh

“​​The University of Notre Dame’s campus is buzzing with the recent emergence of artificial intelligence, but its implementation has sparked concerns among students and faculty about the potential loss of jobs and ethical considerations.”

That introduction wasn’t written by The Observer. Prompted with brief instructions to provide a lede — in AP style — for this story, the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ChatGPT offered the preceding paragraph, delivering results in a matter of seconds.

As the spring semester begins, an increasing number of conversations in classrooms, faculty offices and dorm rooms have been occurring around the potential of AI in education. In a communication to faculty, sent by the Office of Academic Standards (OAS), the chatbot is described as “a large language model, which generates text from prompts by predicting what sentences should follow prior sentences based on historical correlations of words.”

The University first took notice of ChatGPT in mid-December when a student was caught in a computer class final using the site, according to OAS director and faculty honor code officer Ardea Russo. 

The conversational software is often shocking in its speed and capability. Directed by The Observer, ChatGPT created detailed course syllabi with week-by-week specific readings, thematic poems and even songs in the voice of particular songwriters about specific topics. 

“I sit behind a desk, with my pen in hand / I’m searching for the truth, in a world so grand,” the chatbot’s simulated Taylor Swift wrote — in less than a second — in the opening of a song about student journalism.

ChatGPT is just one piece of the ongoing artificial intelligence revolution that threatens to remake the ways in which much of the professional and academic worlds function. 

For instance, Google has developed an AI model that generates music based on any text you give it; DALL-E, a project of OpenAI, the same research lab that developed ChatGPT, can create AI art with strikingly specific results. OpenAI has entered into a contract with Microsoft search engine Bing, shaking up the future of online searches. Already, most interviews conducted by The Observer are automatically transcribed using a program called Otter.ai

University response

Russo said she has been the point person on the administration’s response to ChatGPT. Under the direction of vice president and associate provost for undergraduate education Fr. Dan Groody, she has convened a faculty working group and sent two communications out to faculty members on the matter. The working group has convened experts from “all over the University,” Russo said, including two experts who work specifically on generative AI. 

Russo described the mixed reaction to ChatGPT among both faculty and administration.

“I think there are concerns and excitement,” she said, adding that “the reason I was immediately concerned about it was because of the academic integrity side of it. I think it could be a really cool technology to use. I’m not opposed to it in general. The reason I wanted to start working on it right away was because I was concerned about students using it as a shortcut, rather than as a tool to their learning.”

In her communications to faculty, Russo has outlined two approaches to addressing ChatGPT. First, creating assignments that use the chatbot as a part of the assignment itself, or secondly, designing “assignments that are ChatGPT-proof.” In guidance to faculty, Russo wrote that “the more specific your assignments are, the less ChatGPT can do.”

Russo emphasized the variability of ChatGPT response quality. The faculty guidance says that “even when the responses given are technically correct, the quality of the content varies greatly. Sometimes it does extremely good work and other times it does not.”

How ChatGPT works

ChatGPT uses a generative AI model, Nitesh Chawla said, referring to algorithms that can be used to create new content, including audio, code, images, text, simulations and videos.

Chawla is the director of the Lucy Family Institute for Data and Society and a professor of computer science and engineering at Notre Dame. He explained that like existing search engines, ChatGPT can be used to find answers to user questions. But producing a unique response in whichever form the user asks for makes ChatGPT, in Chawla’s words, “a search engine on steroids.”

ChatGPT is an “engineering marvel,” Chawla said, but it cannot actively seek out new information in the way that humans do.

“If you are given a situation that you have never ever encountered before in your life, you would go, ‘oh, I need to learn it,’” Chawla said. “Now, that is what ChatGPT is not doing. ChatGPT is basically saying, ‘you have taught me everything that I could be taught and I will answer based on what I have been taught.’”

Chawla described how the AI sources its learning through human training.

“ChatGPT is, in the simplistic way, a massive language model that has been trained with an extremely large volume of text or documents, which has also been trained with some human feedback into it, which has allowed it to learn or correct itself,” Chawla said.

