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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Higher and Higher With the Grand Hotel


Of course, as the Grand Hotel gets higher, so does the cost.  But who's counting when it's only money?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Semi-Hidden Art

An earlier blog post featured an artwork you were unlikely to see at Anderson unless you had a key to the faculty lounge there.  The piece above is not so hidden but it is on the fifth floor of the "B" building of the Anderson complex where there is not much through foot traffic.  (The fifth floors of the buildings that have a fifth floor don't connect with one another.)  This particular piece is entitled "Gladiator" by Gloria Schwartz.

Don't Count this $50 Million Chicken Until It Hatches

Blog readers will recall that the current state budget included $50 million each for UC and CSU, contingent on local property taxes reaching a specified level.  The trigger level wasn't reached but there was then a move in the legislature to give UC and CSU the money anyway.  Now such a bill has passed and been sent to the governor who opposes it.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-Sacramento), a primary proponent of the new funding, said she'd work to overcome Brown's objections. “I’ll do whatever lobbying I have to do to get it done," she said.

Full story at http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-california-university-funding-20140829-story.html

Atkins may get egg on her face but you never know what might hatch:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bonanza?

Is yours truly the only one who would like an advance pledge from the powers-that-be at UC that one end product of all of this* won't be another bonanza for some online training company to produce yet another mandatory training video?  By the way, the last "climate" survey was rumored to cost something like $1 million.  There are proposals out there for annual surveys despite the major methodological deficiencies in the million-dollar prototype.

*What is this? This is:
http://www.mercurynews.com/education/ci_26427010/campus-sexual-assault-yes-means-yes-bill-clears

Final End of a Tale (Tail?) of an Overreaching DA

Example of a 1950s D.A. haircut. Google it to find out what D.A. stood for back then.
Over a considerable period now, we have on-and-off followed the case, filed by the LA County D.A., against a professor at UCLA who was peripherally involved in a minor, short-time hire of his wife that was ok'd by the legal types at the university.  The Daily Bruin today carries a report which seems to be the final demise of that absurd case.  It appeared at the time that the D.A. hoped to get some leverage in another case against a UCLA professor that stemmed from a lab fire. That didn't happen.

A state appeals court ruled Wednesday that a UCLA political science professor cannot be criminally prosecuted for an alleged conflict of interest after he was involved in the hiring of his wife as a program assistant at the university...

Hundreds of students and alumni joined a Facebook group soon after in support of (the professor).
The case was dismissed in 2013 after a judge ruled that a state government code (the professor) allegedly violated, section 1090, does not apply to UC employees. The district attorney’s office later appealed the ruling, leading to Wednesday’s decision.

Full story at http://dailybruin.com/2014/08/28/court-rules-ucla-professor-cant-be-prosecuted-for-conflict-of-interest/

Thursday, August 28, 2014

In faculty recruitment, consider the cost of living and, for someone from Kansas, the high cost of leaving

There are lots of caveats in comparing the cost of living in various places.  However, the map above - which compares the value of $100 across all states with its value in each state is a good reminder when you consider faculty salary comparisons that are typically in nominal dollars.  The map tells you that if you move from California to Kansas, the same salary would buy you about one fourth more (111.23/88.57 = 1.26). [Click on the map to enlarge.]

Obviously, there are variations within California with more rural areas having lower costs.  You can find an interactive map for metropolitan statistical areas at http://taxfoundation.org/blog/real-value-100-metropolitan-areas. None the less, the bulk of UC faculty live in areas with higher-than-average costs of living, a fact that can lead to understatement of salary lags.

Shaw Enough, College Athletics are a Big Business

No, we're not going to gloat over the misfortunes of USC regarding the Josh Shaw scandal because the root cause is not confined to that institution.  The root cause is that college athletics - or at least some sports therein - have become Big Business and are promoted as such in the same way that any other business would handle its PR. UCLA is not holier than anyone else in that context.

For those who haven't paid attention, Josh Shaw, a football player for USC, told his team that he had sprained his ankles and couldn't play (true) because he jumped from a balcony (apparently so) to save a drowning child in a swimming pool below (false). Before a few folks began to poke holes in the story, the athletics dept. at USC put out a press release about the purported heroic action.

When it turned out the hero story wasn't true - there was no child/no save - USC had to put out a press release undoing the first one:
http://www.usctrojans.com/blog/2014/08/shaw-admits-he-lied.html.  Adding to the story is that it appears Shaw did jump off a balcony, but not at the purported site of the child-save tale.  Instead he apparently jumped off a balcony at an apartment house to which police had been called because of a report of a woman screaming.  Exactly what transpired is being investigated.

As we have been reporting on the various court cases in the pipeline challenging the students-who-just-happen-to-be-athletes model, we are talking about quasi-autonomous business enterprises that just happen to be housed at universities.  Google the level of coach salaries if you doubt it.  Would USC have trumpeted the story of a botany major who saved a drowning child?  Would UCLA?  Might UCLA have done what USC did if a football player reported he had saved a child?  An interesting question, no?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is it better than it seems?

