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September 12, 2017

Prominent First Amendment lawyer kicks off yearlong ASU lecture series about intellectual diversity on college campuses

Free speech, one of the most basic rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens, has become a hot-button issue with phrases like “fake news” and “safe space” entering the national lexicon, and arguments raging over what is and is not acceptable conversation for the public square.

Lawyer and author Floyd Abrams — who over the course of a career spanning more than half a century has argued and won many significant Supreme Court First Amendment cases that protected freedom of speech, including the Pentagon Papers case — took the stage Tuesday night to speak on why now, more than ever, free speech must be protected.

“It’s worth thinking about why we protect some speech,” Abrams said, alluding to what many have viewed to be intolerant rhetoric in recent weeks and months. He cited former Supreme Court Associate Justice Hugo Black, who said, “The very reason for the First Amendment is to make the people of this country free to think, speak, write and worship as they wish, not as the government commands.”

The fact that the speech of some may make others uncomfortable is the price Americans pay for the protection of their own speech.

Abrams' talk at the Arizona PBS Studios on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus kicked off the 2017–18 lecture series “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society,” a series created by the recently launched School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL) in hopes of encouraging a more productive dialogue in an increasingly heated arena.

In the last year on college campuses, conflicting views about what exactly is protected by the First Amendment have resulted in schisms ranging from fierce debates to outright violence, as was the case when two students were carted off, bloodied and in handcuffs, after coming to blows over alt-right white nationalist Richard Spencer’s visit to Auburn University.

At the same time, a number of universities and colleges, bowing to student pressure and likely hoping to avoid similar incidents, joined a long list of institutions disinviting high-profile speakers perceived as potentially incendiary — among them, divisive British political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, rapper Action Bronson and right-wing pundit Ann Coulter.

But, said ASU Professor and SCETL Founding Director Paul Carrese, allowing for argument and civil dialogue between parties who disagree is “what universities are all about.”

“This year’s (lecture series) theme rose out of an immediate question facing universities and colleges about speakers on campus sparking protests and even violence, and being disinvited or shutting down the campus,” Carrese said.

“The larger issue is, what is a university or college’s mission? … We thought our mission was not to provide a specific answer but that the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership could be a national space to have the debate about that.”

At Tuesday night’s event — co-sponsored by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law — Abrams was introduced by Associate Professor of Journalism Joseph Russomanno, who said there may be no one else who has worked so hard to uphold the First Amendment as Abrams.

After being welcomed to the stage, Abrams expressed his pleasure at being the first to speak in such “a series of lectures at time when the country desperately needs to be thinking about free speech and intellectual diversity.”

He then recounted with dismay recent testimony he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee in which he found it “almost too easy” to list a number of recent incidents involving the misinterpretation or suppression of free speech on college campuses.

In regards to a lawsuit filed just last week against Michigan State University for refusing to provide a space for Spencer to speak, Abrams said, “His views I consider to be ugly in nature, and I am not at all alone in thinking that.”

However, free speech protects even potentially incendiary speakers invited to speak on campuses.

“Discrimination on the basis of message and content cannot be tolerated under the First Amendment,” he said. “That being so, speech must be permitted and campuses must take adequate precautions to prevent violence.”

First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams speaks at ASU
First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams (right), who represented The New York Times in the landmark Pentagon Papers Supreme Court case, discusses free speech on campus with ASU Associate Professor Joe Russomanno on Tuesday in Phoenix. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Abrams’ encouragement of the audience to consider the rationale behind free-speech laws echoes SCETL’s goal to involve and educate the university and community at large about civil discourse and fundamental American values and principles.

According to Carrese, if universities lead the way on free speech and the serious, responsible and open exchange of ideas on campus, they can set an example of what it means to be an educated, active citizen for the community beyond the campus.

SCETL is working with ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and Great Hearts Academies in Phoenix to develop a master’s degree focused on classical, liberal education. The school also recently facilitated the acquisition of a first printing of the Federalist Papers, of which only 500 exist. There are plans to collaborate with ASU Gammage on a public exhibition of the document when the Broadway production of “Hamilton” comes to Tempe this winter. (Alexander Hamilton was one of three writers of the Federalist papers. His co-writers were John Jay and James Madison.)

