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Thursday, September 30, 2010

More on Growing Public Pension Issue In California


As noted in previous posts on this blog, the UC pension funding issue may be difficult to isolate from the more general issue in California, particularly if the Regents don't have a policy in place when the next governor takes office. Below is an excerpt from a piece reporting on a variety of local ballot initiatives on the pension topic, especially a high-profile San Francisco ballot measure.


Pension cost cuts on ballot in eight cities (excerpt)

Ed Mendel, calpensions.com, 9/30/10

Proposals to cut public employee pension costs are on the November ballot in at least eight California cities and one county, led by a measure in San Francisco that is drawing national attention. The local proposals could be a warm-up for a statewide pension measure backed by Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for governor, if she is elected and cannot get big state worker unions to agree to switch new hires to 401(k)-style plans. Talks or action to cut pension benefits were under way in more than 60 local government agencies last summer. A half dozen of the smaller state worker unions agreed to lower benefit for new hires, including the California Highway Patrol…

A ballot measure in San Francisco, Proposition B, is drawing national interest because in a very liberal city it’s basically a battle among Democrats, the traditional allies of public employee unions. The initiative drive is led by Public Defender Jeff Adachi, whose office providing attorneys for the poor was hit by budget cuts. Signature-gathering money came from Michael Moritz, an early Google investor, and his novelist wife, Harriet Heyman. A well-known supporter of the measure is Willie Brown, a former San Francisco mayor and state Assembly Speaker. He has become an outspoken advocate of reining in public employee pension costs.

Proposition B would require city employees to contribute 9 to 10 percent of their pay to help pay for their pensions, up from 0 to 9 percent. Importantly, employees would pay 50 percent of dependent health care costs, up from 25 percent…

One of the provisions in Proposition B would require arbitrators in labor disputes to make projections of the cost of increased pension and health benefits and to treat them as pay raises…

Full article at http://calpensions.com/2010/09/30/pension-cost-cuts-on-ballot-in-eight-cities/

Bottom line, as the song says, is that time is running out for UC on this matter:
video

Interesting Study on Diversity in Higher Ed

The study described in the article abstracted below was based on a data set from Berea College in Kentucky and the authors are duly cautious about generalizing to all of higher ed. However, the results are interesting.

Interracial Friendships in College (Abstract)

Braz Camargo, São Paulo School of Economics–FGV and University of Western Ontario;
Ralph Stinebrickner, Berea College; Todd Stinebrickner, University of Western Ontario and National Bureau of Economic Research

Journal of Labor Economics, 28:861–892, October 2010

We use unique longitudinal data to provide direct evidence about interracial friendships at different stages of college and to provide new evidence about some of the reasons for the observed patterns of interaction. We find that, while much sorting exists at all stages of college, black and white students are, in reality, very compatible as friends; randomly assigned roommates of different races are as likely to become friends as randomly assigned roommates of the same race. Further, we find that, in the long run, being (randomly) assigned a black roommate significantly increases the number of other black friends a white student has.

Full article available at http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/653831

Bill Signed by Governor to Ease Path from Community Colleges to UC and CSU

I attended a talk yesterday by Chancellor Block at which he indicated that about 40% of UCLA undergrads are transfers from community colleges. Coincidentally, the governor signed some related legislation. One bill mandates some steps by CSU. Respecting its constitutional autonomy, a second bill urges similar action by UC. The text of the governor's press release is below:

09/29/2010 GAAS:618:10 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Gov. Schwarzenegger Signs Bills to Guarantee CSU Admission to Community College Graduates

To increase access to the California State University (CSU) system, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed SB 1440 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and AB 2302 by Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino).
“These two pieces of legislation are a historic victory for California’s students, and I’m proud to sign both of them into law,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Guaranteeing admission into a CSU for any community college student who completes the newly established transfer degree under SB 1440 is a monumental step forward for California’s higher education system. This legislation also strengthens our economy by giving more students the necessary skills to enter the workforce, grow companies and create jobs in California. I commend both Senator Alex Padilla and Assemblymember Paul Fong for authoring legislation that provides such a fantastic opportunity to our community college students.”