From the LA Business Journal:

The headline is encouraging with its inter-university cooperation.  But the text says:

USC, UCLA and CalTech Receive $3.75 Million Federal Grant

By Melissah Yang Tuesday, August 26, 2014 
 
Southern California’s tech scene is getting federally funded. The National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency that supports science and engineering research, has awarded a three-year $3.75 million grant to establish an innovation hub, or “node,” in Southern California. The Innovation Corps program, which helps university researchers adapt their discoveries for commercial use, will begin Sept. 1 through a joint partnership between UCLA, CalTech and USC, which is administering the grant.

Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the grant’s principal investigator, said the money will go toward faculty and mentorship training, research development and community events to draw interest from local investors...

Andrea Belz, an academic director at USC Marshall School of Business and the node’s new director, said programming will specifically focus on developing research for the healthcare and aerospace industries though not exclusively. She also said she expected the program’s “hub-and-spoke” model to spark innovation at other Southern California universities and throughout the region, no matter how risky the technology...

Full story at http://www.labusinessjournal.com/news/2014/aug/26/usc-ucla-and-caltech-receive-375-million-federal-g/

At least from the description in the article, there are two junior partners in this venture and neither of them is USC.

More Email Fraud: Remember! Delete - Don't Click

Just a reminder that these messages - as reproduced below - are frauds and potentially dangerous if you click:
---------------------------------------------------
Your account safety is our top priority.
 
Recently, we have detected some unusual activity on your account and as a result, all email users are urged to update their email account within 24 hours of receiving this e-mail, using the update link: ITS HELPDESK to confirm that your email account is up to date with the institution requirement. 

Employee, Faculty & staff Only, Click Here For Member Access Page

Do not ignore this message to avoid termination of your webmail account. Our apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused, but your account safety and privacy is very important to us. 

Thanks for your Co-Operation.
 
ITS help desk
ADMIN TEAM
 
©Copyright 2014 Microsoft
All Right Reserved.
------------------------------------------------------
 
Some things to note: Why would Microsoft be involved?  Typo in "All Right Reserved."   "Institution requirement" instead of institutional requirement.

The Ball in College Athletics Seems to be in Court

Bob Haldeman of later Watergate fame holds check for construction of UCLA's Pauley Pavillion;  Haldeman led the fundraising effort back in the day.
The NY Tiimes has a profile of a litigator challenging the status of college athletics: [excerpt]

First there was Kain Colter, a brawny Northwestern quarterback who wanted to form a union. Then there was Ed O’Bannon, a former U.C.L.A. basketball star who did not like seeing others make money by featuring him in a video game. They both dealt serious blows to the foundations of the embattled N.C.A.A., which rests upon the idea of the athlete as an unpaid amateur. But the N.C.A.A.'s most formidable opponent of all may be the one coming down the pike: a stout, 60-year-old antitrust lawyer from Brooklyn named Jeffrey Kessler.

In March, Kessler filed a lawsuit against the N.C.A.A. and the major college athletics conferences that he says will take down the “cartel” that controls college sports, and do away altogether with rules against paying college athletes. College sports experts see Kessler’s case as the biggest threat of all, and, with reform in the air, they say he has reason to feel confident. If the N.C.A.A. has shown an inclination to tiptoe toward significant change, Kessler’s case takes a bazooka to the entire model of college athletics...

Full story at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/28/sports/jeffrey-kessler-envisions-open-market-for-ncaa-college-athletes.html

Another No Comment (Yet) Story

A taxpayer suit filed today in Los Angeles seeks to prevent the University of California from providing tuition benefits and financial aid to illegal immigrants.

Earl De Vries, represented by the conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch Inc., filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the Regents of the University of California.

The suit alleges tuition and financial aid benefits to recipients in the country illegally violates federal law and seeks an injunction against future such expenditures.

A UC representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Full story at http://patch.com/california/santa-monica/lawsuit-seeks-stop-uc-providing-financial-aid-illegal-immigrants

[Given this post and the prior one, it seems like no one wants to talk about anything.]

No Comment (Yet)

A long and complicated story is now circulating involving what appears to be a possible Chinese spy, a post 9-11 program in Arizona over which now UC prez Janet Napolitano (then governor of Arizona) had some authority, a data breach that resulted, and a failure by Napolitano to make a report.

According to the story, Napolitano is in the "no comment" mode.

Lizhong Fan’s desk was among a crowd of cubicles at the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center in Phoenix. For five months in 2007, the Chinese national and computer programmer opened his laptop and enjoyed access to a wide range of sensitive information, including the Arizona driver’s license database, other law enforcement databases, and potentially a roster of intelligence analysts and investigators.

...(N)o one stood in Fan’s way when he packed his equipment one day in early June 2007, then returned home to Beijing. There’s a lot that remains mysterious about Fan’s brief tenure as a computer programmer at the Arizona counterterrorism center. No one has explained why Arizona law enforcement officials gave a Chinese national access to such protected information. Nor has anyone said whether Fan copied any of the potentially sensitive materials he had access to.But the people responsible for hiring Fan say one thing is clear: The privacy of as many as 5 million Arizona residents and other citizens has been exposed.

...Under Arizona law, then-Gov. Janet Napolitano and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose agencies admitted Fan into the intelligence center, were required to disclose to the public any “unauthorized acquisition and access to unencrypted or unredacted computerized data” that includes names and other personal information. To this day, they have not...

Napolitano, who went on to serve as President Barack Obama’s secretary of homeland security, did not reply to multiple interview requests...

