Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sacramento Bee Editorial: Strong-Armed

Eight audits in four years?
UC is getting strong-armed

BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD, Sacramento Bee, 4-25-2017

One reason the University of California has kept its stature is its political autonomy.

The Legislature doesn’t control the UC, the better to shield academia from political pressure. But state lawmakers do have leverage: About $3.5 billion of the UC’s $32.5 billion operation comes from state appropriations.

State money makes up a bit less than half of the university’s core educational budget. So while the Legislature can constitutionally exert only so much muscle, that doesn’t mean it won’t try.

It’s against this backdrop that we should view Tuesday’s audit of the UC President’s Office, called for last year by Assemblymen Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco.

The two, who lead the subcommittee and committee overseeing the UC budget, want to get more California students into the UC system. At the same time, state lawmakers have been pressured by UC President Janet Napolitano, who in 2014 threatened to raise tuition if the state didn’t give UC more funding.

The UC got its bump, and tuition remained flat until this year, when the Board of Regents approved a modest increase. But relations remain rocky. This week’s UC audit was the eighth in four years.

That’s a lot. And like last year’s audit – which dubiously claimed that in-state students were being crowded out of UC by the out-of-staters who actually help subsidize California enrollment – this week’s is as political as it is scathing.

The gist seems to be that Napolitano has paid UC employees more than other state workers; channeled extra funds into systemwide initiatives such as carbon neutrality and support services for undocumented students; and has squirreled away reserves in the university budget that, depending on the accounting method, amount to a shocking $175 million or a reasonable and prudent $38 million.

For these and other sins, State Auditor Elaine Howle recommends that Napolitano be forced to hand off UC operations to a third party, and to give the Legislature direct oversight of the president’s budget. In other words, more control for lawmakers, less for UC.

In fairness to McCarty and Ting, it’s no fun taking the flak when constituents complain that UC tuition is too high, or that UC Berkeley rejects their brilliant children. And they’re not the only lawmakers who have grappled with UC.

Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, has tried to term-limit the regents. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for new strategic directions. Gov. Jerry Brown famously clashed with Napolitano.

And pressure does work. Napolitano has made room for thousands more in-state students, and proposed a cap on nonresident enrollment.

But why drop references to “cover-ups” and “slush funds,” as the two lawmakers did Tuesday? Napolitano has been a solid leader. The university’s AA bond rating was just reaffirmed by Standard & Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s. She’s a former U.S. secretary of homeland security and Arizona governor, not some rookie.

Taxpayers deserve their money’s worth, and lawmakers should ask tough questions. But they shouldn’t be micromanaging and casting personal aspersions without proof. Nor should they undermine the UC’s independence, unless there has been malfeasance.

“Significant reforms are necessary to strengthen the public’s trust in the Office of the President,” concludes the audit. Sorry, but no, they are not.


Hannah Carter Japanese Garden - The Continuing Saga

We have received an email indicating that Hannah Carter Japanese Garden that UCLA sold with considerable controversy has been designated as an historical cultural monument by the LA City Council. That status gives it added protection. 

Looks like Berkeley dodged a bullet on the Coulter talk

From Sacramento Bee: Ann Coulter said Wednesday that she is canceling her planned speech at the University of California, Berkeley, because she had lost the backing of conservative groups that had initially sponsored her appearance.
Coulter, in a message to The New York Times, said, “It’s a sad day for free speech.”
Despite insisting that she would go to Berkeley regardless – even after the university said it could not accommodate her on the date and time it had initially scheduled her because of threats of violence – Coulter said she did not see how she could go forward. The school said she could speak only at a later date and an earlier time of day, when there were likely to be fewer students on campus and less of a likelihood for violent outbreaks.
Late Tuesday, the conservative group that was helping Coulter in her legal efforts to force Berkeley to host her, Young America’s Foundation, said it could no longer participate.
“Young America’s Foundation will not jeopardize the safety of its staff or students,” the group said.
Without any support, Coulter said, she was left with little choice.
“Everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away,” she said.
Coulter was confronted with the dangerous prospect of setting foot unguarded on a campus that erupted in violence in February after another conservative speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos, planned to appear. The school canceled his event.
Observation: Probably, the best possible outcome, given the circumstances. It's unclear whether she will come at the later date that was on offer.

