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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hiking

Earlier blog posts have noted that CalPERS' premiums for long-term care are going nowhere but up.  Another rate hike is being announced with an option instead to move to a lesser-value plan.

UC employees and faculty are normally not covered by CalPERS' pension and health care plans.  However, as state workers, they were offered the chance to enroll in CalPERS' long-term care program when CalPERS got into that business.  Unfortunately, there was no guarantee concerning what the premiums would be over time.  From the Sacramento Bee's State Worker blog:

The California Public Employees' Retirement System today is mailing some 150,000 official notices to long-term care insurance policyholders that a rate hike is coming. The letter explains that CalPERS is raising premiums 5 percent this year on the plan's costliest policies, which offer lifetime coverage and daily benefit payouts that keep up with inflation.Policyholders can avoid the premium increases by moving into plans that offer up to 10 years of benefits without automatically inflation-adjusted coverage. The deadline to opt into another plan varies by policyholder. CalPERS' letter also flags a 5 percent increase planned for 2014 and another 85 percent jump in 2015 spread over two years. All the rate hikes apply to policies offering inflation-protected, lifetime coverage for things like nursing home services and in-home care...

Full story at http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_state_worker/2013/04/calpers-letters-detail-long-term-care-rate-hikes-options.html

Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_state_worker/2013/04/calpers-letters-detail-long-term-care-rate-hikes-options.html#storylink=cpy

Seems like they are asking too much for too little and doing it too late:

Update: Legislative hearings on CalPERS long-term care are now scheduled:
http://www.sacbee.com/2013/05/02/5388222/the-state-worker-committee-calls.html

Duked Out

Put up your dukes!
According to today's Inside Higher Ed, faculty at Duke have blocked a program of online undergraduate courses:

Duke University faculty members, frustrated with their administration and skeptical of the degrees to be awarded, have forced the institution to back out of a deal with nine other universities and 2U to create a pool of for-credit online classes for undergraduates...

The courses were to be offered by Duke and other top-tier universities in a partnership organized by 2U, formerly known as 2tor. Unlike massive open online courses, or MOOCs, only a few hundred students were expected to enroll in each course – which would feature a mix of recorded lectures and live discussions – but each course would be divided into sections of no more than 20 students led by an instructor, perhaps a graduate student...

Full story at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/04/30/duke-faculty-reject-plan-it-join-online-consortium

To Duke 'em out, you have to work at it:

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Taxman Looketh

Inside Higher Ed today reports that the IRS has been studying the tax payments (or nonpayments) of colleges and universities for their semi-commercial activities.  As we have noted in prior posts,  a couple of lawsuits have been filed against UCLA's grand hotel plan, one of which challenges the University's claim of tax exemption for the hotel and other activities.  You can find the Inside Higher Ed report at:
http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2013/04/29/irs-publishes-report-wide-review-colleges

The article has links to the IRS report and earlier preliminary reports by the IRS.  You can also find the IRS report at:
http://issuu.com/danieljbmitchell/docs/cucp_finalrpt_042513

It can be hard to get away from the taxman:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

How to answer any question with appropriate erudition

Yours truly first noticed that truly smart people - particularly those who make presentations at UCLA seminars - began a year or two ago starting the answer to any question with "So..."  Then it spread to public radio.*

Now radio commentator Harry Shearer has a new feature on his "Le Show" program called the "So's of the Week."

Here are the last two weeks of so's:

So...  What do you think?

*http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2011/12/02/so-it-turns-out-that-everyones-starting-sentences-with-so/

UCLA History: Mortality - Then and Now

This December 1954 photo shows a mock funeral held in protest of a decision by the university administration to change the selection process of the editor of the Daily Bruin.

There isn't much about this issue on the web other than Wikipedia.  Apparently, the administration considered the newspaper to be controlled by left-wingers and demanded that editors be elected.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Bruin

On a more contemporary - but somewhat related - note, many faculty are users of Gmail and other Google services (Picassa, YouTube, etc.).  In some cases, faculty forward their UCLA email automatically to Gmail or they use Gmail as a private, separate account.  Google now has a post-mortem service for your accounts in which you can give access to your email to a spouse or other person or persons when mortality makes your account inactive.

For information on the "Inactive Account Manager" option, see "What Happens When You Die on the Internet?" at
http://www.psmag.com/culture/what-happens-when-you-die-on-the-internet-55051/
and
http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.ca/2013/04/plan-your-digital-afterlife-with.html.

Sorry to raise such depressing issues, but there it is:



Saturday, April 27, 2013

Audio of Steinberg & Powell on Online Higher Ed at State Senate Committee Hearing 4-24-13

An earlier post dealt with the state senate hearing on online higher ed this past week and provided a link to a video of the hearing.  Embedding the official video of the hearing into the posting did not work well so a link was provided instead.  However, that link also doesn't work especially well.  Below is a link to two excerpts from that hearing.  They are audio tracks with a still picture, first of Senate president Darrell Steinberg and then of UC Academic Chair Robert Powell.  Steinberg is the proposer of a bill which in its original form mandated 50 online courses.  Powell spoke against the bill.