Full story courtesy of ProPublica and the Center for Investigative Reporting is at:
https://beta.cironline.org/investigations/data-breach-mystery-leads-from-arizona-counterterrorism-site-to-china/

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

USC, Unlike UCLA, Lets Private Sector Investors Build/Own Hotel

Image from CaRE website
From the LA Business Journal:

California Real Estate Regional Center, a boutique real estate investment bank and EB-5 regional center in Los Angeles, announced on Monday that it would develop a $75 million extended-stay hotel for the University of Southern California Health Sciences Campus. The regional center, also known as CaRE will work with NMS Capital Group, a financial services firm in Beverly Hills, on the project, which will feature 200 guest rooms, more than 13,000 square feet of retail space and a conference facility to serve the USC Medical Campus. CaRE provides real estate developers with debt and equity capital from foreign investors who wish to invest in a U.S. business in order to obtain permanent residency through the EB-5 program. These investors can receive a green card if they place at least $1 million into job-creating projects in the U.S...

Full story at http://labusinessjournal.com/news/2014/aug/25/extended-stay-hotel-be-developed-usc-medical-campu/  

See also http://finance.yahoo.com/news/care-eb-5-regional-center-200000001.html
 
From the CaRE website:

California Real Estate Regional Center (CaRE) is a Los Angeles based boutique real estate investment bank and Federally designated EB-5 Regional Center. CaRE provides Southern California real estate developers with debt and equity capital from foreign investors who wish to invest in a US business in order to obtain lawful permanent residence through the EB-5 green card program. Our team has over 50 years of global finance and real estate experience in the US, China, Russia, Europe and South America.

Source: http://eb5socal.com/
 
Quite different from the funding of the UCLA Grand Hotel, now under construction!  No worries about what happens if the hotel doesn’t make a profit.  You can bet that the various taxes for the USC hotel will be paid so there will be no lawsuits such as the one presently challenging UCLA’s claims of tax exemption.

Monday, August 25, 2014

More O'Bannon

O'Bannon
Inside Higher Ed reports that the NCAA has appealed the O'Bannon case, which takes its name from that of a former UCLA basketball player.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association filed a notice of appeal Thursday, repeating its stance that the association violated no antitrust laws when it prevented college athletes from profiting on the use of their names and likenesses. Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled against the NCAA in a class action filed by a former college basketball player named Ed O'Bannon...

Full story at https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2014/08/25/ncaa-files-notice-appeal-obannon-ruling

Rank

For those who dislike ranking
The Washington Monthly has a ranking of universities that puts heavy weight on universities that are giving disadvantaged students a hand:

The top five are:
UC-SD, UC-R, UC-B, Texas A&M, and UCLA

Not surprisingly, public universities do well in such rankings.  But well-endowed privates - which have money for student aid - also show up.  Stanford is number 6.  Harvard is number 10.

You can find the full listing at:
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/rankings-2014/national-universities-rank.php

Maybe not surprisingly, the Monthly also carries a lengthy defense of public universities by UC prez Napolitano:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/ten-miles-square/2014/08/public_universities_need_to_be051811.php


Computer-Related Phone Fraud

From the San Francisco Chronicle website:

Q: Someone from "Windows Support" called me and said they had been receiving error messages from my computer. When I asked the caller to prove that he was from Windows, he told me what my computer ID number was, then guided me to the Windows registry, where I indeed found the number. So I let him take control of my computer online. He found a number of problems with my Windows system and offered to fix them for $250.  At that point I figured it was a scam and didn't fall for it, but I was left wondering how he could have known my computer's ID number. Also, is it possible that he stole any information when he had access to my computer?

A: The Windows support scam of which you speak has been around for years, although judging from my inbox, it appears to be spiking at the moment. In fact, I recently received a similar call from someone at (347) 227-6900, a New York number often associated with this particular scam.  The ID number you were given probably was a CLSID (Windows Class Identifier), which the operating system uses to identify components including the Windows Control Panel and main folders such as My Documents. CLSID numbers are the same on most Windows computers, but you were fooled into believing the number the caller identified was unique to your computer.  As to your second question, yes, with online control of your computer a person could plant a virus capable of stealing passwords and other personal info. So scan your system with an antimalware program. And remember, any time you get an unsolicited call about your computer, it's a scam...

Full article at http://m.sfgate.com/technology/article/Apple-could-learn-a-lot-from-new-Roku-TVs-5709465.php

Lack of consultation or just being ignored?

We posted earlier about recent regents confirmations by the legislature.  Ultimately, the governor nominates regents and the state senate confirms them (or doesn't).  A Daily Bruin article today notes that the procedure for selecting regents involves an advisory committee - with some faculty and student representation - with which the governor is supposed to consult.

...The confirmation came after a tense hearing by the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday, in which students and faculty voiced their opposition to nominees because of concerns about the appointment process...

Evan Westrup, spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, said in an email that Brown consulted the advisory committee more than six months before the confirmation hearing. Brown announced his appointments in mid-January, about seven months before the confirmation. But in a letter sent to senators prior to the hearing on Wednesday, the Council of University of California Faculty Associations said it does not think Brown adequately consulted with the committee before the appointments.  Joe Kiskis, vice president for external relations for the council and a physics professor at UC Davis, said he thinks the confirmation shows that legislators pay little attention to the voices of students and faculty...