SB 1440 by Senator Padilla streamlines the transfer process for students looking to transfer from a California Community College (CCC) to a CSU. Specifically, this bill requires CCC districts to establish associate degrees for transfer, guarantees an associate degree for transfer students are admitted to CSU with junior status and establishes course unit limits on most majors in order to reduce unnecessary, excess coursework.


AB 2302 complements and builds upon the work of SB 1440 to improve the efficiency of the transfer process and helps facilitate the successful implementation of transparent transfer pathways at the University of California (UC). The bill calls for the UC to examine the development of a transfer pathway for students which would result in a transfer associate degree and system admission, and it provides a framework for student notification of the new transfer pathway created in SB 1440.


Note: SB 1440 is at http://leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=sb_1440&sess=CUR&house=B&author=padilla

AB 2302 is at http://leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=ab_2302&sess=CUR&house=B&author=fong

UPDATE: A news item about this legislation appears in http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/10/20/california

And a report on the failure of many community college students to transfer or finish their degrees is at http://www.collegecampaign.org/assets/docs/stds/Divided_We_Fail_Final.pdf

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Erosion of the Master Plan? CSU Doctorates

Once upon a time, UC president Clark Kerr gave the Master Plan to Governor Pat Brown which set up a division of labor between the three segments of higher ed. That was then; this is now:

CSU to offer doctorate in physical therapy, nursing

Sep. 29, 2010, Sacramento Bee


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation Tuesday to allow California State University campuses to award a doctoral degree in physical therapy and, at three campuses, a doctorate in nursing practice. Assembly Bills 2382 and 867 are exceptions to the state's current practice of giving the University of California system exclusive jurisdiction to award doctoral degrees, except joint doctorates.

Authority for CSU to issue a doctor of nursing practice degree will expire in July 2018 unless extended by the Legislature. Participating campuses cannot cumulatively enroll more than 90 students in the program.

– Jim Sanders, Bee Capitol Bureau

http://www.sacbee.com/2010/09/29/3064465/csu-to-offer-doctorate-in-physical.html#mi_rss=Capitol%20and%20California

There Was Also the Lt. Governor Debate

Hidden in the news about the Brown-Whitman gubernatorial debate was the fact that there was a Lieutenant Governor debate on KQED radio between San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and incumbent Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado. The Lt. Governor is not a powerful position (understatement!), but whoever holds that office is an ex officio Regent. There was some mention of increases in UC and CSU tuition in the debate.

A very brief write-up is at

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/09/29/BA0O1FL47O.DTL

But you can listen at

Haven't had enough political debates? As an added bonus, you can hear the senatorial debate, Boxer vs. Fiorina, at http://media.scpr.org/audio/upload/2010/09/29/boxer-fiorina-KPCCdebate.mp3


Students: Don't Get Sick at UC-Berkeley

The previous post on this blog outlined cutbacks in UC-Berkeley athletics. Apparently, for those student athletes who remain and who are covered by the Berkeley health insurance plan, injuries should be avoided. From a Wall St. Journal story on health plans at various universities:

Paula Villescaz, a senior at the University of California at Berkeley, says she never looked closely at the Anthem Blue Cross insurance policy she got through her college. The plan has a $400,000 ceiling, but also has some important limitations, as Ms. Villescaz found out recently.

The political-science major had always been healthy—until March, when doctors discovered she had Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Berkeley's plan didn't cover her first MRI, her PET scan or many blood tests her doctors required, she says.

In between chemotherapy treatments, Ms. Villescaz says she had to battle the insurance company, which refused to cover her last round of chemotherapy, declaring it medically unnecessary. Her chemotherapy has since concluded, but she is now undergoing radiation treatment.

Ms. Villescaz says she owes about $80,000 all told. Before she got sick, she worked two jobs to support herself and help out her single mother. "I'm going to be paying off these bills for the rest of my life," she says.

Both Berkeley and Anthem declined to comment.

Full story at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704814204575507900382491036.html#printMode

Note: Boston U's plan in this story is given good marks. I suspect that has something to do with the larger Massachusetts health insurance requirements for all types of plans. (I was alerted to this story by the calitics website.)