The audio-video excerpts can be found at the link below:

Our earlier posting is at http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2013/04/yesterdays-state-senate-hearing-on.html

We still have the extra dough, but...

Prior posts have noted the fact that around the beginning of this calendar year, an unanticipated $4+ billion arrived in personal income tax (PIT) receipts.  The reason is unclear but may have to do with high-end taxpayers anticipating some bump up in tax rates in 2013.  The issue then became whether the extra money was simply an advance that would dissipate or whether it would stick.  So far, it seems to be sticking.  However, the Legislature Analyst in a posting as of yesterday is cautious as you an see below.  The Analyst also notes that much of the extra funding is automatically earmarked for K-14 under Prop 98:

PIT on Track to End April Somewhere Around $4.5 Billion Above Year-to-Date Projections. Today is the first day that total reports of PIT collections, net of refunds, have been below $200 million since April 8. This suggests that the peak period of April PIT collections may have finally ended. As of this afternoon, month-to-date collections total $12.86 billion, net of refunds (all funds). As of now, our best estimate is that the state will end April with PIT collections for the fiscal year to date, as of that time, somewhere around $4.5 billion ahead of the administration’s estimates. As day-to-day collection trends can vary, this figure certainly is subject to change and could go down slightly if, for example, refund activity accelerates.

Effects on State's Financial Bottom Line May Be Limited. As we have discussed since January, these additional revenues raise a number of challenging questions for next month's updated budgetary forecasts, and the corresponding improvement to the state's financial bottom line may be quite limited. This is because a large portion of the additional revenues may be required to be allocated to schools and community colleges... 

Source: http://lao.ca.gov/laoapp/budgetlist/PublicSearch.aspx?PolicyAreaNum=70&KeyCol=744&Yr=2013  [Note: This link may be updated, depending on when you click on it.]

Anyway, it all adds up:

Justice?

There are all kinds of courts.
UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran was ordered Friday to stand trial on felony charges stemming from a laboratory fire that killed staff research assistant Sheharbano "Sheri" Sangji more than four years ago. Concluding a preliminary hearing that began late last year, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench denied a defense motion to dismiss the case, believed to be the first such prosecution involving a U.S. academic lab accident. Harran, 43, is charged with willfully violating state occupational health and safety standards. If convicted, he faces up to four and a half years in prison...

In a statement Friday, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block offered the university's "unwavering" support for Harran. UCLA also is paying his legal bills...

Full story at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-ucla-prof-20130427,0,4191861.story

Friday, April 26, 2013

Oil Tax for Higher Ed Initiative

As we have noted many times, it is very hard to get an initiative on the ballot without hiring signature-gathering firms (which will cost $1-$2 million).  And if the initiative gets on the ballot, millions more will be needed for TV ads, etc., if there is opposition.  An oil severance tax to fund higher ed would clearly have such opposition - from the oil industry. 

All that said, there is such an effort underway (as noted in prior posts): …Conceived by UC-Berkeley students, the California Modernization and Economic Development Act places a 9.5 percent tax on oil and gas extracted from California; supporters say it would bring about $2 billion of new revenue per year. Of that, about $1.2 billion would be allocated in four equal parts towards K-12 education, California Community Colleges, California State University and the University of California. Another $400 million or so would be used to provide businesses with subsidies for switching to cleaner, cheaper forms of energy, and about $300 million would go to county governments for infrastructure repair, public works projects, and funding public services…


At least there is a song to go with the effort:
Up Came Oil

Powered by mp3skull.com

Another Campus Climate Incident Reported

The story above can be found in more detail at
http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/04/26/uc-irvine-fraternity-issues-apology-after-blackface-video-sparks-outrage/.  So far, yours truly found no official response on the UC-Irvine website. Blog readers may recall a somewhat-related video that became known as "Asians in the Library" at UCLA and which sparked an official reaction from Chancellor Block. Possibly, this matter will be discussed at the upcoming May Regents meeting, possibly in conjunction with results - are there any yet? - from the campus climate survey taken this past winter.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Yesterday's State Senate Hearing on Online Higher Ed Bill

A California State Senate committee held a hearing yesterday on SB 520, a bill that in its original form mandated 50 online courses at UC, CSU, and the community colleges.  The bill is being pushed by Senate President Steinberg.

At the hearing, he offered amendments setting 50 as a goal rather than a mandate and allowing "public-public" partnerships as opposed to public-private.  The latter refers to deals with private MOOC companies.  Public-public would include, for example, cross-campus courses.  He also offered an amendment that no public monies would be used for the private side of any public-private partnerships. (It's not exactly clear what the last would mean as a practical matter since money would come from both sides and whose was whose might be hard to define.)  After the hearing, the committee asked for written versions of the amendments rather than the oral descriptions offered at the hearing.  However, it was clear that the bill would eventually move ahead.

Since the amendments were new, the various witnesses did not have detailed comments on them.  Concerns were raised by UC Academic Senate Chair Robert Powell.  There was also testimony by the chair and vice chair of the UCLA Academic Senate.  Below is a link to a video of the hearing.  The portion on this bill runs from minute 9 to minute 136 (roughly).  The UC Academic Senate testimony is at minute 25 to 30 and the UCLA portion is at minute 45 to 47.  A short description of the hearing is at:
http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2013/04/25/california-senate-panel-mulls-course-outsource
The embedded version of the video of the hearing works poorly if at all.  To see the hearing, go directly to
http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=1176 (and be patient while it loads).