Full story at http://dailybruin.com/2014/08/25/student-and-faculty-raise-concerns-about-confirmed-uc-regent-nominees/

It may be, however, that Jerry Brown only wants advice from folks he finds to be interesting:

http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/24/6649492/how-jerry-brown-free-ranges-for.html

Excerpt from link above:
...This is how the third-term governor of the nation’s most populous state makes up his mind. In the most eclectic administration in California’s modern era, the decision-making apparatus is less a Cabinet than a cerebral orbit around Brown.  “He likes to sort of blue sky with people ... just sort of see what’s cooking,” said Orville Schell, who wrote a book about Brown in 1978 and remains in contact with him. “I don’t know any other politician in the world who sort of free ranges as widely intellectually as he does.”  As Brown seeks another four-year term in office, associates estimate he maintains contact with at least 50 – and likely more than 100 – subject area-specific advisers whose degree of significance fluctuates depending on his interests at any given time...

So it appears that if you want to influence the governor, you have to be interesting or get to him through someone he thinks is an interesting guru.  He tends to dismiss interest groups (if he doesn't have to pay attention to them for some political reason) as predictable advocates and thus uninteresting.

Here's somebody, for example, who might get the governor to pay attention:


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/24/6649492/how-jerry-brown-free-ranges-for.html#storylink=cpy

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Is this official HR policy at UCLA?

Yours truly has been following a story that made the rounds on the Internet about a UCLA postdoc in the health area who made a Facebook threat - captured by others before he later deleted it - related to an article that appeared in the Harvard Crimson. The story was picked up in various places including the LA Weekly.  You can find a link to the story at:

http://www.laweekly.com/informer/2014/08/20/dorkiest-death-threat-ever-harvard-crimson-pulls-story-after-threat-from-ucla-fellow

You may have your own views as to how serious the threat was intended to be taken and - regardless of intent - how the target of the threat might have perceived it.  But when the LA Weekly asked UCLA about this episode, the following official response was received:

While UCLA and UCLA Health System abhor violence and condemn any threat of violence, we have no jurisdiction or authority to censor such hateful comments made in social media when they are made outside the course and scope of an employee’s work.  

Obviously, wide latitude should be allowed for views to be expressed at a university.  But is it really the policy at UCLA that absolutely nothing anyone employed by UCLA in any capacity might say on social media by way of a threat - so long as it wasn't work-related - could lead to any repercussions?  Under no circumstances?  And this applies to all 31,000 UCLA employees?  The official statement is strange in that there was no way UCLA could "censor" a comment that was already circulating on the Internet and was not in a document or publication put out by the university. 

Law Professor Eugene Volokh suggests in a comment quoted in the Daily Bruin that "UCLA's reaction is right" because the threat was not to be taken seriously.  See:

http://dailybruin.com/2014/08/20/ucla-microbiologist-allegedly-makes-death-threat-on-the-crimson-website/

The issue, however, is that the statement issued by UCLA does not refer only to this specific case, but seems instead to put forward a blanket policy that might cover a situation in which a threat was made that could be taken seriously.



If We Can't See 'Em, How Will We Lick 'Em?

The story of the possible closure by UC of the Lick Observatory is beginning to spread around.  From space.com:

Lick Observatory is an astronomical research facility in California that has been in operation since 1888. Astronomers at Lick are searching for planets outside the solar system, trying to understand how stars and galaxies came to be, and doing a survey of supernovae to learn about the universe's history. The University of California owns and operates the observatory; however, Lick will soon lose funding. "Citing budget stringency, the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) has announced its intention to terminate funding for Lick in 2018," the observatory's website states. "Lick operations currently cost $1.5 million per year. Unless these funds are replaced, the telescopes will close. Also closing will be the public programs, including access to the 36-inch refractor and the main building." ...

Full story at http://www.space.com/26920-lick-observatory.html

Don't we want to find them before they find us?

State Budget

Yours truly does an chapter every year on the California state budget for an annual volume entitled "California Policy Options."  The 2015 edition won't be out until - well - 2015, but below is a link to the chapter on the making of the current 2014-15 budget.

Caution: It may be an information overload.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Yet More on the March Towards Michigan

The so-called (University of) Michigan Model involves admitting out-of-state students at full tuition to make up for state budget cuts. 

From the CapitolAlert blog of the Sacramento Bee:

The state Senate overwhelmingly reconfirmed four members of the University of California Board of Regents Friday, but not before raising concerns over the university’s increasing enrollment of out-of-state and international students. Regents Richard C. Blum, Norman J. Pattiz and Richard Sherman were reconfirmed for another 12-year term by a vote of 29-3, while regent Monica Lozano was reconfirmed in a separate vote of 31-0.

During a floor debate preceding the votes, several senators criticized UC for its growing recruitment efforts outside California, which The Sacramento Bee reported on last week. Nonresident students pay an extra annual fee of almost $23,000 that allows UC campuses to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars per year. 

“That admission just to get money is a disgrace,” said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, reminding the regents that the Legislature and the governor control much of the UC’s budget.

[Editorial note by yours truly: "Much" apparently means about one out of ten dollars to the senator, or maybe he doesn't know that.]