UC-Berkeley Chancellor Cuts Back on Athletics

UC-Berkeley's chancellor announced cutbacks yesterday in the athletics program, which has been subsidized by the campus. In doing so, he followed UC-Davis in a similar move (which has brought controversy). Excerpt from the official press release:

Chancellor announces new plan for Cal Athletics' future

28 September 2010

University of California, Berkeley, Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau announced today... a comprehensive plan for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics that will result in a broad-based yet sustainable program that continues to support the campus's commitment to excellence.

At the end of this academic year, baseball, men's and women's gymnastics, and women's lacrosse will no longer represent UC Berkeley in intercollegiate competition. In addition, men's rugby will transition to a varsity club sport, a newly designated status at UC Berkeley.

In a letter sent today to the campus community, Birgeneau said the rugby team's history indicates that this change should not affect its competitive opportunities or abilities. He added that Cal rugby's unsurpassed excellence will be maintained through continued campus support in terms of admissions and through access to sports medicine and training facilities.

Full release at http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2010/09/28_athletics.shtml

There is also a news story at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/09/29/MNL21FKPBF.DTL

Music not to be played henceforth at Berkeley:


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Audio of Jerry Brown - Meg Whitman Debate of 9-28-10

The first debate between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman in the 2010 gubernatorial contest was held on Sept. 28. Although video via internet was promised, I found that one feed did not work at all and another was sporadic and often froze. Although public radio stations KCRW and KPCC did carry the audio, local TV stations did not. (I note in that respect that KCET - which now has 4 digital over-the-air channels - did not bother to carry the debate.)

Bottom line: Only audio could be recorded. There may be other sources for the audio. But I have posted it below in 5 segments to meet Yahoo-video limitations. (Audio with a still picture.) You won't find any gaffes. My guess is that the polls - which show the two candidates in a tie (with maybe a slight edge for Brown) - won't be budged. If you have followed past posts on this blog regarding the public pension issue, neither candidate deviated from past statements. Brown claimed credit for the two-tier idea which he says he advocated (but did not get) in 1982. Whitman pushed for defined-contribution pension plans for new hires. Brown was asked if he would roll back higher ed tuition increases and said he couldn't in the current budget environment but would like to see the increases halt. Whitman repeated the idea of transferring a billion dollars to higher ed from cuts elsewhere, apparently "welfare."

Comment from yours truly: Maybe the definition of insanity is repeating Einstein's quote about it over and over again and expecting different polling results.

Below are the 5 segments:

Brown-Whitman debate 9-28-10

Part 1: Opening statements, budget, death penalty

Part 2: Job creation, 2-tier pensions, AB32, business tax breaks

Part 3: Campaign ad accuracy, higher ed tuition, Prop 13

Part 4: Immigration, campaign finance, govt. efficiency, fraud

Part 5 (end): Water, closing statements

State Budget Negotiations Reportedly Hung Up on Pensions Issue

Supposedly, a "framework" for a state budget deal was worked out last week by the "Big-5" (governor + 4 legislative leaders). News reports suggest that public pensions remain a key issue (although the immediate effect of creating a two-tier pension system, etc., on the state budget for this fiscal year is small.) Democrats want the governor to use collective bargaining with state unions to cut a pension deal. The governor wants the legislature to impose a deal. Note that a budget could be passed that on paper assumes the governor bargains a deal with the unions. Whether the governor would go along with that is unknown. See below:

Pensions remain a hurdle to California budget deal (excerpt)

Sept. 28, 2010, Sacramento Bee, Kevin Yamamura

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders have expressed nervous optimism about closing a budget deal soon and ending the state's record-long impasse.

But several contentious items remain, none thornier than the state pension cuts that Schwarzenegger demands be part of the budget package.

The Republican governor wants a two-tier system of pensions that reduces benefits with stricter retirement formulas for new state workers. He also wants to reduce pay by roughly 10 percent for existing state workers this fiscal year through higher pension contributions and unpaid leave days.

The rub? Democrats still insist that Schwarzenegger negotiate any reductions with the labor unions that have not yet struck contract deals. The governor, meanwhile, says lawmakers could impose cuts on their own.

Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders announced Thursday that they had agreed on a "framework" for a budget deal. But they emerged from a 90-minute session Monday without a grand compromise and said they would return today.

Three of the four legislative leaders, including both Republicans, cited pensions as a specific issue dividing the leaders...