An easier to use link to the Steinberg and Powell portions is at
http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2013/04/audio-of-steinberg-powell-on-higher-ed.html

And the good news is...?

Actually, buried within the article is the info that although the entire project is now scheduled to be completed June 2014, part of the segment near UCLA will - so it says - be done next fall:

...Officials now aim to complete the bulk of the project by June 2014, with work on the problematic middle segment between Montana Avenue and Sunset Boulevard lasting perhaps until next fall, according to Michael Barbour, the veteran engineer overseeing the project for the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Kiewit has said "it could go as far as September," Barbour said, "but we think we're ahead of that." ...

Full story at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-405-problems-20130425,1903818,2717973,full.story


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

UCLA History: The Visit

Photos show actress Marilyn Monroe as she visits UCLA in 1952.

Note and update: That date is what the source of the photos - which yours truly can no longer recall - said.  The year 1952 seems awfully early in her career for someone to have taken the photos.  Her first major movie came out in 1953.

Coldwater Reopens

Apparently, the closure of Coldwater Canyon has ended.  That closure had diverted traffic to roads that feed into UCLA.  A notice of the reopening is at http://www.ladwpnews.com/go/doc/1475/1757691/

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

As of yesterday, all of UCLA went no-smoking

Up to now, the no-smoking zone has just encompassed the medical center area.  It now extends to north campus as well.

...The Westwood campus is the first UC to implement the (smoking) ban, following a call from President Mark Yudof to go smoke-free across the 10-campus system by 2014. “We’re very proud we’re the first,” UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block said. The campus and its students “are setting an example.”...

Full story at http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-ucla-stops-smoking-on-earth-day-20130422,0,7326172.story

Not everyone agrees:

And if you are done celebrating "more" in the state budget as on the previous posting...

The drawing board
According to the LA Times, UC is not likely to like important elements of the forthcoming May revise budget to be issued by the governor:

..."We'd like to go back to the drawing board," said Patrick Lenz, a top UC budget official. The university was not consulted in advance about the details of Brown's proposal, he said...

And what are those elements?

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to tie some state funding for California's public universities to a host of new requirements, including 10% increases in the number of transfer students from community colleges and the percentage of freshmen graduating within four years.
Brown, who has repeatedly said the universities should be leaner and serve more students, is asking for equivalent increases in several other areas as well, according to a copy of his plan obtained by The Times. Those include raising the overall number of graduates and a stipulation that more students coming from community colleges finish their studies within two years. The document, which updates Brown's January budget proposal for overhauling higher education, also reiterates his demand for a four-year freeze on tuition and fees for undergraduate and graduate students. If either university system hiked costs, it would forfeit $511 million in state funding — a roughly 20% increase — over the life of Brown's plan...

Full story at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-brown-higher-ed-20130423,0,249490.story

The Regents have a meeting on May 14-16.  It will be interesting to see if they continue to fawn over the governor as they did when online education was on the agenda. The meeting will be in Sacramento so there is a good chance the governor will attend.

And, of course, there is the question of what outgoing UC president Yudof will say to the governor.  Will it be:
video

It looks like we have more (despite some drop in expected April revenue)

As we have noted in prior blog posts, California received what seemed to be a windfall in income tax revenue around the end of the calendar year.  It may have been related to high-income folks taking capital gains in anticipation of some kind of fiscal cliff related tax hike at the federal level.  No one really knows.  There was some concern that the windfall would be erased in later receipts but April is a big month for income taxes and, while there was some erosion, the state still appears to be ahead.  Under Prop 98, a good bit of the extra revenue will end up in K-14. And there is the long term concern about volatility of state tax revenue due to heavy reliance on high-income tax payers.  However, the governor will be releasing the May revise budget some time in the middle of next month and it is better for UC for there to be extra revenue than less-than-expected revenue.

You can read about tax receipts at http://www.news10.net/capitol/article/242224/525/State-could-end-April-35-billion-ahead-of-expectations

So we can celebrate "more" rather than "less":

Monday, April 22, 2013

Strike Vote to Be Taken at UC Med Centers

Strike at UCLA hospital in 2008
With contract negotiations stalled, union workers at University of California hospitals... say they will vote next week on whether to strike. The strike talk started Friday with a statement from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents about 13,000 employees at university medical facilities across the state...

The university attributes the current strike talk to a refusal by the union “to agree to UC’s pension reforms,” which require employees to pay a larger percentage of their incomes toward pensions starting July 1... But the union says just the opposite. “UC Medical Centers have offered their front line care workers cuts in total compensation,” the union said in its statement.The union is also focusing on the pay and benefits paid to top executives... The union has not specified a specific strike date or duration...