Russo emphasized to The Observer that ChatGPT can, on occasion, very confidently provide incorrect information.

“The overall accuracy of ChatGPT is something we should pay attention to. How reliable is it really? I guess we don’t know that yet,” she said.

Chawla also expressed concern about the accuracy of ChatGPT and similar language models.

“ChatGPT will string words together based on what it has seen,” he said. “Now, what if those answers or their responses are not grounded?”

“We have to really be very careful and say, ‘ChatGPT is a valid tool for functions A, B and C. Do not use it beyond that,’” Chawla said. “We haven’t put those guardrails up yet.”

Generative AI in the classroom

The administration’s largely open-ended approach has allowed faculty to take disparate approaches to ChatGPT and other AI tools. While some have outright banned usage of the site in their classes, Andrew Gould, a political science professor, wrote new sections into his syllabi about AI tools, allowing students to consult the program.

“You may consult artificial intelligence (AI) technology such as ChatGPT. You must still convey the truth about your sources and the truth about your own contributions to the essay,” Gould’s “European Politics” syllabus specifies.

“However, AI technologies have not been trained on material about recent events. Moreover, AI technologies can produce output that is incorrect. If you quote or paraphrase from AI output in your written work, you must cite the AI source.”

AI technologies “can respond to queries with useful summaries and syntheses of conventional wisdom,” Gould told The Observer. 

“I found that asking [short response] questions that are similar to the kinds of questions I asked my students, the very good ones that I’ve gotten from ChatGPT seem like B+ or B answers to me, but very good responses,” Gould said.

When asked about the possibility of a student attempting to pass off a ChatGPT essay as their own work, Gould said he has “zero” concern.

“​​It’s very difficult to, in an unacknowledged way, use ChatGPT, add some course-specific material and not reveal that ChatGPT played a role in formulation of the argument or the evidence or the overall structure,” he said.

Dan Lindley, another political science professor, disagrees, forbidding use of generative AI in his classes. He said the development of AI in education is taking academia “by storm,” and called the recent developments “a frightful prospect” and “bad for education.”

“I think it’s a potential threat to the learning process. Anytime students can take the easy way out, it’s not as good as the hard way in,” Lindley said. “Learning how to write is not easy, and learning how to write is associated with clarifying your own thoughts and trying to simplify things that are difficult. And ChatGPT takes that all away.”

Gould said that in his experimentation with the technology, there are gaps in the site’s current ability. 

“Asking questions that really take some expertise, it seems to fall flat, so I would not be impressed if the student said in an email, ‘here’s this comment’ [in response to a course question]. I would think the student didn’t really get it,” Gould said.

For instance, Gould said that if prompted to provide a realist theory of how the European Union formed, ChatGPT provides a decent, if insufficient argument.

“You don’t get to a systematic answer,” Gould said. “It’ll be true things, but there’s not some overarching reasoning to it.”

He’s nonetheless impressed with the site’s abilities to work so quickly.

“But getting a B+ in a half a second or less. That’s pretty impressive. Like you could say, ‘oh gee,’ but to me, it seems pretty powerful. And then areas outside of my expertise, the answers seem great,” he said.

Challenging status quo education

Susan Blum, an anthropologist who most recently wrote the book “Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead),” said the emergence of AI prompts larger questions about the education system itself.

“We talk about academic integrity, but there’s really a deeper issue that we almost never talk about, which is, what is the purpose of education? Why are the students there? What do they actually want to get out of what they’re learning,” she said.

Blum, who’s also written a book specifically about plagiarism and college culture, approached the issue of AI being used in the classroom with a retrospective view of technology affecting educational environments throughout her lifetime. For example, she said she remembers the advent of calculators, which some worried would have a detrimental effect on students’ abilities in math.

“‘You had to do the math yourself by hand, because students have to learn how to do math.’ Well, maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but I use a calculator all the time,” Blum said. “People would think now that it’s a very silly argument that we should forbid calculators.”