Full article at http://www.sacbee.com/2010/09/28/3061372/pensions-remain-a-hurdle-to-california.html

video

Yes, Virginia: There Is No Santa Claus

Virginia is often cited as a state which followed the "Michigan Model" in which the public system becomes semi-privatized. According to Inside Higher Ed, all is not well in Virginia as the state there seems to be grabbing money from the universities.

False Ideal? (excerpts)

September 28, 2010

Virginia’s “restructuring” agreements, which provided select universities greater autonomy over finances in exchange for less state support, have emerged as a model that some public institutions in cash-strapped areas of the country would like to emulate. But to hear it from finance chiefs at Virginia universities now covered by restructuring, the agreements with the state haven’t been fully honored during the budget crunch.

Among the most vocal critics of how restructuring has played out is Charles W. Steger, the Virginia Tech president who now has “a whole list of things” he says run afoul of the management agreement his university entered into in 2006. While there is much to applaud about how the agreement limited red tape for Virginia Tech, Steger says the state is not allowing universities to hang onto money raised from tuition and auxiliary services like dormitories, dining halls and student fees…

The state, however, has always had an escape clause on the agreements -- and even critics like Steger don't dispute that. Indeed, state budget officials say the agreements were intentionally written to allow for a tweaking of the arrangements in dire budget times…

In addition to Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University have all entered into restructuring agreements.

Among the examples Steger and others have cited as a potential agreement violation is the state’s handling of contributions to the Virginia Retirement System. The state is required to make payments into the VRS for university employees and other public workers, but lawmakers chose this legislative session to reduce payments into the system by $620 million. Per their restructuring agreements, university officials assumed that the reduction in retirement contributions would translate into savings for their campuses. But that’s not what happened. The state clawed back those dollars to fill deficit holes in other areas, denying restructured universities the opportunity to use tuition and auxiliary funds for offsetting campus budget cuts, boosting financial aid offerings or investing in capital projects.

It would not have been unexpected for Virginia to recoup the amount of state appropriations that otherwise would have gone toward universities’ retirement contributions. The distinction in this instance, however, is that the state also collected “non-general” funds that are generated from university tuition and auxiliaries. That move has given rise to criticism that the state is redirecting students’ tuition payments toward priorities that may have nothing to do with the campuses the students have paid to attend.

The restructured universities may have the biggest beef with the state’s actions, because taking money from tuition and auxiliaries appears to break at least with the spirit of agreements that were designed to allow universities to function more like independent businesses that could fend more for themselves. Even so, all public universities -- restructured or not -- were taken aback by the raiding of funds previously viewed as sacrosanct, several university officials told Inside Higher Ed…

While none dispute that the General Assembly's budget has the final say on appropriations, it's clear the agreements that governed restructuring anticipated a scenario where the state might reduce its retirement contributions. In that instance, the agreements noted that the institutions should “retain non-general fund savings … rather than reverting such savings back to the Commonwealth.”

In addition to the retirement savings, universities and other public agencies saw the state take aggressive steps to draw money from interest earned on auxiliaries. Virginia Tech estimates $205,000 in lost interest, and Virginia Commonwealth expects $500,000 in lost interest. To get some sense of the collective losses, the University of Virginia anticipates that retirement savings and auxiliary interest losses combined will total $18.1 million over the biennium.

— Jack Stripling

Full article at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/09/28/virginia

So keep your hand on your wallet when you go back to Virginia:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Brown-Whitman Debate: Tuesday, Sept. 28, 6 PM

The Jerry Brown vs. Meg Whitman gubernatorial debate will be available for live-stream viewing on the Internet on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 6 PM at http://debate.ucdavis.edu/ and listening at http://www.capradio.org

I am assuming that local public radio stations will carry it, too. The KPCC (89.3) website says the debate will be broadcast at 7 PM, so I assume it will be a recording one hour after the actual event.

UPDATE: KCRW (89.9) will carry the debate live at 6 PM.

Three-Year Undergrad Degrees

One of the ideas that has been surfaced as part of the UC Commission on the Future was a three-year undergraduate degree option. The article below notes that a campus of the U of Massachusetts is moving in that direction.

UMass will offer 3-year degree plan:
Amherst school, following national trend, cites costs (excerpts)

Seeking to trim the cost of a college degree at a time when many families are struggling with tuition, the University of Massachusetts Amherst this fall plans to introduce a program to make it easier for students to graduate in three years.