Full story at http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/apr/21/afscme-threatens-strike-uc-hospitals/ 

UPDATE: AFSCME announced the strike authorization was passed on May 6.  As noted, a strike vote authorization does not necessarily mean that a strike will occur:
http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_state_worker/2013/05/university-of-california-employees-vote-to-authorize-strike.html

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Another user review of MOOCs

The NY Times today carries (yet another) review by a journalist user of MOOC courses:

...When it comes to Massive Open Online Courses... you can forget about the Socratic method. The professor is, in most cases, out of students’ reach, only slightly more accessible than the pope or Thomas Pynchon. Several of my Coursera courses begin by warning students not to e-mail the professor. We are told not to “friend” the professor on Facebook. If you happen to see the professor on the street, avoid all eye contact (well, that last one is more implied than stated). There are, after all, often tens of thousands of students and just one top instructor. Perhaps my modern history professor, Philip D. Zelikow, of the University of Virginia, put it best in his course introduction, explaining that his class would be a series of “conversations in which we’re going to talk about this course one to one” — except that one side (the student’s) - doesn’t get to talk back directly.” I’m not sure this fits the traditional definition of a conversation...  

Full report at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/opinion/sunday/grading-the-mooc-university.html

Too many student questions?

Is there something in the air there?

A giant odorous cloud billowed over UC Santa Cruz's Porter Meadow on Saturday as a few thousand people took a bong hit or two or three during an event that's evolved into an international holiday for marijuana smokers.

Hoards of mostly college-aged men and women streamed into the grass field in a valley near College Eight throughout the day to celebrate and consume copious amounts of marijuana on April 20 -- a date some call "Weed Day" that has come to symbolize a free-for-all smokefest...

Full story at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_23072047/thousands-light-up-at-uc-santa-cruz-celebrate

There definitely seems to be something in the air:
  
Or maybe it's in the ground: 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hold the Line: Jerry Knows Best

From today's LA Times:

Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing forward with plans to shake up California's higher education system, including strict rules on tuition and fees, according to an administration spokesman. Under the governor's proposal, university officials would forfeit increases in state funding if they raise student costs during the next four years. 

The governor originally outlined his plans in his January budget proposal. Now, as he prepares to release a revised spending plan next month, administration personnel have been briefing legislative staff and university officials on the details...


Full story at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/political/la-me-pc-jerry-brown-colleges-20130419,0,6532913.story 

And we thought it was someone else who knew best!



The Candidate

As readers of this blog will know, UC is looking for a new president to replace Mark Yudof who is resigning in August.  What you may not know is that there is talk in university circles that the next president should be someone atypical with political skills rather than an academic. Such thinking characterizes not only the UC search but similar searches at other public universities.  An example is columnist suggestion that UC should choose Gray Davis:

...(D)oesn’t this sound like a job for Gray Davis? Say what you want about California’s only recalled governor, but he knows politics and state government. He’s got the brains and academic credentials to raise universities. And he’s a former chief of staff to Brown. And you want to talk fundraising? Davis was so effective as a fundraiser that it became a political liability for him. He’s also the right personality for this moment. And that personality is prickly. He’ll yell at people who get in his way. That’s usually not an effective way to lead, but the UC badly needs someone who won’t be stepped on...

Full op ed at http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2013/04/gray-davis-for-uc-president/

Would the Regents agree? I think the general idea - not necessarily Davis - is circulating at that level.

Friday, April 19, 2013

From Boston

Yours truly is in Cambridge, MA. today.  A lot of police activity here in connection with the general lockdown of the Boston area due to the bombings.  This photo is corner of Mt. Auburn and Hawthorne St.  Various police departments are circulating in the area.  The car is from the Harvard police. 

Out-of-state and international students rising at UCLA

The numbers are out on UC and UCLA freshman applications and admissions.  Among the findings is the fact that the proportion of non-California admits to UCLA have risen.  Two years ago, three out of ten admits were non-Californians.  A year ago, the proportion rose to four out of ten where it remains this year.  You can find these and other data at http://www.ucop.edu/news/factsheets/fall2013adm.html [Note that admissions are not the same thing as eventual enrollments.  Note also that undergrads also enter UCLA through community college and other transfers.]
 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dead on Arrival (or close to arrival)

From Inside Higher Ed today:

...A bill is dead to create a fourth college system in California to award credit and degrees to students but offer no courses, according to the head of the state Assembly's higher education committee. The bill would have created the "New University of California," which would have issued credit and degrees to anyone capable of passing certain exams. The bill received criticism and news media attention even though it had an uphill battle to become law: its sponsor is Assemblyman Scott Wilk, a rookie Republican lawmaker in a Democratic-majority legislature...

Full story at http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2013/04/18/bill-create-new-university-california-dies 

It sounds dead, anyway:

Try to remember...

Only a handful of parking spaces in the UCLA lot near Wilshire are numbered.  Surely, for those that are, there must be some easier numbers available to remember.  (Like 1, 2, 3...)

However, do your best:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Substantial Changes in the UCLA Faculty Association

Date: April 17, 2013

To: Members of the UCLA Faculty Association

From: Steven Lippman, Chair, and the UCLA Faculty Association Executive Board

RE: Substantial Changes in the UCLA FA

Bottom Line: Members have two choices: Remain a member of a reorganized FA or resign your membership

The UCLA Faculty Association has served the faculty well since 1973. The FA has represented you to the University Administration at the campus and systemwide level and to the government of the state on a wide variety of issues. A few years ago, we had a successful meeting in Sacramento with the Legislative Analyst¹s Office (LAO) that resulted in the state (or at least the LAO) recommending that the state re-assume responsibility for contributions to UCRS.