“There is an arrogance in those institutions of higher learning that they can just do whatever they want and they will get funding,” he said. “That arrogance needs to be tempered a little bit.”

UC campuses have said that cuts in state funding initially prompted them to expand their population of out-of-state and international students.

Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach, expressed concerns that educating more overseas students might be a national security risk and drive jobs abroad.

[Watch out for them furriners!]

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, defended the policy, acknowledging that “the differential tuition or fee, in some instances, is compelling.” But he also challenged the university to make a “comparable effort to recruit highly qualified African-American, Latino and southeast Asian students” from underserved communities in California. 

Source: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/22/6647959/uc-regents-reconfirmed-over-criticisms.html

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/22/6647959/uc-regents-reconfirmed-over-criticisms.html#storylink=cpy


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/22/6647959/uc-regents-reconfirmed-over-criticisms.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, August 22, 2014

Undoing the Master Plan?

It could be worse for California
A bill that would allow community colleges to offer specialized bachelor’s degrees has passed the Legislature and is headed to the governor.  Senate Bill 850, by Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, would set up a pilot program allowing 15 community college campuses to offer one bachelor’s degree each. The degrees can’t duplicate one that is already offered at California State University or University of California campuses, and must be offered in a field that meets a local work force need. The community college degree programs would begin no later than the 2017-18 school year...

Full story at http://edsource.org/2014/community-colleges-may-offer-bachelors/66607

UC would not be much affected by this bill if the governor signs it.  Possibly, a few potential transfer students who might otherwise have finished their 4-year degree at a UC campus won't do so. CSU would likely be more affected.  The bill does seem, however, to be a kind of ad hoc fiddling with the Master Plan.  The Master Plan, which was developed largely at the behest of the governor's father, was designed to define and coordinate the three higher ed segments.  While it is often said that the Master Plan ought to be revisited, no such revisiting seems to have occurred in birthing this bill.

Will Jerry Brown sign the bill?  What would his daddy do?
Clark Kerr gives Gov. Pat Brown the Master Plan


UCLA: Unseen Art

Most of the artwork in the Anderson School is readily seen by the public.  However, in the faculty lounge (which is accessible mainly to faculty), there are other pieces such as the one above entitled Chigi by Joyce Abrams.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pepper's Last Hurrah?

You might have thought you had heard the last of the UC-Davis pepper spray incident a long time ago.  Not so, apparently.  The Sacramento Bee has won a court case involving disclosure of the names of police officers in that incident that had been redacted from the official UC report on the events.  The university originally wanted to release an unredacted version but was prevented from doing so by litigation filed by the union representing police.

Now the names are public.  The Bee also released excerpts from confidential interviews with police officers involved after the event.

For details, see:
http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/21/6645851/bee-wins-legal-battle-for-names.html

and
http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/21/6645927/in-their-own-words-uc-davis-officers.html

We're number 12! We're number 12!

In the scramble (couldn't resist) for world rankings of universities, UCLA comes in among the top dozen at number 12.  That's behind Berkeley (#4) but ahead of San Diego (#14).

You can see the rankings at:
http://www.shanghairanking.com/ARWU2014.html

It's easy to understand:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Golden Spike

Last golden spike on the Transcontinental Railroad
CalPERS recently approved a host of extra bonus-type payments that could be used in the calculation of its pension benefits, raising concerns about pension spiking (artificial end-of-career inflation of the base on which pensions are calculated).  Governor Brown expressed some concern, but objected only to one of these devices. In principle, the legislation he pushed not so long ago was supposed to discourage spiking which irritates the public since it can result in pensions greater than final base salary.

UC is much better at limiting spiking than is CalPERS.  So in one sense we benefit by being able to point to what we don't allow.  On the other hand, when folks get riled up about public pensions generally, UC tends to get pulled into some blanket legislation covering everyone.  We escaped that fate (narrowly) the last time.  We might not be so lucky next time.

You can read about the CalPERS issue at
http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/19/6637840/calpers-pension-rules-would-ok.html

UPDATE: CalPERS included the one item Brown opposed in its approvals:
http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/20/6642166/jerry-brown-blasts-calpers-board.html

They don't want to play ball with us

Some blog readers may recall that UCLA is in danger of losing its baseball field at the VA.  For those that don't, the VA in Westwood has been renting out land on its campus for various commercial and non-commercial purposes, including to UCLA for baseball.  Apparently, since these uses do not directly benefit veterans, there is a legal question as to whether such uses are OK.  A court decision last year said "no."

Now the LA County Board of Supervisors has voted to endorse the court's decision.  It's not clear why the Supervisors want to get into this dispute since they have no jurisdiction over the (federal) property.  The plaintiffs want to have housing built for homeless veterans but no one (including the Board of Supervisors) is offering to pay for it and booting out the renters will mean a loss of revenue for the VA.

You can read about this matter at http://patch.com/california/westwood-century-city/county-supports-veterans-exclusive-use-westwood-va-campus

As for UCLA baseball at the VA, we'll just have to see where the ball rolls:

Nothing to write home about

The state Dept. of Finance released its data on receipts for July, the first month of the 2014-15 fiscal year.  The major taxes - income tax, sales tax, corporate tax - are running at or above forecast levels. (The forecast is the one made in conjunction with the new budget.)  Better more than less, of course.  But it's only one month, so nothing to write home about.  As noted in prior blogs, Gov. Brown seems to have a strategy of making "conservative" revenue forecasts in the hopes of restraining the legislature. 