Time to call the governor?

Obviously, we are not headed for a good place, as the powers-that-be at Berkeley and UCOP themselves say. Isn't it time to call the governor (who likes to point to his official role as head of the Regents), for assistance in providing security if UC and local authorities can't do it? It's too late to debate who said what to whom or constitutional legalities.

Source of article and image above:

Gubernatorial Candidate Newsom Responds to Auditor Report on UC

Lt. Gov. Newsom responds to UC audit (whether you like him or not):



'Audit must be embraced as an agent for change'

SACRAMENTO - California Lieutenant Governor and U.C. Regent Gavin Newsom issues the following statement on the State Auditor's report on administrative expenditures within the University of California's Office of the President:
"For decades, the University of California's central bureaucracy has been institutionally evasive at the expense of U.C. students, faculty, donors, and public transparency. This overdue moment must be embraced as an agent for change rather than denial, and the state's legislature is to be recognized for initiating the review.
"The audit must serve as a wake-up call for the Board of Regents, as a catalyst for serious soul-searching within the U.C.'s administration, and demands a reboot of the relationship between the system and its governing body. While respecting the constitutional autonomy of the University of California, I support the spirit and intent of the State Auditor's prescriptive solutions and in particular, the recommendation for a third-party corrective action plan.
"Finally, it is outrageous and unjust to force tuition hikes on students while the U.C. hides secret funds, and I call for the tuition decision to come back before the Board of Regents for reconsideration and reversal."

UC Responds to State Auditor

We posted yesterday about the report on UCOP by the California State Auditor. Below is the official response:
UC’s Office of the President and its governing Board of Regents today (April 25) addressed issues and recommendations contained in the state audit report about the budget practices and administrative expenditures of the Office of the President, welcoming most as constructive while raising significant concerns about others.
In a six-page letter to California State Auditor Elaine Howle, President Janet Napolitano responded to recommendations in the report that dealt specifically with UCOP, agreeing with the vast majority of them. Much of what the audit report recommended was already underway at UCOP or is on track to be implemented soon.
The audit report made other recommendations directly to the UC Board of Regents and the state legislature. In a separate letter to the auditor, Board of Regents Chair Monica Lozano and Regent Charlene Zettel, chair of the Compliance and Audit Committee, formally requested the removal of audit recommendations that encroach on the constitutional autonomy of the university and are inconsistent with the constructive recommendations about improving processes, accountability and transparency...
Full news release with links to letters from UC prez and the Regents at:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Another Critical Report by the State Auditor

The California State Auditor has released another critical report of UC, actually UCOP specifically. The headline element in the report is a $175 million reserve:

HIGHLIGHTS: Our audit of the University of California Office of the President’s budget and staffing processes revealed the following:
  • The Office of the President did not disclose to the University of California Board of Regents, the Legislature, and the public $175 million in budget reserve funds.
    • It spent significantly less than it budgeted for and asked for increases based on its previous years’ over‑estimated budgets rather than its actual expenditures.
    • It created an undisclosed budget to spend the reserve funds; the budget ranged from $77 million to $114 million during a four-year period.
    • The reserve included $32 million in unspent funds it received from an annual charge levied on the campuses—funds that campuses could have spent on students.
  • The Office of the President’s executive and administrative salaries are significantly higher than comparable state employee salaries.
  • During a five-year period, the Office of the President spent at least $21.6 million on employee benefits some of which are atypical to the public sector, such as supplemental retirement contributions.
  • The Office of the President has failed to satisfactorily justify its spending on systemwide initiatives, and it does not evaluate these programs’ continued priority or cost.
  • Both Office of the President and campus administrative spending increased and annual budget and staffing levels for the Office of the President are higher than administrations at other comparable public universities.
  • Auditing standards prohibited us from drawing conclusions from some of our work because the Office of the President intentionally interfered with our audit process.
    • It inappropriately screened the campuses’ survey responses before campuses submitted the surveys to us.
    • Campus statements that were initially critical of the Office of the President had been revised and quality ratings shifted to be more positive.
  • Significant reforms are necessary to strengthen the public’s trust in the Office of the President.