We operated within a political structure and a campus climate that no longer obtains. With the exception of this topic, the fate of UCRP, FA activities over the past few years have become limited to our Blog site (of which we are very proud) and an occasional campus event, often poorly attended. Our membership now numbers about 225 plus 75 emeriti.

We are an aging organization.  Many members of the current Executive Board are retired or near retirement. The UCLA FA is in need of either a quiet burial with high honors for past achievements or new blood. During many Executive Board discussions of the changing environment, a new group of seven (names listed below) has stepped forward with the idea of reviving the existing organization and taking it in a new direction. Toby Higbie, one member of this group, is currently on the Executive Board, three others are former members of the Board, and three are new to the UCLA FA.

This new group believes it can be effective in addressing certain administrative initiatives presently underway, for instance, the question of on-line instruction. They believe they can build a deeper community among faculty by making the FA more of an activist organization. This new group has also been exploring whether it is in the interest of the UCLA FA to merge with AAUP or CUCFA (a system-wide group of UC Faculty Associations), but that is a matter to be taken up in the future. Note: a brief statement of goals is included below.

As a Board, we take no official position on this change. It is, however, important to us to inform members about this proposed change in leadership and in focus. Those members receiving this email can decide either to give this new group an opportunity to revitalize the UCLA Faculty Association with their continued support or to resign. If it is the former option, then you can sit tight and see how this new group represents faculty interests. If it is the latter route you wish to take, then fill out the form below for canceling payroll deductions.

https://docs.google.com/file/d/1ohyk_WWcqlgRYR4UXlBNGkeWTzd153npsqcfiiOsNS_52OrTVdk0OyLLZZuT/edit?usp=sharing

If any FA member would like to join this new Board, please let us know by
writing to Susan Gallick at (ucfa@earthlink.net).

The FA also welcomes any feedback you have regarding the issues touched upon in this memo.

Steven Lippman
Chair, UCLA FA

and the Current Executive Board
  • Michael Allen (English)
  • Ian Coulter (Dentistry-Public Health)
  • Sheila Greibach (Emeritus, Math)
  • Tobias Higbie (History)
  • Jody Kreiman (Surgery-Head & Neck)
  • Thomas Liggett (Emeritus, Math)
  • Michael Lofchie (Political Science)
  • John Merriam, Mol Cell Dvlmt Biology
  • Daniel Mitchell (Emeritus, Management, Public Affairs,  Blog Master)
  • Karen Orren (Political Science)
  • Dwight Read (Emeritus, Anthropology)
  • Stephen Cederbaum (Emeritus Rep., Psychia.)

Individuals who will join the UCLA FA Executive Board after June 30, 2013

  • Jean-Fran├žois Blanchette (Information Science)
  • Phil Bonacich (Sociology)
  • Christian Haesemeyer (Math)
  • Tobias Higbie (History)
  • Michael Meranze (History)
  • Malina Stefanovska (French)
  • Roger Waldinger (Sociology)

UCLA Faculty Association: A Statement of Modest Goals


1. We support the continued existence of the UCLA Faculty Association. We believe there are a number of difficult issues that an organization acting outside of (and at times in collaboration with) the Academic Senate may usefully address.

2. Among these issues are the rapid expansion of online education, the impact of budget austerity on the teaching and research environment, legislative and political challenges to the faculty role in defining the curriculum, and the need for greater communication among faculty about these and other issues.  We do not expect to resolve these issues.  We do believe an organization is a necessary resource for effective faculty participation in the ongoing debate about the future of public higher education in California.

3. We support the return of the FA to electing its leadership on the basis of membership votes.  Our goal is to find more faculty members who will step up to leadership, and we want to hold elections as soon as practical.

4. We sense a deep lack of community among UCLA faculty.  We want to find ways to build faculty community and we believe the Faculty Association could be one vehicle for this goal.

5. In the service of these goals we hope to cultivate dialogue among faculty about the state of the university, to bring new members to the Faculty Association, to deepen the engagement of current members, and to work with other groups to further the interests of UCLA faculty.

Looking Ahead to 2014 Politics

"Your remarks give us great enlightenment, not only like a statesman, but also like a university professor."*

Shenzhen Party secretary Wang Rong to Governor Brown during recent China trip

==
Political year 2014 may seem like a long way off but one GOP possible candidate has already semi-declared: Abel Maldonado, the former Lt. Governor.   It is widely assumed that Gov. Brown will run for re-election.  If for some reason he didn't, there would be no shortage of Democratic candidates for governor including the current Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsom (who tried briefly in 2010).  So one question is what will be involved for UC and higher education in whatever campaign emerges.  Of course, readers of this blog see such issues as tuition and the state budget allocation to UC as very important.  However, if the past is a guide, you won't hear much about those issues in the campaign.