You can find the latest data at http://www.dof.ca.gov/finance_bulletins/2014/august/Aug-14.pdf

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Getting Their Two Cents In

Today seems to be a day for UCLA op eds.

Prof. Donald Shoup of Urban Planning has a suggestion as to how the City of LA might stop stumbling over sidewalk repairs:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0819-shoup-los-angeles-sidewalks-20140819-story.html

Chancellor Block wants to put you to sleep:
http://m.us.wsj.com/article_email/our-internal-sleep-clocks-are-out-of-sync-1408036238-lMyQjAxMTA0MDEwOTExNDkyWj

Pay Survey

The 2013-14 faculty pay survey of AAUP is now available, courtesy of the Chronicle of Higher Education.  At the link below, you will find base salary, salary plus supplements (but no info on benefits), among other items.  Base salary averages for UCLA:

Full Prof: $173,900
Associate Prof: $111,800
Assistant Prof: $91,500

[Berkeley pays somewhat less at the top; somewhat more at the bottom.]

Link to survey at:
http://chronicle.com/article/2013-14-AAUP-Faculty-Salary/145679/

Note: While at one time, including benefits would generally show up as raising the UC ranking in pay, that is no longer necessarily the case.

Anyway, you can make your own tabulations at the site:



Monday, August 18, 2014

Uh Oh!

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article on Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom's limited office space resources.  Within that report, we find the following tidbit:

...Newsom isn't living large in his San Francisco space. On a recent afternoon, his desk was littered with handwritten notes on legal pads for a project he's putting together on the University of California system, where he's a member of the Board of Regents...

Full story at http://m.sfgate.com/politics/article/Gavin-Newsom-tech-den-a-comedown-from-Sacramento-5694570.php

More on Marching Towards the Michigan Model

The LA Times reports on the large number of out-of-state students who pay full freight at UC, effectively a move towards the Michigan Model of university finance:

The University of California system is expected to enroll a record number of out-of-state students this fall — and will receive millions of dollars in return.  More than a fifth of all UC freshmen will come from such places as Texas, Washington, China and India and each will pay an additional $23,000 in tuition, providing the system with an estimated $400 million in extra revenue that officials say helps support the education of Californians...

Among the freshman classes at the nine UC undergraduate campuses, the highest percentages from out of state are at UCLA, 30.1%; UC Berkeley, 29.8%; and UC San Diego, 28.4%...

Until 1993, it was easy to establish California residency within a year or so and then pay the lower tuition. But UC rules were tightened so that current students must prove financial independence for at least two prior years, among other things, to gain resident status.  As a result, only "a very small portion" of students from outside California do so, said Stephen Handel, the UC system's associate vice president for undergraduate admissions...

Full story at http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-out-of-state-20140818-story.html

It's just found money:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

REMINDER: Warning on Email Solicitations

Yours truly received the following email today, which likely went to others at UCLA:  (text in italics)
------------------
To: All University and College Personnel
From: Public Employee Benefits Group



Term Life coverage is now being offered to all university and college employees. You can now get the best rates and coverages available, over the phone. No agent will visit you.

If you are thinking of purchasing term coverage, do not miss out on this opportunity.


Quote Request [link]

Thank you,
Public Employee Benefits Group

Our mission is to establish trust and a long lasting relationship with our clients. This commitment has served us well throughout the years. We take pride in knowing that our clients keep returning to us for advice.

If you prefer not to receive this information in the future. [link]

--------------------------

I can't tell you if the email (which did not come from a university source) was just a harmless ad.  However, it has two links embedded (which I have removed above), including one that invites you to click if you don't want more ads.  CLICKING ON ANYTHING IN A SUSPECT EMAIL CAN BE DANGEROUS.  YOUR BEST COURSE OF ACTION IS TO HIT THE DELETE BUTTON.

More commentary on the O'Bannon case

LA Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik thinks the O'Bannon case - which takes its name from a former UCLA athlete - means less than some might think.

...Few people have the courage to mess with the business enterprise that is big-time university sports. Not the National Collegiate Athletic Assn., which supposedly monitors academic standards for "scholar-athletes" and protects them from commercial exploitation. And not U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of Oakland, who handed down a landmark antitrust ruling about a week ago that undermines the NCAA's ban on paying student athletes what they're worth.

Many observers say that Wilken threw the NCAA for a big loss. They're wrong.
It's true that Wilken chipped away at some NCAA prohibitions on athlete compensation, notably the ban on paying them for the licensing of their "names, images, and likenesses." (This was the particular target of the plaintiffs, led by Ed O'Bannon, the former UCLA basketball star.) She recognized big-college sports as a business, not amateur competition, which can hardly come as a surprise to the NCAA or university presidents.

But her ruling — which the NCAA plans to appeal — still is shadowed by this outmoded concept as it applies to football and basketball...

Full column at http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-20140815-column.html

Hiltzik's basic point is that football and basketball are different from other sports that have not become de facto commercial enterprises.  The court opinion tries to cover all college sports, ignoring the difference.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Westwood Relief?