Full report - including UC's response - is at:

The reserve appears to result from campus assessments that go to UCOP and various programs that in a given year spent less than allocated. Some of the reserves are earmarked for use by such programs, i.e., they are carryover funds.

There is also a response to the UC response in the report. At least some of the responses on both sides remind one of Monty Python:

Here is a news report:

The University of California’s headquarters hid $175 million from the public and lawmakers in a secret reserve fund while the Office of the President was asking the state for more money, according to a report released Tuesday by state Auditor Elaine Howell...

Full story at

Berkeley Makes the Onion

Monday, April 24, 2017

Conservative students file suit against UC-Berkeley over Coulter event

Charging that the University of California has attempted to “restrict conservative free speech’’ regarding author Ann Coulter’s appearance on campus, two Berkeley student groups filed suit Monday in federal court to challenge the university’s efforts to reschedule her April 27 event.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California on behalf of two organizations — the national Young America’s Foundation and the UC Berkeley College Republicans — names UC President Janet Napolitano and university officials, including the head of the campus police department, as defendants.

San Francisco attorney Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican National Committee member who is representing the student groups, said in an interview that progressive leaders including Sen. Bernie Sanders, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown,* and Rep. Keith Ellison have all spoken up for the right of the student groups in Berkeley, the "birthplace of the Free Speech Movement" to schedule Coulter's address…

Note: During the radio interview with the UC prez (see earlier post), she was asked by a caller why - if there is a venue that was safe for the date in May which UC-Berkeley offered as a rescheduled date - it could not be made available on the original invitation date. No clear answer was received. Not asked was whether the governor - who likes to emphasize his role as titular leader of the Board of Regents - should be asked to assist in providing security. If campus and Berkeley City police cannot provide adequate security, shouldn't the state step in?

UCLA Ranked High in Tech Transfer

UCLA is ranked high (#15) in an index of technology transfer - the highest UC campus - by the Milken Institute. See the document below. There is a methodological statement on how the index was constructed on p. 15-16 (document pages; 17-18 file pages).

As usual in such rankings, the weights applied to various factors are somewhat arbitrary. But... The document is at:

Radio Interview With UC Prez

UC prez Napolitano was interviewed recently (4-19-17) on KQED on topics such as free speech (Ann Coulter upcoming talk), tuition, admissions, out of state students, outsourcing, etc. The interview was pretty much softball questions. Some phone questions from the radio audience were included.

You can hear the program at the link below:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Erosion of the Master Plan

Erosion eventually undermines a once-solid structure
From time to time, this blog has pointed to the political erosion of the 1960 Master Plan. Dan Walters, in a column in the Sacramento Bee, points to two bills currently in the legislature which move in that direction.*

One (AB405) would allow community colleges to offer 4-year degrees in cybersecurity.** The pattern in the legislature has been to find some topic in which no formal 4-year degree is being offered by UC or CSU and then propose that community colleges should fill the gap.