“I see ChatGPT as another development in the continuous invention of new technologies that will have a role to play in our lives. I see this as an educational problem, not an ethical problem,” she added.

Gould similarly believes that generative AI programs “have the potential to transform radically the nature of work throughout the economy throughout the world,” and for professors to implement a “blanket policy not to consult it or use it is a mistake.”

“Do we sit students in a room and have them write by hand so that they can’t consult anything? Some people are proposing that,” Blum said. “Or maybe we don’t ask boring questions that students don’t want to write. Maybe we have to really rethink our teaching.”

Blum said AI technologies will be practical for students hoping to achieve high test scores, making it so appealing for students that a ban might not be effective.

“Until we have more interesting stuff, this is going to be something that students turn to, and I think forbidding it won’t work,” Blum said.

The University is conscious of those ideas. Russo said that courses should have a deeper aim to encourage learning among students, above the simple pursuit of grades.

“I think that the more motivated they are to learn the material because it’s interesting and relevant, the less they’ll want to go online and just turn in something. I feel like our students should want to be better than a machine,” Russo said. 

“And so I’m hoping that that will be enough to deter students. You know, when you’re at a dinner with friends and a conversation topic comes up, you’re gonna want to chime in on the conversation, not be like, ‘well, let me see, let me put this into ChatGPT and see what ChatGPT thinks about it,’” she added.

Implications for the future

Russo, Chawla, Blum, Gould and Lindley all shared an agreement that generative AI is still in its infancy and will continue to grow and adapt. 

“I think there’s a general awareness that we’re in a very early period of ChatGPT and I understand there’s a new version coming out, which will be even better. I know that the current version doesn’t know anything that happened past 2021, but the new version will be updated. So I think there’s a general awareness that we want to kind of wait and see where it goes,” Russo said.  

Lindley argued that the future of AI’s implications range far beyond chatbots, discussing potential dangers of AI that he has encountered in his fields of expertise.

“If you were studying weapons, you’d be kind of attuned to what might happen with AI, because there’s going to be autonomous weapons out there. And what are their rules going to be? How are they going to be programmed to kill?” Lindley said. “Yes, they’re going to kill and then what’s gonna happen?”

Gould said ChatGPT will continue to improve and get rid of current flaws in the content it produces. “That’s why I think we should engage, not prohibit,” he said. 

He discussed the broader societal impacts of such technology, which he predicts will rapidly take shape in the years to come.

“I think we’re just at the beginning of figuring out what the impact is. I have shared with seminar students my concern that employers hire us for our skills and abilities to do things for them. They do not hire us for our emotions,” Gould said.

“So I think we, and people entering the job market, have to ask ourselves, ‘what can I do that AI cannot do?,’ or ‘what can I do with AI that AI cannot do by itself?’ That, to me, seems like a pretty serious question. And so yeah, there’s the danger that AI can replace the kind of general skills and intellectual work that we train our students for.”

Contact Liam Price at lprice3@nd.edu and Isa Sheikh at isheikh@nd.edu

Categories
News

DPAC hosts film series exploring contemporary France

The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC) is hosting “Albertine Cinematheque and Contemporary French Film,” a film series that runs from January 19th to March 2nd on Thursday nights at 6:30 p.m. Each week, students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross, IUSB and community members in South Bend enrolled in the one-credit course watch contemporary French films and then stay after for a discussion with a faculty member. Anyone can watch the films at DPAC, even if they are not enrolled in the course. 

Dr. Sonja Stojanovic, assistant professor of French and Francophone studies, is the instructor for the course. She said the series is funded by Albertine cinematheque that is part of the FACE Foundation (French-American Cultural Exchange in Education and the Arts) that invites applications every year for the festival grant program.

“This year we are one of 50 other campuses to receive the grant,” Stojanovic said. “A list of about 20 contemporary films is made available by the cinematheque program and we are invited to choose at least six films and create public events surrounding these films.”  

Ricky Herbst, cinema program manager of the Browning Cinema at DPAC, spoke further about how the series was conceptualized.