I noted an article in the Daily Bruin that indicated that UCLA was "crowdsourcing" donations for folks who had their cars damaged in the recent water main flooding.  According to the spark.ucla.edu website, there is something called the Chancellor's Emergency Flood Relief Fund. The article says that the hope is to raise something in excess of $50,000 which apparently is intended to provide checks of a little more than $200 to each flood victim. [There is also a separate program of interest-free loans described in the article.]

Article at http://dailybruin.com/2014/08/15/ucla-to-offer-grants-loans-to-individuals-with-cars-damaged-in-flood/

Now yours truly is as charitable as the next guy - and actually donated a hundred bucks to the Fund.  But I did wonder whether somewhere in the UCLA budget there wasn't an extra $50,000 lurking that might have been used for this purpose.  

Of course, you could say that this was a smart move by the fundraising folks (although it may be that some of the $50,000 in small donations will ultimately be diverted from money that these folks would otherwise give to UCLA).  On the other hand, a flood is a terrible disaster to waste.  Nonetheless, yours truly - in thinking about this exercise in Westwood Relief - was reminded of the Pismo Beach Relief scene from the movie Clueless:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wishful thinking?

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wants the jobs of college athletics directors at the state's public schools to be tied to athletes' academic performance.

In letters this week to the chief executive officers of the University of California and the California State University system, Newsom that AD's contracts "should stipulate aggressive benchmarks for improvement in graduation and academic progress rates" and make the AD's subject to dismissal if those benchmarks aren't met. An "athletic director's contract should stipulate aggressive benchmarks for improvement in graduation and academic progress rates or face termination, period," the letter said...

Full story at http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/college/2014/08/14/california-lt-gov-gavin-newsom-targets-athletes-academic-performance/14065083/ 

A nice thought, anyway:

UCLA Not represented?

Seven months after the White House hosted a well-publicized summit on expanding college access, it announced on Wednesday plans for a second gathering, to be held December 4.

According to a White House statement, the aim of the second summit will be to “build on the work” of the first one, “while launching initiatives in new areas.” It continues: “This year’s summit will focus on building sustainable collaborations in communities with strong K-12 and higher education partnerships to encourage college going, and supporting colleges to work together to dramatically improve persistence and increase college completion, especially for first generation, low-income, and underrepresented students.”

To prepare for the previous summit, more than 100 institutions committed to new programs designed to enhance access for low-income students. At the event, 140 leaders of colleges, nonprofits, and businesses participated in small-group discussions, while also hearing from President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama... 

Full story at http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/white-house-announces-second-summit-on-college-access/83947

The list of 100 includes UC and some UC campuses (Berkeley, Davis, Merced, San Diego) but not UCLA.

The list is at http://chronicle.com/article/Details-of-College-Commitments/144073/

Thursday, August 14, 2014

NY Times Endorses O'Bannon Ruling

There are two important consequences of a long-awaited ruling last week by a federal judge, Claudia Wilken, in the so-called [former UCLA athlete] O’Bannon case. College athletes will almost certainly be better off financially. And the notion that these athletes are pure amateurs — “students first, athletes second” — will be impossible to sustain.

In her 99-page decision, Judge Wilken issued an injunction against a ban on payments to players for the commercial use of their names, images and likenesses, which she said violated antitrust law. She also ruled that college sports’ governing body, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, may not prohibit universities from offering cost-of-living stipends in addition to scholarships...

Full editorial at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/opinion/the-obannon-ruling-college-athletes-win.html

UC Pay (Including Benefits) Below Comparison-8

A study by Mercer - a compensation consulting firm - shows that ladder faculty at UC are paid less than those at the comparison-8 universities.  The estimates include benefits such as health and pension.  The study is available at:

http://compensation.universityofcalifornia.edu/total-remuneration-ladder-rank-faculty-2014.pdf

If you have trouble at the link above, go first to the Academic Senate website http://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/ and then go to the study.

Investigation

Both the Daily Bruin and the LA Times are reporting that UCLA is under investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Education regarding issues of sexual harassment and assault.

However, the reports are sketchy in terms of what triggered the investigation.  Specific cases?  Complaints?

From the Bruin:

No information was immediately available as to why the investigation of UCLA began...

Full story at http://dailybruin.com/2014/08/13/ucla-under-investigation-for-possible-title-ix-violations/ 

LA Times story says:

U.S. Department of Education officials declined to say whether an individual complaint or the government's own initiative triggered the probe at the Westwood campus, one of 76 colleges and universities now under investigation for possible violations of the Title IX equal education law...  

Full story at http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-ucla-probe-20140814-story.html

It's unclear why the matter is unclear.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tarnished silver

Inside Higher Ed features a story on UC's online education ventures.  Turns out that grand plans had to be trimmed to something more modest, despite the governor's fascination with tech affairs.

The University of California System, after five years and millions of dollars spent, is asking for more time and money to get its systemwide online education initiative off the ground...

(UC president) Napolitano played down the importance of online learning.
“I think there’s a developing consensus that online learning is a tool for the toolbox where higher education is concerned,” Napolitano said. “That it’s not a silver bullet the way it was originally portrayed to be.” ...


Gee.  There must be some silver bullets around here somewhere!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Periodic Reminder About Email Scams

From time to time, UCLA folks will get emails such as the one below.  They are all phony and may damage your computer if you click on the links provided. 

