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Google wants ties to HBCUs. Their leaders want Sundar Pichai to treat them with respect.

Five HBCU presidents will meet with Google executives Friday to discuss company culture.

Google wants ties to HBCUs. Their leaders want Sundar Pichai to treat them with respect.

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai will meet with five HBCU presidents to discuss instances of discrimination at Google.

Photo: AaronP/Getty Images

Google's Sundar Pichai will meet with the leaders of five historically Black colleges and universities on Friday afternoon to discuss company culture in response to the still-simmering outrage over Google's firing of leading AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru and other alleged instances of racial discrimination.

"We would like to know more about the atmosphere that we're sending our students into and want to ensure that students coming from Morgan are going into an environment that is going to prompt them to flourish," said Morgan State University President David Wilson. "We want to get [Pichai's] assessment on what we've been hearing publicly, and we want to make sure that we are getting feedback from him about if Google is looking at their internal environment, and I'd like for him to share about it."

Along with Morgan State, the leaders of North Carolina A&T, Prairie View A&M, Howard University and Florida A&M will attend the meeting, which was coordinated by the president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Over the last year, tech companies like Google and Apple and industry donors such as MacKenzie Scott and Michael Bloomberg have made public investments and commitments to HBCUs, mostly as part of their racial justice efforts in the wake of the George Floyd protests. Though commitments have been unusually well-publicized this year, many HBCUs have had relationships (to varying degrees) with a range of tech companies over the past several years. Several HBCU leaders told Protocol they are also seeing new interest in further investments and partnerships in the coming year.

More than money or recruiting goals, the nation's largest producer of Black engineering graduates wants tech companies, and Google in particular, to treat it and its students with respect. North Carolina A&T wants to be considered for the merits of its programs and its students, not lumped into a conversation about all HBCUs (of which there are more than 100 nationwide).

For Robin Coger, the dean of engineering at North Carolina A&T, the university's relationship with Google grew productive when the company saw A&T as a partner, rather than a means to meet recruitment goals or burnish reputation. "While Google's perspective may be we want to expose students to Google for recruiting goals, our point of view has always been that Google needs to understand the quality of our students," Coger said.

"When you work with Stanford, you work with Stanford. When you work with North Carolina A&T, you work with us. The one-size-fits-all mentality is the opposite of collaboration," she added.

The early years of North Carolina A&T's partnership with Google were a bit rocky. "It was through quite a bit of discussion and conversation and time that ultimately we began to work together. But it required so much effort, on our side, really, because it really is up to the institution to define for the company whether or not this is acceptable," Coger said. Now, the school's computer science department has hosted a Google engineer-in-residence for the last three semesters, in what she called a mutually-beneficial learning relationship.

Morgan State's partnership with Google began about five years ago, after Wilson attended a meeting with tech execs in Silicon Valley that focused on diversifying the industry. Wilson also takes a positive view of the partnerships, and he's even hoping that the school will be able to add another person-in-residence and a Google-sponsored innovation lab.

But before that can happen, Wilson and the other HBCU leaders need to address the controversies swirling around Google. "We're not meeting to question any personnel decisions. But there were public comments made involving our institution and our students. And we just want to talk about the culture within Google," he said.

Google did not respond to request for comment about the meeting.

Protocol | China

China’s era of Big Tech Overwork has ended

Tech companies fear public outcry as much as they do regulatory crackdowns.

Chinese tech workers are fed up. Companies fear political and publish backlashes.

Photo: Susan Fisher Plotner/Getty Images

Two years after Chinese tech workers started a decentralized online protest against grueling overtime work culture, and one year after the plight of delivery workers came under the national spotlight, a chorus of Chinese tech giants have finally made high-profile moves to end the grueling work schedules that many believe have fueled the country's spectacular tech boom — and that many others have criticized as exploitative and cruel.

Over the past two months, at least four Chinese tech giants have announced plans to cancel mandatory overtime; some of the changes are companywide, and others are specific to business units. ByteDance, Kuaishou and Meituan's group-buying platform announced the end of a policy called "Big/Small Week," where a six-day workweek is followed by a more moderate schedule. In early June, a game studio owned by Tencent rolled out a policy that mandated employees punch out at 6 p.m. every Wednesday and take the weekends off.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.

Over the last year, financial institutions have experienced unprecedented demand from their customers for exposure to cryptocurrency, and we've seen an inflow of institutional dollars driving bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to record prices. Some banks have already launched cryptocurrency programs, but many more are evaluating the market.

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Power

Brownsville, we have a problem

The money and will of Elon Musk are reshaping a tiny Texas city. Its residents are divided on his vision for SpaceX, but their opinion may not matter at all.

When Musk chose Cameron County, he changed its future irrevocably.

Photo: Verónica G. Cárdenas for Protocol

In Boca Chica, Texas, the coastal prairie stretches to the horizon on either side of the Gulf of Mexico, an endless sandbar topped with floating greenery, wheeling gulls and whipping gusts of wind.

Far above the sea on a foggy March day, the camera feed on the Starship jerked and then froze on an image of orange flames shooting into the gray. From the ground below, onlookers strained to see through the opaque sky. After a moment of quiet, jagged edges of steel started to rain from the clouds, battering the ground near the oceanside launch pad, ripping through the dunes, sinking deep into the sand and flats.

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Anna Kramer

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People

Facebook’s push to protect young users is a peek at the future of social

More options, more proactive protections, fewer one-size-fits-all answers for being a person on the internet.

Social media companies are racing to find ways to protect underage people on their apps.

Image: Alexander Shatov/Unsplash

Social media companies used to see themselves as open squares, places where everyone could be together in beautiful, skipping-arm-in-arm harmony. But that's not the vision anymore.

Now, Facebook and others are going private. They're trying to rebuild around small groups and messaging. They're also trying to figure out how to build platforms that work for everyone, that don't try to apply the same set of rules to billions of people around the world, that bring everyone together but on each user's terms. It's tricky.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Power

Who owns that hot startup? These insiders want to clear it up.

Cap tables are fundamental to startups. So 10 law firms and startup software vendors are teaming up to standardize what they tell you about investors' stakes.

Cap tables describe the ownership of shares in a startup, but they aren't standardized.

Illustration: Protocol

Behind every startup, there's a cap table. Startups have to start keeping track of who owns what, from the moment they're created, to fundraising from venture capitalists, to an eventual IPO or acquisition.

"Everything that happens that is a sexy thing that's important to the tech world, it really is something having to do with the cap table," said David Wang, chief innovation officer at the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati law firm.

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Biz Carson

Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.

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