By introducing a formal three-year degree option, UMass joins dozens of other schools around the country that have decided that students’ desire to save money in some cases trumps officials’ traditional concerns that they have a full four years to explore and grow intellectually and socially.

“As the state backs out of support for public higher education, and families take on a bigger chunk of the burden, we need to try to mitigate that,’’ said James Staros, UMass Amherst provost. “We thought, ‘What can we do to shorten the time and cost for a UMass education, without diluting the degree?’ ’’

Although many colleges allow some students to graduate early, UMass will be the first major university in Massachusetts to offer a formal program, which will include advisers who can help students plan a path to a three-year degree...

At UMass Amherst, this year’s freshmen majoring in economics, music, and sociology will be able to join the three-year degree track; eventually, students in one-third of the university’s 88 majors will be eligible.

...(T)his fall, Staros said, students entering with enough Advanced Placement credits will find it easier to graduate in three years, with the help of advisers trained to steer them through a sequence of courses that may include online offerings and summer classes.

About 10 to 25 percent of the university’s 4,500 freshmen enter college with enough Advanced Placement credits to qualify for three-year degrees, Staros said. He said he expects that the number of students who seek to graduate in three years will grow as a result of the new formal option.

“It’s a very focused program,’’ he said. “It’s not for students who go to college and take a year to figure out what they want to do.’’

Because of the heavier course load required to graduate in three years, the expedited degree track would not be a good option for students who want to study abroad, double-major, or conduct independent research, he said. Some of those students could be steered toward a new five-year program, during which they could obtain both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

...This fall, more than 50 schools in the United States will have the three-year option, or have plans to introduce it...

Many schools offering three-year options are small, private colleges trying to compete with for-profit schools for students... Others are public universities that have been mandated by state legislatures to provide the option; the University of Rhode Island has done that, and the Ohio and Tennessee legislatures are considering it...

Full article at http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2010/09/27/umass_amherst_to_offer_three_year_degree_program/

And a little music for fast degrees:

video

Sunday, September 26, 2010

UCLA History: The Ravine in 1930

The deep ravine that once ran through the UCLA campus is visible in the foreground of this 1930 photo from the UCLA digital archives. Although the ravine is now filled in, the bridge remains, appearing as an ordinary roadway.

UCLA History: Janss Steps in 1930

The area around the Janss steps looks pretty bleak in this 1930 photo from the UCLA digital archives.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

UCOP's Webinar on Retirement Benefits Available

UCOP ran a Town Hall webinar on the Post-Employment Benefits Task Force report last Friday. It is now available as a streaming video. You can access it below or by going to http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/9789931

Because there is no guarantee of how long it may remain available, I have additionally recorded it. If at some point the streaming video becomes unavailable, I can repost it. The entire session runs about 90 minutes. Pay special attention to the comments by UC-Berkeley Prof. Robert Anderson, vice chair of the systemwide Academic Council and the chair of TFIR, the subcommittee on retirement issues that reports to the systemwide faculty welfare committee.

UPDATE: A transcript is available at https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0BzVLYPK7QI_4NWQ2YTYxYTEtYjc2OC00NmIxLTg2NjktN2JmZTFmM2JlNmY3&hl=en&authkey=CJa-vpEP

Interview with Jerry Brown Touches on Pensions, Two-Tier, & Faculty Pay During His Previous Governorship

Jerry Brown was interviewed by the editorial board of the Sacramento Bee on Sept. 24. Various issues were covered. Among them were pensions, two-tier, and faculty pay during his previous term as governor (1977-83). Video below:




Prof. Shoup's Campaign Against Sidewalk Parking Around UCLA

Prof. Donald Shoup in the Dept. of Urban Planning has been campaigning to end illegal parking on the sidewalks around the UCLA campus. Prof. Shoup, the author of The High Cost of Free Parking, began trying to get Jack Weiss - when he was the LA City councilman for the area - to have the police enforce the law against such parking. Parking on sidewalks blocks access for ordinary pedestrians and, particularly, for handicapped persons. A lawsuit against the City has been filed on that basis.