Below are links to the 2010 Brown-versus-Whitman campaign TV and radio ads.  What is striking is that such issues are mentioned only in one ad (for Whitman at minute 11:15).

Pro-Brown 2010 ads:


Pro-Whitman 2010 ads:


*Quoted in http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/16/5347158/jerry-brown-ends-china-trip-at.html

Bottom line: It seems unlikely that gubernatorial campaign of 2014 will revolve around higher ed issues. 


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Indirect Flattery for UCRP from CalPERS

According to a Bloomberg report, CalPERS' chief actuary is recommending that his fund follow the practice that is currently in place (assuming the Regents continue it) for the UC pension fund.  At present, CalPERS follows a fifteen year smoothing period, extremely long, and doesn't get to 100% funding in thirty years.  UC has five years smoothing and a plan for 100% over 30 years.

...Alan Milligan, (CalPERS')... chief actuary, recommends that the biggest U.S. pension stop spreading out losses and gains over 15 years and instead set rates based on how much is needed to reach 100 percent funding within 30 years... Under Milligan’s proposal, the fund would shrink its 15-year rolling period for asset smoothing to five years and amortize gains and losses over a fixed 30-year period rather than the current rolling 30-year period. A fixed period means that all obligations will be fully funded by a specific date...

Full article at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-16/california-pension-may-ask-for-50-boost-to-close-gap.html

UPDATE: Report indicates that the recommendations are likely to be adopted:
http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_state_worker/2013/04/calpers-board-votes-for-accounting-changes-to-hike-pension-costs.htm
A more detailed account is at http://calpensions.com/2013/04/17/calpers-panel-approves-rate-hike-on-split-vote/

Things to Come?

Just a note to whoever is in charge that we are waiting to see the results of the campus climate survey taken last winter.  The survey was sponsored by UCOP in response to Regental concerns relating to certain campus-level incidents.  Results are supposed to be available "sometime in spring 2013" according to http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/article/28359.  At the time the survey was under consideration, the UCLA faculty welfare committee raised some concerns about response rates and response bias so we will assume those issues will be addressed in the report on the survey results. The rumored cost of the survey informally conveyed to the committee was $1 million. Perhaps, since UC is a research institution, the data will be made available to any faculty who might have use for them.

But maybe there is no point in wondering about the results:

video

Monday, April 15, 2013

Nobody here

The LA Times today carries an article about the search for a new UC president to replace Mark Yudof who is resigning in August. It's a slam on the current crop of UC campus chancellors and UCOP administrators since apparently the Regents think they have no feasible inside candidates.

...The search is secretive; officials say the selection process is a confidential personnel matter. Leading the effort is a committee of 10 UC regents, including Gov. Jerry Brown and student and alumni representatives. Its members declined to comment and so did the executive search firm—Isaacson, Miller. Matthew Haney, executive director of the UC Student Assn., said he expected the next UC president to come from outside the state, as did Yudof, who previously led state university systems in Texas and Minnesota. (Yudof is retiring in late August after five years in the UC job.) "It doesn't seem as if [the UC regents] have elevated internal administrators for systemwide leadership to prepare them for this role," Haney said. The campus chancellors "don't have a significant or noticeable systemwide leadership presence," he said, and other top administrators don't have the national prestige that the faculty seeks in a president...

Full article at http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-uc-president-20130415,0,7690756.story

So they will search beyond UC:

Sunset closing this coming weekend

From the Westwood-Century City Patch:

The Sunset Boulevard on-ramp to the northbound I-405 will be closed 38 straight hours on Friday. The closure begins at 8 p.m. Friday and runs to 10 p.m. Sunday. Construction crews are closing the on-ramp while they remove an Exxon-Mobil pipeline. To get around the work, drivers can detour taking Sunset Boulevard to the northbound Church Lane, to northbound Sepulveda, and to the Moraga Drive northbound I-405 on-ramp...

Full article at http://centurycity.patch.com/articles/38-hour-closure

So take the detour:

Phishing Warning for Gmail Users

In the past, I have confined email fraud warnings to those specifically targeting UCLA email system users.  However, many faculty either have supplementary gmail accounts or forward their UCLA mail to a gmail account.  If you have gmail, you may get a message that looks like the image above and appears to come from someone you know with a gmail account.  It may refer to a service called Infoaxe or Flipora or something else.  Do not click on it or forward it to anyone else.  If you do click on it, it will steal all your email contacts and send them a message that seems to come from you.  The likely goal of such "phishing" sites is to put something on your computer you don't want. Just delete the message.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chained-CPI

Chained Houdini
You have probably heard or read about the "chained-CPI" (CPI = Consumer Price Index) proposal for Social Security contained in President Obama's latest budget plan.  Chained-CPI is supposed to take account of the "substitution effect," i.e., the tendency of consumers to shift their purchasing habits away from goods that rise relative to others in price.  The official CPI which is now used for indexing Social Security and other federal programs - and is also used for the partial inflation adjustment in the UC pension - is often described as pricing a fixed basket of goods.  In actuality, the CPI has become more complicated than that description suggests.  However, the operative point is that chained-CPI empirically tends to rise somewhat more slowly than official CPI and thus, if Social Security were indexed to the former, payments would rise more slowly and there will be budgetary savings.