The other bill (AB207) would authorize Fresno State U to open a medical school.***

Although Walters characterizes these two bills as "stalled," there will be more such bills in the future and some will be enacted. The Master Plan was developed because at the time such ad hoc developments were occurring as every higher ed institution sought to build its own empire. So maybe it's time to consider developing a new plan rather than have the legislature create an incoherent jumble of programs.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Uh Oh - Part 2

We have noted in prior posts the apparently upcoming Ann Coulter appearance at Berkeley. Earlier this year, there was the clash over the appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos that led to violence. Yiannopoulos - probably to take advantage of the publicity given the Coulter event - has announced a return to Berkeley. However, no specific date was announced:

Conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos announced that he was planning to launch a comeback tour after his abrupt resignation as editor from the far-right website Breitbart News earlier this year. The multi-day event, which he called "Milo's Free Speech Week," is scheduled be held in Berkeley, California — one of the cities known for its promotion of free speech since the 1960s — sometime later this year... "If UC Berkeley does not actively assist us in the planning and execution of this event, we will extend festivities to an entire month," he said...

Full story at

The Coulter matter, in particular, may come up at the next Regents meeting in May, especially if litigation arises from it* or if violence ensues.
"Students who invited right-wing pundit Ann Coulter to UC Berkeley next week gave campus administrators an ultimatum Friday: Let her speak on campus Thursday evening or they will sue the university in federal court on grounds UC is violating their constitutional right to free speech." Full story at:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Berkeley is getting it from all angles today
As they say:

Health Care Fraud

The University of California is alleging that it’s uncovered a scheme that targeted hundreds of students through its student healthcare plan and cost the UC almost $12 million.

In a complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the UC said the scheme used information from more than 500 students enrolled in its systemwide Student Health Insurance Plan that allowed doctors to write fraudulent medical prescriptions.

The UC is seeking a temporary restraining order hoping to halt the practice and the people behind it.

According to the UC, students were invited via social media to participate in fake clinical trials or recruited at campus job fairs. They were asked to divulge health insurance information, which the UC contends was used to forge prescriptions, court documents said. Payment for those prescriptions was made by the UC’s heath system...

Full story at

Berkeley's Call for May Day

UC Berkeley flip-flops on Ann Coulter, proposes May date

Jocelyn Gecker, Associated Press, 4-20, 17, Sacramento Bee

University of California, Berkeley officials said Thursday they have a "grave concern" of violence on campus if Ann Coulter follows through on her vow to speak next week at the university.

Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks instead proposed an alternate May 2 date for the conservative author, reversing a decision from a day earlier when officials canceled the event.

Coulter took to Twitter to reject the offer, saying she will appear next Thursday as originally planned.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Proposal for Salvage Operation?

Bruin Editorial: UCLA should use Luskin Conference Center for hotel management program

The opening of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center came with a proclamation from Chancellor Gene Block: The center would “serve our Bruin Community with distinction.” Nine months and $3.7 million in losses later, the promised benefits for students are almost nonexistent.

This is the center’s first year in operation, so the monetary losses aren’t surprising. But they are troubling, especially considering the occupancy numbers for the past fiscal year revealed that barely any of the bookings for rooms came from students.

If UCLA really wants to serve the entire Bruin community, it should implement a hotel management program at the undergraduate or graduate level that would use Luskin’s existing facilities to provide a formal academic program for students interested in hospitality or hotel services as a career...

Full editorial at

The Purge

From the Bruin:

The director of a UCLA child care center was placed on an indefinite leave last week and replaced by an interim director.

Moises Roman, who was the director of the Krieger Center in the UCLA Early Care and Education program, will be replaced by Sue Ballentine, announced Brad Erickson, the executive director of Campus Service Enterprises. Erickson said he would not specify why Roman was put on leave because of confidentiality laws.

Ballentine, who has worked for the ECE for 18 years, will immediately take over Roman’s role as interim director, Erickson said in an email statement. She served as a Krieger Center director and was formerly a director at the Pacific Oaks Children’s School and the elementary school and preschool St. James’ Episcopal School.

Officials are searching for someone to permanently fill Roman’s position, Erickson said.

The management change comes a couple months after a task force completed its investigation of the ECE. The task force was commissioned by Scott Waugh, executive vice chancellor and provost, after parents said the center had a hostile environment for parents and teachers, as well as a high turnover rate. In February, the task force released its findings and made suggestions for improvements.