Let's just say that when Weiss was in office, he was not known for responsiveness. There is now a new city councilman, Paul Koretz, and Prof. Shoup has continued his campaign, as per below. You might be interested:

Dear Councilmember Koretz,

I have attached two photographs I took of cars parked on the sidewalk in North Westwood Village today, Thursday, September 23. None of the many cars illegally parked on the sidewalks in North Westwood Village had a citation, but every car parked at the curb on the other side of the street had a citation for parking on the street during street-cleaning hours.

You may not be aware of the many emails and letters sent to your predecessor, Jack Weiss, about how parking on a sidewalk violates both the California Vehicle Code and the Los Angeles Municipal Code. More important, the City’s policy of not citing cars that block the sidewalks in North Westwood Village may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that sidewalks be accessible. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Barden v. Sacramento sets a nationwide precedent requiring cities to make all public sidewalks accessible. As a result, cities must remove barriers that block disabled access along the length of the sidewalks. Here is the link to an ADA lawsuit filed against Los Angeles; on pages 10--11 it specifically mentions parking on the sidewalks in North Westwood Village as a barrier to travel by persons with disabilities:
http://www.its.ucla.edu/shoup/PinedaVsCityOfLosAngeles.pdf

In case this issue has escaped your notice, here is the link to copies of letters and e-mails sent to Jack Weiss, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, and Mayor Villaraigosa about illegal parking on Los Angeles sidewalks: http://www.its.ucla.edu/shoup/CorrespondenceAboutADA.pdf

If you or any of your staff are concerned about general issue of accessible sidewalks, here is the link to a recent article on repairing broken sidewalks in Los Angeles:
http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/PuttingCitiesBackOnTheirFeet.pdf

Donald Shoup, Professor

Friday, September 24, 2010

Shrinkage at UC-Berkeley

UC Berkeley plans to cut another 200 jobs (excerpt)

Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 23, 2010

UC Berkeley, pegged by efficiency experts as bloated with too many managers, will eliminate about 200 jobs early next year to save $20 million, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau has announced.

"We cannot continue with our current administrative structures and operations and be the best run public university in the country," Birgeneau said in a letter to employees Tuesday.

The job elimination will be achieved through "a combination of attrition, retirements, voluntary separations and layoffs" after January, the chancellor said.

That's on top of 600 positions already eliminated since last year.

It's not yet clear how many employees will be laid off in this round, said Claire Holmes, a university spokeswoman.

But 27 departments - from the Haas School of Business and the College of Chemistry, for example, to the chancellor's office itself - have been instructed to cast a critical eye over their management structure and see where positions can be reduced and combined, Holmes said...

The job elimination is part of a campuswide effort at efficiency begun last year when UC Berkeley hired Bain & Co., a Massachusetts consulting firm, to identify waste...

Full article at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/09/22/BAHP1FI898.DTL

Pavlovian Professors at Johns Hopkins?


The excerpt below from Inside Higher Ed is about student complaints at Johns Hopkins concerning fees for "clickers." Haven't heard of clickers? Students register their satisfaction in real time with the lecture and, presumably, the professor adapts. As noted in the video that follows the excerpt, this idea is not confined to professors.

First, the excerpt:

Take Your Fee and Click It!
September 24, 2010


Anyone who doubts that rising tuition is making students especially thrifty when it comes to the ancillary costs of going to college might consider Johns Hopkins University, where nearly 200 students are protesting a new fee that works out to about the price of two movie tickets and some Chinese carry-out. The fee is for classroom clickers -- a popular technology that allows professors to gauge student understanding or opinion in real time by giving them handheld voting devices and taking polls throughout a class period. Johns Hopkins began piloting the system six years ago, and since then it has subsidized the cost of the per-student “enrollment codes” in hopes of “focus[ing] the pilot on education, rather than on administrative issues,” according to Candice Dalrymple, director of the university’s Center for Learning Resources. Now that the pilot has expanded into a broad deployment, affecting about half of the university’s 5,000 undergraduates, the front office is passing those fees on to students. Students can pay $13 per course, per semester to register their clicker, or they can pay a one-time fee of $35 that covers all courses, all semesters. All students taking courses that use clickers are required to buy the enrollment codes. (Students are also required to buy the actual clicker devices, which run between $20 and $30, but this had been true during the pilot phase.) Given that students spend hundreds of dollars every year on textbooks, it might have seemed unlikely that students would raise a fuss about a new $35 charge covering clickers until graduation. The vendor, eInstruction, says it is “definitely not the norm” for a university to keep paying the enrollment fees for students once the system has been deployed at scale.