“We have a mix of films that explore the colonial past and present of France particularly as it relates to West Africa. That is one kind of narrative that emerges from this very eclectic series,” Herbst said.

Justin Klonoski, a sophomore at Notre Dame, enrolled in the course to apply what he’s learnt in previous French courses which he has taken as part of his International Economics major.

“These are… movies made in the last two to three years, so just being able to understand the socio-economic context behind these movies… really helped me develop an appreciation for the talent of the creators and modern French culture,” said Klonoski, who will be studying abroad in Paris in the fall.

Klonoski said he enjoyed the film “Nous” (We) by Alice Diop, the first film of the series, that played on Jan. 19. The director is the daughter of Senegalese immigrants who grew up in the banlieue, the suburbs of Paris.

“The point of the movie was that her mother died a few years ago, and she regretted not having a lot of recording and film of her,” Klonoski explained. “So she decided to… create a film of other people in the banlieue like the elderly, young boys, there’s even a scene with alcoholics.”

Herbst contextualized how local audiences can think about “Nous.”

“The director comes from a background and a place where her voice would traditionally not be highlighted. She’s meditating on what it means to be part of a culture and knowing that if you’re not going to be fully part of that culture, you do your best to put your stamp on it,” Herbst said.

Herbst explained that the film raises big, philosophical questions we are all able to enjoy and think about, such as “how would I make this movie about my own life about my own environment?” and “how could I tell a story about on campus or in South Bend?”

Stojanovic said she is looking forward to the screening of the animated film “Josep” that is set during the Second World War and will be screened on Feb. 9. Stojanovic said over email that the film tells the story of Josep Bartoli, a painter and cartoonist who, in 1939, became a refugee following the Spanish Civil War and was detained in a French internment camp. 

“Each film screened in the series is followed by a discussion moderated by Notre Dame faculty and ‘Josep’ will be moderated by Pedro Aguilera-Mellado, assistant professor of Spanish and Iberian Studies, who is working with colleagues in Spain to connect us with a special guest… I hope people stay for the discussion and find out who [the guest is]” Stojanovic said. 

DPAC has been organizing film series like these since 2018 under the title “Learning Beyond the Classics.”

“We make readings, introductions and discussions available to hybrid classes of students and community members,” Herbst said. “We have the price point at $2… and we hope that that lowers the barriers for people who want to come in and take a college level class. The series is free for Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross, IUSB and high school students.”

Klonoski emphasized how accessible and relatable the films in the series are.

“Even if you don’t understand French, the subtitles were really accurate. They didn’t take the direct translation of the French… but they actually took the more artistic meaning behind it,” Klonoski said.

Stojanovic views the series as a way for people to expand their horizons.

“The French section of the department of romance languages and literatures is planning on offering more film-based 1-credit courses in the future, open to all no matter the level of French – [so] look for us when you sign up for courses under ROFR,” Stojanovic said.

In his work curating the series, Herbst said his primary objective was for people to gain an awareness of their biases and to give them the tools to become a more informed audience member, not only for movies they might watch, but for the news they encounter and the stories they read.

“A really good way to become a better person is to become a more astute movie watcher, because you need self awareness… to very quickly interpret the world in front of you,” Herbst said.

Contact Angela Mathew at amathew3@nd.edu.

Categories
News

The Observer elects Editor-in-Chief for 2023-24 term

The Observer General Board elected Assistant Managing Editor Maggie Eastland as Editor-in-Chief for the 2023-24 term Saturday.

“Maggie embodies what The Observer is all about. In the past year, she’s led initiatives across the paper that encourage readership, strengthen our content and support staff members,” current Editor-in-Chief Alysa Guffey said. “I have immense trust and faith in Maggie to step up and lead the newsroom with humility and grace.”

Maggie Eastland, a current junior, is majoring in finance with a minor in the Gallivan program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. / Maggie Eastland | The Observer

Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eastland currently lives in Pasquerilla West Hall. She is a junior pursuing a major in finance with a minor in the Gallivan program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy.

