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A tech whistleblower helps others speak out

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A tech whistleblower helps others speak out

By Erin Woo, The New York Times Company

In October, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California signed a bill to expand protections for people who speak up about discrimination in the workplace.

A new website arrived to offer tech workers advice on how to come forward about mistreatment by their employers.

And Apple responded to a shareholder proposal that asked it to assess how it used confidentiality agreements in employee harassment and discrimination cases.

The disparate developments had one thing — or, rather, a person — in common: Ifeoma Ozoma.

Since last year, Ozoma, 29, a former employee of Pinterest, Facebook and Google, has emerged as a central figure among tech whistleblowers. A Yale-educated daughter of Nigerian immigrants, she has supported and mentored tech workers who needed help speaking out, pushed for more legal protections for those employees and urged tech companies and their shareholders to change their whistleblower policies.

She helped inspire and pass the new California law, the Silenced No More Act, which prohibits companies from using nondisclosure agreements to squelch workers who speak up against discrimination in any form. Ozoma also released a website, The Tech Worker Handbook, which provides information on whether and how workers should blow the whistle.

“It’s really sad to me that we still have such a lack of accountability within the tech industry that individuals have to do it” by speaking up, Ozoma said in an interview.

Her efforts — which have alienated at least one ally along the way — are increasingly in the spotlight as restive tech employees take more action against their employers. Last month, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, revealed that she had leaked thousands of internal documents about the social network’s harms. (Facebook has since renamed itself Meta.) Apple also recently faced employee unrest, with many workers voicing concerns about verbal abuse, sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination.

Ozoma is now focused on directly pushing tech companies to stop using nondisclosure agreements to prevent employees from speaking out about workplace discrimination. She has also met with activists and organizations that want to pass legislation similar to the Silenced No More Act elsewhere. And she is constantly in touch with other activist tech workers, including those who have organized against Google and Apple.

Much of Ozoma’s work stems from experience. In June 2020, she and a colleague, Aerica Shimizu Banks, publicly accused their former employer, the virtual pinboard maker Pinterest, of racism and sexism. Pinterest initially denied the allegations but later apologized for its workplace culture. Its workers staged a walkout, and a former executive sued the company over gender discrimination.

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Boston College’s $100M Pine Manor Institute for Student Success to offer free courses

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Boston College’s $100M Pine Manor Institute for Student Success to offer free courses

Boston College will introduce a free summer enrichment program in June for middle and high schoolers, and an associate’s-degree-granting two-year residential college in 2024, both to broaden opportunities for underrepresented, first-generation students, the university said Thursday.

Both initiatives are part of the university’s $100 million Pine Manor Institute for Student Success, established in 2020 when Boston College and Pine Manor College signed an integration agreement that included a $50 million commitment from Boston College, which has grown to $100 million through investment returns and an anonymous pledge of $25 million.

Through the Pine Minor Institute for Students Success, the residential summer enrichment program for middle and high school students, called the Academy, will be hosted on the BC campus.

“Boston College realizes there are students who need a college degree or an opportunity to do better in middle or high school,” said University President William P. Leahy. “The goal is to match need with opportunity … so that their world’s been widened, their horizon’s been broadened.”

Beginning with a group of 40 middle school students, the Academy will offer summer courses in English, math and science for students nominated by principals, teachers, counselors or religious and community leaders.

During the school year, the students will receive academic support from trained BC success coaches and mentoring from BC undergraduate and graduate students to help the Academy students navigate the journey from middle school to college.

As they advance through high school, students also will receive training in public speaking, time management, SAT/ACT prep, and the college application process. In the summer before their senior year, they will take a college-credit course to help enhance their college readiness.

The two-year college division of Boston College will be called Messina College, named after the first Jesuit school founded in Sicily in 1548. It will offer an associate’s degree program for 100 students annually, beginning in the 2024-25 school year, with the goal of preparing students for continued studies in a bachelor’s degree program or for a professional career.