Shortly before the task force released its report, Jayanti Tambe, the ECE executive director, resigned to pursue a graduate degree. Several parents accused Tambe of being the catalyst for problems at the ECE.

The task force recommended that officials hire a new executive director and clarify the role of site directors. Before the investigation, some parents said they felt some site directors favored certain teachers and poorly managed the ECE sites.

The task force also recommended hiring a new administrative director who would deal with tasks unrelated to child care, including human resources, finance and Title IX compliance.

Gerardo Soto, who was a teacher and director for the Fernald Center, also resigned from his position Monday. Child care center officials have not yet announced Soto’s replacement.

Erickson said he is working with ECE staff, parents and UCLA officials to implement task force recommendations.


Pill Bill

Like most U.S. colleges and universities, the University of Californa and the California State University systems do not offer medical abortions—pills that terminate a pregnancy, which public health officials have deemed relatively safe.

UC schools require students to have insurance that covers abortions, while CSU does not require students to obtain insurance of any kind. Universities in both systems partner with off-campus abortion providers.

A measure by Democratic Senator Connie Leyva would require the systems to provide abortion pills at their student health centers. Leyva introduced the bill after UC Berkeley declined student petitions to provide the medication at its on-campus health center...

Angela Gilliard of the University of California said the system does not formally oppose the legislation, but has concerns about the cost to students."Student health centers are supported by student fees," Gilliard said. "Adding specialists for this service would add an additional expense directly for students." ...

Full story at

The bill actually covers community colleges, too. It requires CSU and community colleges to offer the service. It makes funding for UC student clinics conditional on offering the service. See:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Uh Oh

Berkeley administrators' snack?
UC Berkeley administrators canceled a scheduled speech by right-wing pundit Ann Coulter, saying they can’t protect participants from rioting if it goes ahead — but the students who invited her, and Coulter herself, said Wednesday that she’ll come anyway, and speak on or off campus.
If she does show up next Thursday, “We will continue to do what is necessary to provide safety and security for the campus community and our neighbors,” said Dan Mogulof, a campus spokesman. He would not elaborate.
The standoff began Wednesday after vice chancellors Scott Biddy and Stephen Sutton emailed the student groups co-hosting the event — the Berkeley College Republicans and BridgeUSA, which gets students with political differences to listen to each other — to say the event was off until September at the earliest...
The accusation comes as state lawmakers debate a Republican-sponsored bill that would ban colleges and universities from taking actions that would stifle students’ expression. On Wednesday, the bill, SB472, passed the Senate Education Committee with a 7-0 vote. It now heads to a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee next week...
Summary of SB472:
...Existing law prohibits the Regents of the University of California, the Trustees of the California State University, and the governing board of a community college district from making or enforcing a rule subjecting a student to disciplinary sanction solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that is protected by specified provisions of the United States Constitution and the California Constitution.
This bill would enact the Campus Free Expression Act. The bill would declare that the outdoor areas of public postsecondary institutions are traditional public forums. The bill would provide that a public postsecondary institution may maintain and enforce reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions only when those restrictions are narrowly tailored in service of a significant institutional interest only when those restrictions interest, employ clear, published, content-neutral and viewpoint-neutral criteria, and provide for ample alternative means of expression. The bill would require these restrictions to allow for members of the campus community to spontaneously and contemporaneously distribute literature and assemble. The bill would further require that a person who wishes to engage in expressive activity on the campus of a public postsecondary institution be permitted to do so freely, as long as that person’s conduct is not unlawful and does not materially and substantially disrupt the functioning of the institution.
The bill would authorize the Attorney General and a person whose right to engage in expressive activity was infringed through a violation of these provisions to bring an action in a court of competent jurisdiction within one year after the date that a cause of action accrues, as specified. The bill would require a court that finds a violation of these provisions to award aggrieved persons damages of no less than $500 for an initial violation, plus $50 for each day the violation remains ongoing. ongoing, which shall accrue starting on the day after the complaint is served on the institution. The bill would set the maximum damages that an aggrieved person, or set of aggrieved persons, may receive in a case or cases stemming from a single controversy at $250,000...


