Friday, February 27, 2015

Higher Ed Report from LAO

Pop goes the LAO
The LAO has issued a report on state higher ed funding in the governor's proposed budget.  Much of the report deals with CSU and community colleges.  The components on UC, as in the past, express the LAO’s dislike for the governor’s habit of adding a lump sum to the UC budget without regard to some measure of performance (such as enrollment).  Instead of the governor’s $140 for next year (conditioned on a tuition freeze), LAO prefers an inflation adjustment which it puts at 2.2% and says equates to $126 million. [p. 4] (LAO’s base to which the 2.2% is applied seems to be tuition plus state funding and omits some other state funding.)  LAO suggests a freeze on both the current in-state and out-of-state enrollment for UC. [p. 3]  Indeed, it asserts at one point that UC is currently admitting more than the old Master Plan target of the top eighth.  It suggests that the legislature set tuition as a share of costs (presumably as an alternative to a tuition deal with the governor). [p. 4] LAO suggests that faculty are overpaid relative to other public research universities (not the comparison-8 universities which are half private) [p. 50] and that UC costs/student are higher than such public universities. [p. 49]  It suggests the legislature might set the division between teaching and research since costs would go down if teaching loads went up. [p. 4] In reviewing UC’s pension, the report notes that recent changes regarding state pensions (but not UC’s earlier changes) cap pension payments at $117,000. [p. 51]

All of these matters are phrased in terms of things that might be considered or inferred. You can view the wording as intended to be just some interesting observations and ideas that are among many alternatives, mere possibilities. Or you can regard the wording as weasel language that hides what would amount to a major, major change in the standing of UC, its governance, and its longstanding role in the state. 

Down the Hall

No, I don't know what it is. But you can find it down a hallway in the 200 Medical Plaza building on the second floor.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Regulatory Report

A report has been released to a U.S. Senate committee that complains about costs of excess federal regulation of higher ed. A task force had been set up by a bipartisan group of senators to study the issue.  The California Institute describes the release of the report in its Feb. 26 online bulletin:

On Tuesday, February 24, 2015, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee convened for its first hearing regarding higher education. The hearing, entitled "Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities: A Report from the Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education," outlined recommendations to facilitate revision of inefficient and costly federal rules and regulations faced by institutions of higher education. Witnesses included William E. Kirwan, Chancellor, University of Maryland, Adelphi, MD and Nicholas S. Zeppos, Chancellor, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. The task force consisted of sixteen presidents and chancellors. "Through the task force's work, we have learned that many regulations are well developed, address critically important issues, and provide appropriate means of institutional accountability. On the other hand, we have also discovered that too many regulations are poorly framed, confusing, overly complex, ill-conceived, or poorly executed," testified Mr. Zeppos...


The report itself is at

Note that while there is likely to be agreement with the general concept that excessive regulation is costly, the specifics of regulations may spark some disagreement about what is necessary and what isn't. For example, there is a citation of the regulation below as unnecessary:

Vaccination policies. Institutions must disclose their vaccination policies in order to be eligible for Title IV funding.43 While arguably related to student health, information about an institution’s policy does not make students any safer, and is unlikely to be a consideration for any prospective students or parents when they select a college.  (pages 30 and 57)

That regulation may have seemed burdensome when the report was being put together.  It may be viewed differently in the aftermath of more recent events.

Complex Tale

Inside Higher Ed today carries a link to a complex tale contained in a Bloomberg News story involving espionage, the FBI, and the Confucius Institute at the U of South Florida:  (The Bloomberg story is at

The Institutes have been controversial in the U.S. because of their link to the Chinese government. In the U of South Florida case, however, there appears to be an attempt by the FBI to use an Institute connection for info gathering in China. Up to this point, to the extent there has been international controversy about the U of South Florida, it has been in connection with conflict in the Middle East.

UCLA's Confucius Institute is currently listed as being managed by a board chaired by EVC Scott Waugh. It also has an advisory committee chaired by Vice Provost of Intellectual Property and Industry Relations Kathryn Atchison whose background is in dentistry.  The Institute basically seems to be in a reporting relationship to Murphy Hall.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Listen to the Feb. 20, 2015 Meeting of the Regents' Committee on Investments

We now have archived the audio of the Feb. 20 meeting of the UC Regents' Committee on Investments.  In the past, there has been little use of the public comments period in these meetings of the Committee, but this time there were anti-fossil fuel and anti-Israel speakers. A demonstration occurred which was largely removed from the official recording. Afterwards, there was discussion of various environmental investment issues. Former financial officer Peter Taylor attended the meeting as a guest and pushed, as in the past, for an emphasis on earning the assumed 7.5% for the pension plan. Returns on the pension and endowment funds were reviewed. Although past discussions of the endowment's performance have focused on its performance relative to internally-designated benchmarks, the issue of its performance relative to those of other major universities was discussed by CIO Jagdeep Bachler. In the past, such discussion - when it occurred - tended to be dismissed. However, relative to other major university endowments' returns, UC doesn't look so good. Bachler said he would be working on this matter. He indicated that in the past, the portfolio composition of the endowments was viewed as something of a residual of the pension and that approach should change. It wasn't clear what in practice that change in approach would mean. When it came to the more liquid TRIP and STIP funds, there seemed to be general agreement that UC had too much in these low-yielding liquidity-oriented funds. Although it wasn't mentioned, that observation could pave the way for addition movement of monies from those funds into the pension to deal with its underfunding.