Current University of Calilfornia workers are under a combination of the UC pension and Social Security.  Some older workers and retirees may have opted out of the joint system when it was offered to UC employees and may just get the UC pension under a slightly different formula than those who opted in. (Or they may get some Social Security based on other eligibility.) 

Since the chained-CPI proposal is part of ongoing budget negotiations, whether it is adopted remains to be seen.  An interesting question is whether indexing of public pensions in California (including the UC pension) could be switched to chained-CPI.  My guess - that's all it is - is that as long as the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics continues regular official CPI, public pensions could not be changed for existing workers under the state systems. If at some point, however, chained-CPI became the official CPI, indexing would be based on the chained version.  (CPI methodology has changed from time to time over the years and programs indexed to the CPI follow whatever the official index is.)

In any event, radio comedian Harry Shearer had a comment today about chained-CPI:

Update: http://www.employmentpolicy.org/topic/17/blog/mitchell%E2%80%99s-musings-4-22-13-does-cpi-have-unchained-malady [Click on link to pdf.]

California Oil Tax?

Signal Hill Oil Field, probably 1940s
There is currently an initiative for which in theory signatures are being gathered that would gasoline and other fuel to fund a cap on tuition.  I could go into the details but this is one of the many initiatives that are filed without any funding to pay signature gatherers or run a campaign.  It will go nowhere.  Signatures are actually due tomorrow.  There is a link to it below for those who are curious.

However, the same wealthy individual who successfully pushed through Prop 39 last year is now pushing the legislature to use its supermajority to pass an oil severance tax.  The supermajority, however, is tenuous and it's not clear that the governor would support such a measure.  Technically, if it were passed by a supermajority, the same supermajority could override a veto.  

The governor's political pledge in 2010 was no new taxes without a vote of the people.  While the governor hasn't said anything about running for reelection in 2014, it is widely assumed that he will.  So any tax that appeared to ignore the vote-of-the-people pledge would be problematic for him. Nonetheless, a ballot measure for an oil severance tax - as opposed to a legislative bill - would ultimately be put to a vote of the people and would not violate the pledge.  Hypothetically, such a tax could go in some way toward tuition or student aid.  We have previously noted that there is already a tobacco-tax-for-student-aid initiative in circulation that appears to have some serious players behind it.

Economists tend to like oil severance taxes because the world price of oil is not likely to be very sensitive to California production and therefore the incidence of such a tax falls on the producer, not the consumer.  But if such a tax were to get on the ballot, the anti-ads would undoubtedly claim that the cost of gasoline would go up.  For that matter, health professionals tend to like tobacco taxes because their incidence would likely fall on the consumer and thus discourage smoking.

In any event, as 2014 approaches, we are entering into a new political season.  More on that in a later posting.

The not-serious fuel initiative mentioned above is at:
http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/initiatives/pdfs/i1063_12-0015_%28college_tuition_&_fees%29_v2.pdf?

The more serious tobacco tax for student aid initiative is at:
http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/initiatives/pdfs/i1066_12-0018_%28tax_to_fund_higher_education%29.pdf
[signatures are due in July]

An article about the possibility of an oil tax is at:
http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/04/environmentalist-tom-steyer-calls-for-new-oil-tax-in-california-1.html

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Could Hammer Fill Westwood's Empty Stores?

UCLA's Hammer Museum is proposing to put various art projects in vacant Westwood stores.  According to the Museum, local landlords have agreed to the idea at free or minimal rents.  The Museum is asking the public to "vote" for the concept - Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood - on a website that might draw financial support from a private foundation. The website and proposal is at:

http://myla2050.maker.good.is/projects/Hammer_Museum?sort=290

A video on the project can be see below:


A Daily Bruin article about this proposal is at:
http://dailybruin.com/2013/04/12/hammer-museum-with-the-help-of-artists-community-hope-to-restore-westwood/

Completed

According to the Westwood-Century City Patch, the tree removals and sidewalk repairs on various Westwood streets around UCLA are now completed:
http://centurycity.patch.com/articles/sections-of-damaged-sidewalk-repaired-in-westwood-village-photos#photo-13976670

It's not clear from the article whether the replacement trees have been planted.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Blocked

From the Westwood-Century City Patch:

Starting Friday night, a mile-long section of the northbound San Diego (405) Freeway will be closed in West Los Angeles overnight this weekend to accommodate work needed to widen the freeway, a Metro spokesman said. Northbound lanes will be closed from the Santa Monica (10) Freeway to the Olympic Boulevard exit starting about 11 p.m. and reopened about 6 a.m., according to Metro, which is managing the project aimed at adding a northbound carpool lane. On Saturday, crews will start closing lanes about the same time as Friday, but the freeway will reopen about 7 a.m. on Sunday, then close about 11 p.m. that night. The overnight work is expected to wrap up before dawn Monday, with lanes reopening about 5 a.m., according to Metro. The Olympic Boulevard off-ramp also will be closed during work hours...