The LA Times has a piece today about changes in university libraries in the digital age. It's mostly about the Berkeley library but it does have this comment on UCLA:

...UCLA was a leader in library redesign, reconfiguring a floor in the Charles E. Young Research Library in 2011 to make room for open seating, group study rooms and collaboration pods equipped with LCD monitors for presentations. About 18,000 volumes — half the print reference collection — were moved elsewhere, but more than 2 million books remain on other floors...

Full story at

And for those who remember the little ditty above (which was part of a radio campaign back in the day), we present:
[You may need to click twice.]

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Funding Research & Teaching

We're always happy to report on large donations to UCLA that do not involve construction of a new building:

The upcoming movie “The Promise” is a love story set during the Armenian Genocide of 1915, when the Turkish Ottoman government systematically killed up to 1.5 million Armenians through large scale massacres and forced marches into the Syrian desert. The killings led to the creation of the term “genocide” and to the formation of large communities of Armenian diaspora, including in Los Angeles.
“For many people, the Armenian Genocide is not well known,” said Dr. Eric Esrailian, a co-producer of “The Promise” and co-chief of the Division of Digestive Diseases at UCLA’s medical school. “For 102 years, there’s been a systematic denial campaign.”
Now, $20 million of proceeds from the movie, which opens Friday, will be used to create a new institute within UCLA’s law school. The Promise Institute for Human Rights “will put our law school and this university at the forefront of human rights education and advocacy,” said Jennifer L. Mnookin, dean of the law school in announcing the institute Monday. The $20 million is the largest donation the law school has ever received to create an institute, Mnookin said.
...According to the school, the institute "will expand UCLA Law's course offerings in human rights studies, enhance hands-on programs in human rights law and policy, publish research and policy assessments, bring experienced human rights scholars and practitioners to UCLA Law as faculty members and guest speakers, support students through fellowships and scholarships, and host symposia and related events."...

Litigant's Remorse in Berkeley Case?

A woman who sued the University of California and the former dean of UC Berkeley’s law school for sexual harassment is outraged that the school is allowing him to keep his tenured professorship, she announced Saturday.
“This deal insults all who suffer harassment at the hands of those with power and privilege,” Tyann Sorrell said in a statement.
Sorrell was executive assistant to Sujit Choudhry in 2015 when she accused him of kissing and hugging her. The school substantiated the allegations and gave Choudhry a temporary 10 percent pay cut. He resigned as dean and stopped teaching classes but remained a professor.
Under a “privilege and tenure” decision announced Friday, Choudhry will be considered a tenured faculty member on sabbatical until May 31, 2018, when he’ll officially resign. He’ll be able to keep benefits such as travel expenses and research funding.
The school also will withdraw all disciplinary complaints against him, and will not be able to say he acted with sexual intent or posed a risk to faculty, students or staff.
“This is just one more example of UC refusing to take sexual harassment seriously and once again offering a soft landing even after a finding of harassment,” Sorrell’s attorney, Leslie F. Levy, said Saturday.
Sorrell sued the University of California regents and Choudhry over the harassment last year.
A settlement was reached on March 31 but the school didn’t announce the agreement until late Friday before the Easter holiday weekend and school officials said they would not answer further questions.
Details of the settlement with the university weren’t disclosed but Choudhry agreed to donate $50,000 to nonprofit organizations of Sorrell’s choice that deal with sexual harassment and sexual abuse, her attorney said.
He also will pay $50,000 of her legal fees.
Choudhry, who is South Asian, also sued the University of California, alleging that the university had racially discriminated against him in its disciplinary proceedings and attempted to deprive him of his reputation and career.
Choudhry alleged the university opened a second investigation of him for the same conduct after Sorrell filed her lawsuit and reports it had mishandled cases of serious sexual misconduct.
However, Choudhry dropped the lawsuit last year.
“All related litigation has now been dismissed,” the university said in a statement.
Choudhry is among several UC Berkeley employees since 2015 to face sexual harassment allegations substantiated by UC Berkeley’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination.
Note: Presumably, the plaintiff could have rejected the settlement and gone to court with the case but didn't. It now seems likely that any further action is precluded by the acceptance of the deal. Probably, the terms of the deal will be discussed in closed session at the May Regents meeting.
UPDATE on settlement: UC-Berkeley has agreed to pay $1.7 million to the woman who accused its former law school dean of sexual harassment.