Full article at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/09/24/clickers

And then the video:


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Housing the UC President

Private funds pay for UC President’s house (excerpt)

By Sean Greene, 9/23/10, Daily Bruin

Nestled at the center of 10.6 acres of diverse botanical gardens in a Mediterranean-esque climate, the Blake House used to serve as the official residence of the UC president. The house stands two stories tall, occupies more than 13,000 square feet, and overlooks the San Francisco Bay from the hills of Kensington, Calif. But the house also stands next to the Hayward Fault, putting it in structural jeopardy in the event of an earthquake.

The cost to resolve these concerns is in the neighborhood of $10 million, said Michael Reese, UC associate vice president of business operations. “It has just not been maintained on a regular basis,” Reese said. Among the repairs needed is severe seismic retrofitting. Reese said the UC has been studying the residence for more than a decade.

A report from Michael Willis Architects in September 2002 compared the house’s conditions to “sitting on ‘seismic ball bearings.’” A November 2002 report by Degenkolb Engineers opined that the house was structurally sound. “We would expect the residence to provide life safety protection to its occupants and allow them to safely exit,” the report stated.

When UC President Mark Yudof took his position in 2008, he agreed with UC recommendations that leasing another residence was still the better option because of the scale of renovations that were needed. “(The president’s house is) not just a residence, it’s intended as a public space … meant to be used for entertaining and bringing in the university community,” Reese said, which makes finding suitable replacement properties more difficult.

The university leased the Woodmont house in the Oakland Hills for two years, beginning May 15, 2008 and leased for $13,235 per month for the first year and $13,365 per month for the second year. To add to costs, the university also increased security of the residence, in light of protests targeting administrators’ personal residences. Security cost $127,443 for the two years. The Bay Citizen newspaper reported last month that the Woodmont landlord planned to keep the $32,100 security deposit, in addition to requesting $45,000 to cover repairs for damages inflicted on the house. Because of the possibility of litigation, the university declined to discuss the costs of these disputes.

The practice of housing university presidents is nothing out of the ordinary, said Steve Montiel, UC spokesman. Universities all over the country house their presidents, and the UC even has a policy that states presidents and chancellors be housed on university property.

After the lease on the Woodmont house ended this summer, Yudof and his wife were forced to abruptly move, and they lived in the Claremont Hotel until a more permanent residence was leased in Lafayette, Calif. The house rents for $11,500 per month ­– $2,000 less than the Woodmont residence. The operating expenses are also projected to be about 25 percent lower, the university stated.

“We realized that even if Woodmont had worked out, the costs were becoming prohibitive,” Reese said. “We needed to look for more inexpensive options.” …

However high the expenses of Yudof’s housing, the university emphasized that no state funds were used when footing the bill on Yudof’s housing bills. Instead, the president’s and chancellor’s housing is paid for through a private endowment called the Edward F. Searles Fund, established in 1919. The fund initially provided the UC with more than $1 million in investments and cash to be used “in such manner as the regents should deem proper to the uses of the university.” As of July 1, 2010, the fund was valued at $161,114,912. Although the fund can technically be used for anything, the state policy does not allow funding for university expenses. Accordingly, the UC is left to its own devices to find a way to pay for the maintenance of chancellor and president residences. Reese said the UC has to be responsible for whether the fund is being used for the right purposes. It comes back to using these residences for hosting public events…

Full article at http://www.dailybruin.com/index.php/article/2010/09/uc_president_mark_yudofs_housing_expenses_on_the_rise#print

Music at:



UC & UCLA Political Contributions Go Very Heavily to Democrats





Eighty-six percent of individual contributors to political candidates at UC have given to Democrats in the current election cycle.
See http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2010/09/politically-active-professors-dont.html

The Huffington Post allows you to search for contributors by name or employer. When I entered UCLA as employer, 89% (as of today) of those identifying UCLA as employer gave to Democrats. See http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/ (As the info is updated, this figure could change. And, it's a good idea to remember that when you donate to political campaigns, your personal information regarding the donations appears on the web.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

LA Times Festival of Books Moving from UCLA to USC


LAObserved.com is reporting that both UCLA and the LA Times developed contentious relations over the cost of the Festival and the desire of both sides to cut the cost. Full story at http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2010/09/times_moving_festival_of.php

Editor's Note: It was never obvious to me what UCLA got out of the Festival other than weekend traffic congestion and trampled lawns. But that's just me.