“I am grateful and honored by the opportunity to lead this newspaper,” Eastland said. “But at the end of the day, it’s not about the nameplate. It’s about writing, editing and telling stories that matter. I look forward to upholding that legacy.”

Eastland began writing for The Observer during her freshman year, filling the position of New Writer Editor that spring. She then served a term as Associate News Editor before becoming an Assistant Managing Editor in March 2022.

Eastland will begin her term as Editor-in-Chief on March 5.

Categories
News

Brett Kavanaugh speaks on jurisprudence, colleague friendships in Notre Dame Law School Q&A

Last Monday in the McCartan Courtroom, dean of Notre Dame Law School Marcus Cole spoke with Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who responded to questions from students and faculty members in the audience. In the Q&A, Kavanaugh discussed his relationship with his colleagues, how he personally developed his specific philosophy of law, including from both his time attending Catholic schools growing up and his experience working under former President George W. Bush.

Kavanaugh was the third conservative supreme court justice to visit Notre Dame in the past year, but the event was not announced to the public or opened up for media coverage.

Nods to Catholic Education

Kavanaugh’s opening remarks complimented fellow Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett as a “great representative” of her law school alma mater, Notre Dame. He said that after having gone to 10 p.m. mass in Pangborn Hall and watching the women’s basketball team play within his first 24 hours after arriving on Notre Dame’s campus, Notre Dame had already left a strong impression on him.

“It reflects Notre Dame’s academic excellence, the spiritual foundation, the Catholic tradition of service to others and the school spirit reflected in the sports program,” Kavanaugh said.

Answering a question about the role of Catholic education in shaping his legal perspective, Kavanaugh credited his Catholic schooling from first grade throughout high school as having taught him important values that are required to be a good judge. 

Kavanaugh recalled three important lessons from his Catholic schooling: “be prepared”, “stand in someone else’s shoes” and “be not afraid.” These lessons from his classrooms from over 40 years ago still inform his job today, Kavanaugh said.

“Those lessons I learned in Catholic school, I think, still ground me today when I come in the office in the morning,” Kavanaugh said. “And I’ve tried, throughout all my life, I’ve devoted almost all my career to public service and to serving others.”

White House Experience

Though he said his Catholic education has been important for his legal career, Kavanaugh clarified that his philosophy of law is not impacted by his Catholic upbringing.

“A lot of what I learned in the Catholic school still informs not my jurisprudence, I don’t want to confuse the issue… but just how I try to treat other people and how I can think of my role in public service,” he said.

Explaining how he developed his idea of the Supreme Court’s role in American government, Kavanaugh credited his time working for President Bush as an associate counsel for giving him insight on why the court’s are important.

“For me, my White House experience for five and a half years is really quite central to my thinking about a lot of topics,” Kavanaugh said. “I learned a lot about the presidency… I also saw, separately, how the agency process works.”

Due to the president’s difficulty in passing reform through Congress, Kavanaugh said there is a lot of pressure on executive branch agencies to “push the envelope” of what they are constitutionally allowed to do.

“That’s where I think the courts come in, saying, ‘Wait a second, as a matter of separation of powers, that is beyond the existing authority you have,” Kavanaugh said. “What I saw in that process convinced me that it’s important that the courts police that because all the incentives in the executive branch are to push beyond the existing authority.”

Supreme court friendships, collaboration and justice lunch

Kavanaugh said he thinks there is much collegiality and talk between the nine justices in the Supreme Court. Though disagreements inevitably happen, he said the Supreme Court has been collaborative, coming together and talking through issues intensely, often not adhering to a strict conservative-liberal divide.

“The relationships are quite good and they result in cases that don’t get a lot of attention, but are really important and the lineups [of votes] are not necessarily what you might think,” he said.

Kavanaugh stressed, however, that despite any disagreements, the justices are good friends with one another.

“One of the things I think that’s important for the students to know here, because you read about the court, and one of the things you adjust to when you get on the court, is you just spend an enormous amount of time with these eight other people and only these eight other people at random.”