According a copy of UC-Berkeley’s agreement with Tyann Sorrell, who was executive assistant to Sujit Choudhry when he was dean of the law school, the settlement is to be paid out through an initial lump sum payment of $600,000 to Sorrell and her attorney, Leslie Levy of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams.

Sorrell will receive another $250,000 up front, and receive the rest in monthly payments of $8,048 stretching over 10 years—starting June 1, 2018 and terminating in May 1, 2028. The settlement agreement, which resolves claims alleging the university retaliated against Sorrell and failed to intervene when she reported the alleged harassment, was obtained from UC-Berkeley through a public records request...

Full story at

Monday, April 17, 2017

Path to Nowhere?

Some paths lead nowhere. Some lead to nothing but trouble. Not clear which of these UCPath will turn out to be:

CAPITOL ALERT of Sacramento Bee, April 17, 2017

Cost triples, delays mount for UC computer system upgrade

By Alexei Koseff

The timeline for a massive upgrade to the University of California’s payroll and personnel system was extended again twice in the past two months, further delaying a project now expected to cost more than three times its original budget.

In February, the university pushed back its launch date at a first wave of sites to December from August; two subsequent phases of the rollout were then moved the following month, to July 2018 and December 2018, respectively.

That would ultimately put the payroll system, UCPath, more than four years behind schedule – longer that it was originally supposed to take.

In a statement, UC spokesman Ricardo Vazquez said the university postponed the initial launch again because “Additional testing was needed in the most complex part of the work, which involves converting data from the old payroll systems into UCPath.”

“Though the conversion cycle itself typically lasts only five weeks, the time needed for this extra test cycle pushed the project close to the university’s annual Open Enrollment cycle” for health insurance, he said, “which would have added complexity and risk to this deployment effort.”

UCPath – which stands for payroll, academic personnel, timekeeping and human resources – was formally launched in September 2011, with a 36-month timeline to combine UC’s 195,000 employees into a single system. Budgeted at $156 million, university officials argued it was a necessary upgrade to outdated, 30-year-old payroll technology and would eventually save them more than $100 million per year.

But deadline after deadline has come and gone as UC struggled to integrate the business processes of its 10 campuses, five medical centers and central administration. Though 1,800 employees in the Office of the President have been receiving paychecks through the system since January 2016, UCPath has yet to go live at any of the other sites.

With the latest revision to its schedule, Vazquez said, the project is estimated to cost $504 million, including a $26 million contingency “to accommodate any unexpected large expenses in the final year of the project budget” that may not be used. The university has spent $327 million so far.

“Now that design has been completed and UCPath is into the testing phase, the university’s ability to accurately project the total cost has improved,” Vazquez said, citing additional staff as the primary contributor to the increase.

Michael Krigsman, an IT industry analyst at, said it’s better for UC to delay the payroll system than be stuck unable to issue paychecks for months. But he questioned how the university had gotten so far off track and what it would do in the future to avoid repeating those mistakes.

“A project that is three times its original size either rests on very shaky foundation or they changed the plan along the way, which indicates a poor understanding of the problem it was trying to solve,” he said. “That’s a pretty lame excuse.”