UPDATE: The Daily Bruin reports loss of ASUCLA revenue as a result of the move. http://www.dailybruin.com/index.php/article/2010/09/loss_of_festival_to_affect_revenue

Departure Music:
video

Most Thorough Report on UC Pension Mentions $2-for$1 Problem

Perhaps not surprisingly, since calpensions.com covers California public pensions exclusively, the most thorough report on the recent Regents meeting on the Post-Employment Benefits Task Force recommendations and other retirement issues appeared on that source today. It includes mention of the $2-for-$1 problem - the fact that roughly $2 out of $3 in contributions that would fund the pension comes from non-state sources. Below is an excerpt from the calpensions report.

The full report - scroll down for URL - contains photos of the demonstration at the Regents. A recording of the Regents meeting on the pension and retirement issue is available in an earlier post on this blog.

UC task force: pensions ‘frightening’ challenge (excerpt)

By Ed Mendel, calpensions.com, 9/22/10

SAN FRANCISCO — After two decades of getting by only on investment earnings, an apparent record for public pension funds, the University of California pension system faces what a task force calls a “frightening challenge.” A retirement system that got no money from employers and employees during a contribution “holiday” that began in 1990 now needs about $1.6 billion this year, 20 percent of the payroll, to be properly funded. It’s on track to get about $480 million in employer-employee contributions. The annual amount needed for proper funding could be more than $2 billion two years from now.

…Raising employee contributions is a pay cut, hitting low-income workers and others who have not had pay raises, while eroding generous retirement benefits that help UC attract top talent.

UC wants the state to resume contributions, a matter of equity since CSU and community college retirement programs get state money. But the state has a $19 billion deficit and lawmakers are in the third month of a budget deadlock.

Every $1 not received from the state, officials say, costs UC an additional $2 from other sources.

The state provides a third of the UC budget, the rest coming from medical centers, federal sources, grants and other operations. Without a state retirement contribution, UC cannot levy similar contributions on other budget sources.

…Contributions to the UC pension system, which has an investment portfolio currently valued at about $34 billion, resumed in April under action taken by the Regents last year. Money that employees had been required to put into tax-deferred individual investment accounts, 2 percent of pay, was redirected to the pension system. UC contributed 4 percent of pay. Last week, the Regents voted to increase the employee contribution to 5 percent of pay and the employer contribution to 10 percent by July 2012. The employee increase must be approved in bargaining with labor unions.

In November the Regents are scheduled to consider proposals to reduce pensions for new hires beginning in July 2013. Many retirees would be required to pay more for health coverage…

Full report at: http://calpensions.com/2010/09/22/uc-task-force-pensions-frightening-challenge-2/

University Spending on Athletics

Today's Inside Higher Ed alerted me to a database maintained by USA Today on revenues and expenses of university athletics programs around the country.

For UCLA in 2008-09, operating revenue of $66,177,866 is reported. Sources for that revenue in dollars and percent are:

Ticket sales $24,996,824 37.8%

Student fees $2,498,877 3.8%

Guarantees $1,454,128 2.2%

Contributions $10,006,048 15.1%

Direct institutional support $210,000 0.3%

NCAA/conference distributions including all tournament revenues $5,253,849 7.9%

Broadcast, television, radio, and internet rights $5,900,665 8.9%

Program sales, concession, novelty sales, and parking $1,318,925 2.0%

Royalties, licensing, advertisements and sponsorships $9,179,351 13.9%

Sports camp revenues $2,960,664 4.5%

Endowment and investment income $1,624,147 2.5%

Other $774,388 1.2%

The database contains info on UC-Berkeley, Irvine, Riverside, and Davis. All are reported to have spent more in dollar terms and percentages than UCLA in the categories of Direct Institutional Support and Student Fees on athletics. You can access the database at: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/ncaa-finances.htm