A link to the audio is below:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How About a Time Out for Now?

We have suggested in prior blog posts that it may be time for the Regents and UC administration to create more separation between official UC and student government so that when offensive behaviors in the latter occur, the university is not held directly responsible by the external world.* Much of the problem of late has occurred in the context of various anti-Israel divestment resolutions and statements at the campus level at UC, including at UCLA. Now posters have appeared at UCLA (and apparently at other non-UC campuses) which the anti-Israel group finds offensive.** It's interesting that the most recent systemwide campus climate survey really didn't touch on this particular matter, but that fact is apparently consistent with more general findings at other universities.***

The temptation from the administrative perspective is to try to stay in the background and hope that the problem will pass. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Middle East, even when problems pass, they are more like painful kidney stones than permanent fixes - and new ones appear.  So while greater separation would be advisable in the longer term, in the interim UC and UCLA have a de facto involvement that at this late date can't be avoided. As a second best for now, therefore, UC officialdom might try and arrange a time-out on passing resolutions on world affairs. Such resolutions are not of day-to-day concern to most students, don't affect Regental investment policy, but do produce antipathy for the university at a time when public support is needed in the current conflict over tuition and budget proposals.
* [Links to various news sources through Feb. 18 are included in this reference.]
UPDATE: Chancellor Block emailed the statement below today. While it calls for mutual tolerance, it doesn't suggest a cooling-off period (time out) as suggested above.

To the Campus Community:

I have been troubled by recent incidents of bias on campuses across our nation. Sadly, UCLA is not immune to these occurrences.

At a recent Undergraduate Students Association Council meeting, a few council members unfairly questioned the fitness of a USAC Judicial Board applicant because of her Jewish identity. Another upsetting incident occurred last weekend when inflammatory posters on our campus implied that Students for Justice in Palestine was a terrorist organization.

We should all be glad that, ultimately, the judicial board applicant was unanimously confirmed for her position and that the posters were taken down by members of our community. We are pleased that the students who initially objected to the Jewish student’s appointment apologized, and we are reassured that the UCLA Police Department is vigorously investigating the matter of the posters.

Yet we should also be concerned that these incidents took place at all. No student should feel threatened that they would be unable to participate in a university activity because of their religion. And no student should be compared to a terrorist for holding a political opinion. These disturbing episodes are very different, but they both are rooted in stereotypes and assumptions.

Political debate can stir passionate disagreements. The views of others may make us uncomfortable. That may be unavoidable. But to assume that every member of a group can’t be impartial or is motivated by hatred is intellectually and morally unacceptable. When hurtful stereotypes — of any group — are wielded to delegitimize others, we are all debased.

A first-rate intellectual community must hold itself to higher standards.

Even in the heat of debate, we must cultivate the skill and sensitivity to express opinions without belittling others or losing sight of their humanity. Speech that stigmatizes or tries to intimidate individuals or targeted groups — even if it is constitutionally protected — does not promote the responsible debate essential for a healthy democracy. It is insufficient to reserve empathy only for those who look or act or think like we do. We must do better than that.

As Bruins, we need to be thinkers and leaders who can see one another without prejudice and can engage one another in a manner that goes beyond slogans and is above slurs.

While any incident of bias against any member of our campus community saddens us, and we understand that these incidents may occur again, we will always take appropriate action if the UCLA Principles of Community or any laws are violated. And we will do everything we can to support a healthy environment for everyone in our community. If you feel you have been subjected to an incident of bias or hate, resources are available.

UCLA will not be defined by intolerance. We will strive to create a community that will honor the dignity of all its members even if we struggle with one another’s ideas. We will strive to create a community in which all of us can fully take part in campus life and express our views and identities, safe from intimidation, threat or harm. Let us all work together to do the good work of creating that community.


Gene D. Block

UPDATE: "...Conservative writer and activist David Horowitz admitted to orchestrating the (poster) incident."  From

Monday, February 23, 2015

Update on Nada

Earlier in the day, we noted the problems with the Regental archiving of the most recent meeting of the Committee on Finance.  Tonight, the iPhone version was still not operating. See the scan on the left.  However, yours truly was able to get at least the start of the video to play in one PC browser.

Tomorrow or soon thereafter, therefore, we hope to be able to make a complete recording for our indefinite archiving (as opposed to the Regents' one-year "archive").