Messina College will be located on the former Pine Manor College campus in Brookline, and its students will have full access to Boston College’s campus programs and facilities. Successful students will be eligible to apply to transfer to Boston College to complete a bachelor’s degree.

The final component of the Pine Manor Institute will be an ongoing outreach initiative that will provide support for graduates of the Academy and Messina College throughout the completion of their academic studies and into their professional careers.

Together, these offerings aim to expand upon Boston College’s success in educating under-resourced, first-generation students, while continuing Pine Manor College’s legacy of outreach to underserved communities.

 

 

 

 

 

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Netflix stock plunges as subscriber growth worries deepen

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Netflix stock plunges as subscriber growth worries deepen

Netflix delivered its latest quarter of disappointing subscriber growth during the final three months of last year, a trend that management foresees continuing into the new year as tougher competition is undercutting the video streaming leader.

The Los Gatos, Calif., company added 8.3 million worldwide subscribers during the October-December period, about 200,000 fewer than management had forecast. Besides releasing its fourth-quarter results Thursday, Netflix also projected an increase of 2.5 million subscribers during the first three months of this year, well below analysts’ expectations for a gain of 4 million, according to FactSet Research.

The disappointing news caused Netflix’s stock price to plunge by about 20% in extended trading after the numbers came out, deepening a steep decline during the past two months.

It capped a challenging year for Netflix after it reveled in eye-popping gains during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 that drove homebound people to its service.

Netflix picked up 18.2 million worldwide subscribers during 2021, its slowest pace of annual growth in five years. It came after Netflix gained more than 36 million subscribers during 2020. The service now boasts nearly 222 million worldwide subscribers worldwide, more than any other video streaming leader.

But other services backed by deep-pocketed rivals such as Walt Disney Co. and Apple have been making inroads in recent years, and a bevy of other networks also are wading into video streaming in an attempt to grab eyeballs and a piece of household budgets. The escalating competition is one reason Netflix decided to expand into video games last year.

“The 2022 backdrop for Netflix seems to have been set with a theme of competition abound,” said Third Bridge analyst Joe McCormack.

While acknowledging the competition is having a “marginal” effects on its growth in its quarterly shareholder letter, Netflix emphasized its service is still thriving in every country where it’s available.

In a Thursday conference call, Netflix executives also said uncertainty caused by the ebb and flow of the pandemic during the past year has made it more difficult to gauge future growth.

COVID “has created a lot of bumpiness,” co-CEO Ted Sarandos said. The company’s other co-CEO, Reed Hastings, also expressed some frustration before adding, “For now, we’re just like staying calm and trying to figure (it) out.”

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Full schedule of concerts planned for Tanglewood this summer

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Full schedule of concerts planned for Tanglewood this summer

The Boston Symphony Orchestra announced Thursday that its summer home in Tanglewood will host a full schedule of concerts this year for the first time since 2019.

The 2022 season that runs from June 17 through Sept. 4 will include a 90th birthday celebration for John Williams with conductor Ken-David Masur leading the orchestra and featuring guest artists including Yo-Yo Ma and Branford Marsalis; a Boston Pops tribute to Stephen Sondheim; James Taylor’s traditional July Fourth show; and the popular artists series that includes Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, Brandi Carlile, Judy Collins and Earth, Wind & Fire.

The lineup includes eight world and American premieres and 28 works by living composers, as well as 21 artists in their Tanglewood or BSO debuts.

Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director Andris Nelsons will lead nine programs, including the July 8-10 Opening Night program of Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 with piano soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.”

“The 2022 Tanglewood season is filled with so many wonderful styles of composition, performed by the most extraordinary musicians working today, among them our very own Boston Symphony Orchestra,” Nelsons said in a statement.

Tanglewood, located in the towns of Lenox and Stockbridge in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937.

The 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and last year’s schedule was shortened.

Ozawa Hall and the Linde Center for Music and Learning, which were both closed in 2020 and 2021, will reopen this year for smaller audiences to take in recitals, chamber music and guest ensemble performances.

Given the ongoing pandemic, the BSO said it would announce updated health and safety measures closer to start of the summer season.

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