Sixty-five times a year, the Supreme Court justices meet for lunch, Kavanaugh said. He described it as a random group of people who form strong friendships, and he joked about former Justice Stephen Breyer’s broad knowledge “about things you don’t know anything about,” which he recalled being entertained by during the lunches while Justice Breyer was still in the Supreme Court.

“You can’t talk about work, so you talk about things that you would talk about with your friends,” Kavanaugh said. “We get tough cases and we disagree on some of those — I think that’s more nuanced than sometimes it’s portrayed… but we work well together. We get along well together.”

Contact Liam at lprice3@nd.edu.

Categories
News

SMC Votes hosts event discussing current State of the Union

On Wednesday evening, SMC Votes hosted the first meeting of their “Politics and Pretzels” series. This series will consist of three meetings in Reignbeaux Lounge of Le Mans Hall, where students can gather to discuss the current political climate with other students and professors.

Libbey Detcher, a senior political science major and host of the event, explained who was sponsoring the three-part series.

“This event is mainly sponsored by SMC Votes, which I co-lead with sophomore Jean Ochoa.” Detcher said. “We decided to collaborate with the political science club to have a broader reach with students.”

For the first meeting, Detcher invited Saint Mary’s political science professor Sean Savage to speak with students on gerrymandering and the newly elected 118th U.S. Congress.

When asked what she was hoping students would take away from the event, Detcher said she “hope[s] we can facilitate good discussion so our campus community members can learn about recent political events.” 

To the same question, Savage said: “I hope that, regardless of their majors, students will develop a stronger interest in and awareness of American politics. … Everyone is affected by what happens in politics and government.”

Detcher began the meeting by speaking on district lines that are drawn for elections in each state.

“My big focus on voting rights, in a roundabout way, is redistricting,” Detcher said. He explained that redistricting occurs every 10 years following the national Census. 

“When politicians are drawing these lines, they purposely include or exclude certain communities, often communities of color and marginalized communities,” Detcher said. “This dilutes the vote of those people and they’re not counted accurately.”

Savage then touched on the changes in the House of Representatives that occurred following the 2022 midterm election.

“The Democrats lost their very narrow majority, about five seats, while the Republicans gained their very narrow majority of five seats,” he said.

Then, Savage elaborated on the election of Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House.

“In order for Kevin McCarthy to get enough votes to become Speaker, he had to give up certain powers,” Savage said. He said proxy voting — voting without physically being on the House floor, was going to be ending.

Savage also discussed the new 72-hour rule.

“Before a vote is scheduled, the members of the house have 72 hours to read it before voting on it,” he said. 

After Detcher and Savage spoke on gerrymandering and the newly-elected Congress, they opened the discussion up for questions or comments. For the next 15 minutes, the group engaged in conversations, shared opinions and answered each other’s questions.

Detcher, who interned for the U.S. House of Representatives last spring, spoke on the relevancy of politics for young people.

“For many students, this past midterm election was the first or second election they voted in,” she said. “An important part of voter mobilization efforts is to really emphasize the impact voters have on elections at all levels, as well as the policies produced by their representatives.”

Savage shared why he thinks the 118th Congress should be important to college students.

“As a result of the midterm elections, the Republicans won a narrow majority in the House of Representatives,” Savage explained. “It is unlikely that the House GOP will appropriate billions of dollars for the relief of student loan debt.”

The second part of the “Politics and Pretzels” series will be in Reignbeaux Lounge on Feb. 15th.

Contact Cathy at cdoherty01@saintmarys.edu.

Categories
News

Panelists advocate for ‘culture of life’ in wake of Dobbs decision

Participants in the panel “A Culture of Life in Post-Dobbs America” advocated against abortion and for a pro-life movement that places equal emphasis on the life of the mother and child Wednesday afternoon.

The panel, which was hosted by the Notre Dame Office of Life and Human Dignity and the Notre Dame Right to Life club, consisted of: Danielle Brown, associate director of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Charles Camos, professor of medical humanities at the Creighton University School of Medicine; Angela Franks, professor of theology at St. John’s Seminary in Boston; O. Carter Snead, a professor of law at Notre Dame; and Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the diocese of Fort Wayne — South Bend.