Full story at http://centurycity.patch.com/articles/weekend-closure-of-405-freeway-begins-friday

Things to Come


Yours truly gave a presentation to the UCLA Emeriti Association yesterday at the Faculty Center on the economic outlook for the U.S. and California.  It includes remarks about implications for UC.

You can find it at the link below:
[Click on the play arrow]:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Not off to a good start

Looks like our new basketball coach should be having some of this formula for breakfast. From the Westwood-Century City Patch today:

UCLA Coach Apologizes for Sex Assault Case Comments at Iowa

New UCLA head basketball coach Steve Alford apologized Thursday for repeatedly defending one of his players at the University of Iowa in 2002 when the sophomore star was arrested and charged with sexual assault. Alford, as coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes team, made repeated public statements insisting that Pierre Pierce was innocent of the accusation. Pierce eventually pleaded to a reduced charge in a plea deal that a prosecutor on the case said was offered in large part because of the coach's persistent support of the player.
Retired Johnson County, Iowa, prosecutor J. Patrick White told the Orange County Registerthe coach's pronouncements raised the profile of the case and left the victim reluctant to testify...
Alford issued a statement through UCLA Thursday, saying he "instinctively and mistakenly came to his (Pierce's) defense before knowing all the facts." ... 
A bit of audio from the apology:

Leading by Example: But Leading to What?

From Inside Higher Ed today:

Florida lawmakers advanced a bill this week intended to upend the American college accreditation system. The measure would allow Florida officials to accredit individual courses on their own -- including classes offered by unaccredited for-profit providers... The Florida plan is similar to a high-profile California bill. Both would force public colleges and universities under some circumstances to award credit for work done by students in online programs unaffiliated with their colleges... “Now you see the nation being squeezed by California and now in Florida,” said Dean Florez, a former California state senator who leads the Twenty Million Minds Foundation and generally supports the bills in both states...


From one legislature to another.  This is a spreading story that is not for the chicken-hearted!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Windfall $4+ billion in state receipts remains in state treasury through March

We have noted that over $4 billion beyond the governor's budget estimates for the current fiscal year began showing up in the state treasury at around the time of the congressional fiscal cliff, etc., decision.  It appeared to come from upped withholding of state income taxes, perhaps from individuals taking capital gains at the end of 2012 to avoid possible tax hikes thereafter.  No one seems to know for sure but once the money arrived, it stayed, i.e., it didn't seem to be some fluke of timing that subsequently reversed.  The latest state controller's cash statement continues to show no reversal.  You can find it at:
http://www.sco.ca.gov/Files-ARD/CASH/fy1213_march.pdf

Of course, April will be a big month for income tax collections so we will get a better fix on what is happening a month from now.

More is better than less:

Cap and Trade Cost to UCLA Estimated at $2-$3 Million Annually

The Daily Bruin produced the above graphic. We had previously noted these data in an earlier post. But the Bruin article adds the info that the annual cost to UCLA is estimated to be $2-$3 million. The article is at http://dailybruin.com/2013/04/09/uc-looks-to-reduce-carbon-emissions-comply-with-cap-and-trade-policies/. Our previous post noted that the main source of UCLA emissions is the campus power plant. See http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2013/03/emisions-remissions.html.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Now You See It...

We previously posted about the recent lawsuit filed against the UCLA hotel project based on the university's failure to pay taxes on its various existing hotel facilities, although non-UCLA usage is allowed.  Above, for example, is a screenshot of what yours truly found on the website of the UCLA Lake Arrowhead facility this morning [click on the image to enlarge]:
http://www.lakearrowheadmeetings.com/contact/index.cfm

The text reads:
WHO CAN MEET AT THE UCLA LAKE ARROWHEAD CONFERENCE CENTER?
Groups that meet at the Conference Center include Universities, Schools, Government Agencies, Hospitals, Private Companies, and Boards from all types of organizations and institutions.  A Learning Purpose is required to meet at the UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center.

Note that a "learning purpose" would include just about any corporate retreat.

The only restriction is listed later on the same page:

DO YOU BOOK WEDDINGS OR OTHER PRIVATE EVENTS?
The UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center is primarily for conferences only.  The Conference Center does not book weddings, receptions, graduations, etc. 
Even neglecting the qualifying word "primarily," the limit does not relate to university affiliation.  Presumably, a UCLA faculty member's wedding would be barred by this restriction.

One of the exhibits provided in the lawsuit is a brochure from the Arrowhead website that explicitly said that no university affiliation was required to rent the facility.  That language was apparently removed after the filing of the lawsuit but you can read it at the link below. If it is really UCLA's position that there is no problem with the manner in which it runs its hotels, why remove that language?  Why is it, now-you-see-it, now-you-don't?  Just asking!

Monday, April 8, 2013

California and U.S. Economic Forecast: Thursday, April 11



UCLA EMERITI ASSOCIATION:
After lunch presentation

UPDATE OF THE CALIFORNIA AND U.S. ECONOMIC FORECAST

DANIEL J B MITCHELL
Professor-Emeritus, Anderson School of Management and Luskin School of Public Affairs

     Thursday, April 11, 2013, 1:30 pm
UCLA Faculty Center, Sequoia Room
Audience questions will be taken after the presentation.
Refreshments will be provided at 1:00 pm