The lecture series and other upcoming panels and events hosted by SCETL — all free and open to the public — are being filmed by Arizona PBS, which will use the content to produce a four-part series that will air next year. The content will also be made into a book, separately.

Next up in the lecture series is a debate between former U.S. Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Tom Daschle (D-SD), titled “Disagreement and Civil Dialogue on American Politics and Civic Culture.” It is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Katzin Concert Hall on the Tempe campus.

“[They have] agreed to share the stage and have a dialogue about why it’s important to keep discussing and arguing with people who hold divergent views from your own,” Carrese said. “That’s what universities are all about.”

Find more events here.

 

Top photo: First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, who represented The New York Times in the landmark Pentagon Papers Supreme Court case, discusses free speech on campus before 200 people at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on Tuesday. The talk is part in the "Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society" lecture series, sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, the Cronkite School and the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

 
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Mapping out the next steps after natural disasters on coastlines

September 13, 2017

ASU geophysicist creates maps from satellite data for first responders during emergencies and policy makers for long-term planning

Knowing the lay of the land is crucial for first responders during emergencies and for civic planners making decisions that direct a city's future. Natural disasters, however, have a way of drastically and suddenly changing that land.

Manoochehr Shirzaei, a geophysicist and radar remote sensing expert at Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration, specializes in satellites equipped with instruments that use highly accurate remote sensing, called Synthetic Aperture Radar. The data collected from these satellites allow Shirzaei to create high-resolution images of the Earth, with an emphasis on identifying sinking lands and flood zones. The maps are then provided to first responders as well as to public policy makers for long-term planning.

Question: What is a geophysicist, and how does that field relate to flooding caused by hurricanes like Harvey and Irma?

Answer: Geophysics is the study of the physical processes and physical property of Earth (and its surrounding space environment) by mapping the variations of physical property that are remotely sensed. In my case, I’m using satellites to study the Earth’s surface and specifically ground-level changes, which can be the result of natural causes or human-caused ones like extraction for water or fuel. 

Q. You created a map of the Houston area with flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey (the map is pictured above, with flooded areas in red). How was this map created?

A: We acquired data from the Sentinel 1A/B satellites that belong to the European Space Agency. The instruments on these satellites use radar to provide highly accurate remote sensing data. There are two satellites that have a six-day revisit time (orbiting the Earth every six days), so we can compare an area before and after a disaster. 

The raw images at first look like black and white dots, as if you were to spread large amounts of salt and pepper over a sheet of paper.  Once we’ve processed the data, we can colorize the mapped areas based on levels of flooding. 

See a larger version of the map here.

Q: How will the map be used?

A: During an intense storm, it is difficult to fly an airplane or drone over an affected area. And then clouds often are in the way of any satellite pictures that would show us what the flooding may look like. But radar can get through both clouds and rain.

This is helpful for first responders so they can determine where aid and relief is needed the most. It can also help with estimating the overall damage of an area. 

In terms of forecasting, remote sensing is also useful to determine which land is above or below sea level and therefore more prone to flooding. 

A map showing areas flooded in Florida after Hurricane Irma
A map of southeast Florida flooding caused by Hurricane Irma generated from two C-Band SAR images acquired by Sentinel 1A/B satellites between Aug. 28 and Sept. 10. Image by Manoochehr Shirzaei

Q: And how did you create a similar map for the flooding caused by Hurricane Irma?

A: I contacted the European Space Agency in advance of the storm hitting Florida and requested data from their Sentinel 1A/B satellites. Once the storm hit and the data were available for the affected area, I began creating maps depicting the areas of flooding along the Florida coast. These maps are then provided to the appropriate local and national authorities so they can better assist those areas in need. 

Q: You recently were recently selected to join the NASA Sea Level Change Team. What will you be doing for NASA as part of this team?

A: I will be working on mapping the U.S. coasts and studying the coastal land subsidence as well as the impact of sea-level rise on coastal flooding. NASA will use this data to inform local and national public authorities so that they can plan for flooding and infrastructure improvements, with the goal to minimize future damage.  

 

Top photo: Map of Houston flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey generated from two C-Band SAR images acquired by Sentinel 1A/B satellites between Aug. 24 and 30. Image by Manoochehr Shirzaei

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager , School of Earth and Space Exploration

480-965-9345