Snead began the panel by emphasizing the importance of the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision for their movement.

“Before we could even have any substantive conversations about how to shape the law, Roe v. Wade had to be overturned,” Mr. Snead said, arguing that the Roe v. Wade decision was “pursuant to an illegitimate power grab by the court that didn’t have any sources in the text, history or tradition of the Constitution.”

Now that the Court has tossed the power to regulate abortion to the states, Snead said “it’s our responsibility to take that authority and to care for mothers, babies and families and build a culture of life and a civilization of love.” 

Snead advocated for policies that outlaw abortion while also supporting mothers, pointing to the state of Texas as an example.

“Texas has not just extended the protections of the law to the to the unborn child but at the same time, authorized $100 million … for alternatives to abortion programs to try to support pregnancy resource centers … to help support women in terms of poverty, health care [and] addiction,” he said.

Brown then spoke, drawing connections between abortion and racism.

“There are … two thirds as many abortions in the Black community than amongst our sisters in the white community,” she said.

While African-Americans make up roughly 12% of the American population, Brown said, “some figures report that without abortion, the population and the communities would be double that percentage.”

But Brown said it is not enough to simply point out the issue of race with abortion — she said action must be taken.

“The problem that I see most within the pro-life movement is that we are all stats when it comes to the Black American and no heart. [We are] not caring about health care disparities, food deserts, safe and affordable housing, educational choice, and the Catholic Church is rapidly withdrawing from city centers. Why don’t we care?” she said.

While Brown argued that laws must be enacted to stop abortion, she also argued that a shift in the culture is necessary.

“Men and women today, really, we just want to be God. We lack a proper anthropology of the human person and a definition of true freedom,” she said.

Franks then talked about the role that abortion has played in feminist movements over the past 100 years. 

While the first wave of feminism, Franks argued, was mostly about “moral exhortation” and changing social structures to benefit women, second and third wave feminism evolved to the point where “the problem was female fertility.” The solution for these feminists, Franks argued, was abortion.

This view of feminism, Franks said, was out of touch with basic biology and “just doesn’t work.”

“Women cannot simply follow a male timetable when it comes to pursuing education or pursuing a career if they also want a family,” Franks said.

Franks argued that a worldview that pushes motherhood to the side in favor of monetary gain should be rejected by the movement.

Camosy turned the focus of the conversation to the future of the anti-abortion cause.

“Just as a quarterback needs to lead his receiver and throw the ball, not where he is now, but where he will be in a few seconds,” Camosy said, “so we as a pro-life movement need to think about not where the culture is now, if we want to be persuasive in the public sphere, build alliances, appeal to people with different sources of ultimate concern, but think about where we’re going.”

Like other speakers, Camosy stated that in a post-Roe world, “the goal of radical equality for both mother and child” should be the priority.

Camosy argued that in order to do this, anti-abortion advocates must not be afraid to use the government to achieve their goals.

“We have been led, in my view, by far too tight connections to a Reagan-style Republican Party that rejects the role of government in favor of virtually only private solutions. There is nothing Catholic about this approach,” Camosy said.

After the four panelists spoke, Rhoades came to the stage and praised the work of the panelists and the Right to Life group on campus, saying that “respect for the life and dignity of every human being” is the “foundation of what makes a university truly Catholic.”

Rhoades touted the work of pregnancy and women’s care centers in the diocese, which give material assistance to women during and after their pregnancies.

“It’s remarkable the number of women who’ve been helped, and many African-American, many Latinas and many who are lower income people. And the method is love,” Rhoades said.

“The number of abortions in our diocese has been cut in half,” he added.

Concluding his remarks, Rhoades emphasized the importance he places on the fight against abortion.

“Life is the first good received from God and is fundamental to all others. To guarantee the right to life for all and in an equal manner for all is the duty upon which the future of humanity depends,” he said.