You can usually see, if you check, that the message doesn't come from a UCLA address.  But sometimes it might seem to be from UCLA.  So just delete.
----------------------------------------
From: Nicole Jones
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 10:08 AM
To: Nicole Jones
Subject: Email Confirmation


Dear mailbox user,
 
We currently upgraded to 4GB space. Please log-in to your account in order to validate E-space. Your emails won't be delivered by our server, unless email account is confirmed. 
Click on faculty and staff email confirmation to confirm details of your email account. Note that failure to confirm your email with this notification, would lead to dismissal of your user account. Protecting your email account is our our primary concern.This has become necessary to serve you better.
----------------------------------------------------

Shocked at the thought

Who me?
From Inside Higher Ed:

Over much of the past half-century, state governors have helped keep public college tuition artificially low during gubernatorial election years, according to a new peer-reviewed article. But the study suggests more is at play than a governor's own career.

The study, published in the June issue of Empirical Economics by Kent State University Professor C. Lockwood Reynolds, found inflation-adjusted tuition is 1.5 percent lower in gubernatorial election years than in other years...

Lockwood found evidence that governors were trying to help lawmakers in their political party rather than their own careers.

“It’s exactly when you know you’re going to win that governors seem to be doing this, which tends to flip around the traditional story that would be told about these things,” Reynolds said.  He concluded governors might be trying to pass political goodwill to state legislative candidates in an effort to expand party control of the state legislature...

Full story with link at https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/08/12/election-year-politics-seem-suppress-tuition-prices.

Economists!  Academics!  What could they be thinking?

More on the crack in the dam from the NCAA O'Bannon case

The LA Times has an editorial: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-ncaa-ruling-20140812-story.html.  It tries to cut a middle path:

In ruling that the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. illegally restrained competition for top student football and basketball players, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken could have obliterated the last remnants of amateurism in major college sports. Happily, she didn't. Instead, her ruling Friday upheld the association's ability to limit the compensation paid to students during their collegiate years while also allowing athletes to benefit more from the fruit of their labors — for starters, by obtaining enough aid from schools to cover all the costs of going to college. It's a better balance. Now it's up to the colleges covered by the decision to return more of the money to the students who generate it.

The lawsuit, brought by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, challenged the NCAA rule requiring student athletes to give up any claim to the revenue from television broadcasts, replays, highlight reels, videogames and any other use of their names, images or likenesses. Broadcasts in particular have been a cash cow for about 350 colleges and universities in the NCAA's top tier, generating billions of dollars in fees.


Wilken found that the association violated antitrust law by effectively fixing the price student athletes could command from the most desirable schools. She rightly dismissed the NCAA's spurious arguments that its limits on compensation promoted competitive balance, attracted more fans or helped integrate athletes into the student body. Those are all legitimate aims, but they're not served by barring students from receiving any of the licensing revenue...


An interesting question - despite the LA Times' attempt to find one - is whether there is a middle path in what has become a quasi-commercial activity, as any perusal of top coaching salaries will suggest.

It may not be possible to hold back the coming flood, now that a hole has developed:


In any event, you can expect more legal maneuvering:
https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2014/08/12/ncaa-seeks-clarification-antitrust-ruling

Monday, August 11, 2014

State Cash

Although one month's results hardly count as a prediction of budget trends, the state controller is reporting that July tax revenues were above projections in the recently-enacted state budget.  Governor Brown has tended to favor "conservative" revenue projections in budget making in an effort to hold back expenditures.  So maybe the extra revenue is a reflection of that tendency.

In any event, the fact that there is more than projected could enhance the attempt by some in the legislature to provide additional funding for UC.  Prior postings have noted that some additional funding was made conditional on local property tax receipts and those receipts were not sufficient to trigger the added funds.  That result led to pressures in the legislature to give UC and CSU the funds anyway.  Whether the governor will go along, even if such a bill were to be passed, remains uncertain.

You can find the cash statement for July at http://www.sco.ca.gov/Files-ARD/CASH/fy1415_august.pdf.

Despite the uncertainty, you can try to be optimistic:

Middle East spills over into Westwood

Google Maps must have taken this photo of the Federal Building in Westwood on Wilshire Blvd. at 5 am in the morning, since there is no traffic visible.

In any event, the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict has produced demonstrations on both sides at that building with occasional incidents as recently as yesterday.  See http://dailybruin.com/2014/08/11/protest-at-federal-building-leads-to-confrontation-between-crowds/

There doesn't seem to be any traffic alert system before the fact in place although this is a major route for commuting to and from UCLA.  Only when something happens is there an alert.  Be advised.

Marching towards Michigan

The Sacramento Bee carries an article about UC's move toward recruiting out-of-state and out-of-country students because they pay higher tuition than in-state students, a plan sometimes referred to as the "Michigan Model" after the U of Michigan's earlier shift in that direction.

Photo caption: Pushed to look for alternative sources of revenue amid the deep budget cuts of the economic recession, schools in the UC system increasingly are recruiting nonresident applicants, who likely will make up a fifth of all freshman for fall 2014. Even as state funding has begun to recover, campuses rely on substantial additional fees paid by out-of-state and international students who have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars for the university system in recent years. 

Full story at http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/11/6618782/university-of-california-steps.html


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/11/6618782/university-of-california-steps.html#storylink=cpy