Diligence was due, but apparently didn't happen

The drama continues over the hiring of a financial official by UCLA who had some "irregularities" in his past.* From the Bruin:

A UCLA finance administrator was arrested and charged with embezzlement and fraud in New York on April 7 in connection with his former position at another university.
Carmine Marino, UCLA’s director of business and finance services who has held several positions within the City University of New York, was accused of stealing $81,000 from student tuition accounts at CUNY.
Marino surrendered and appeared before a federal magistrate in Manhattan, according to The New York Times.
UCLA spokesperson Kathryn Kranhold said in an email statement that Marino was placed on investigatory leave after his arrest.
“In light of his arrest, UCLA officials have begun an internal review of Mr. Marino’s actions as senior director of business and finance services,” Kranhold added.
Marino’s lawyer, David Scott Smith, told The New York Times he and Marino intend to vigorously defend against the charges.
One might expect that someone might be held responsible for missing the circumstances of Mr. Marino's exit from CUNY. But we doubt heads will roll:

We'll see what comes in

For obvious reasons, April is the big month for California state income tax collections. Fiscal policy wonks can track the daily inflow of state income taxes at:
courtesy of the state controller. The straight line on the chart above shows the current estimate for what is projected to arrive in April. If we fall short of the line as of April 30, the governor's "May Revise" budget proposal may be tightened. If we go over the line, the legislature may push for more spending than the governor would like. Either way, there could be implications for the UC appropriation.

Due to the weekend positioning of April 15 and Emancipation Day today, (your) taxes are due tomorrow, April 18. However, there is an alternative option:

Back in 2012, this blog attributed the saying

“Pay your taxes with a smile unless, of course, they insist on cash”

to Arthur Godfrey.* But apparently it has a longer history than we thought:


Sunday, April 16, 2017

The other way to read the blog

As we do at the end of each quarter (this time a bit late), we provide an alternative route to read the blog for that quarter in "flip book" format.

If you use the link below, you can flip through the blog, January through March 2017. Of course, all the wonderful audio, video, and animated gifs will be omitted. For those, you need to go back to the original postings.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

That was then and this is now


And now:

Settlement at Berkeley

The former dean of the UC Berkeley law school and his former assistant reached a legal settlement in her long-standing sexual harassment lawsuit against him, it was announced Friday. Sujit Choudhry agreed to pay $50,000 to charity and $50,000 in legal fees to settle the case, according to statements released by the university and by his former assistant, Tyann Sorrell.

Terms of additional settlements between Sorrell and the university, and between Choudhry and the university, were not released.

In a statement released Friday, Sorrell said the $50,000 payment to charity represented a “significant financial contribution to a number of organizations of my choice that deal with the serious issues of sexual harassment and abuse.” Sorrell’s attorney, Leslie Levy, said the terms of the settlement represented a “minor slap on the wrist” for Choudhry and that her client is “continuing to heal and struggle.” She said her client was not permitted to comment further under the terms of the agreement. 

The agreement was signed March 31 but announced late Friday before the holiday weekend. University officials and Choudhry did not return calls seeking comment, and Levy said the timing of the announcement was “intended to minimize student and staff reaction” to the news of the settlement.


In addition:

...The settlement ensures that Choudhry will voluntarily resign May 31, 2018 and will remain a tenured member of the faculty of UC Berkeley Law School in good standing until that time. Choudhry will continue to perform his current administrative duties until the end of the 2016-17 school year and then will be away on unpaid sabbatical for the 2017-18 school year...

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Loss at the Grand Hotel: Does Murphy Hall or UCLA Hospitality Lack Creative Accountants?

Yours truly was sure the UCLA Grand Hotel would never be allowed to show a loss. But apparently it couldn't be covered up:

Luskin Conference Center projected to lose $3.7M by end of first year

BY RUPAN BHARANIDARAN   April 14, 2017   Daily Bruin

The Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center is projected to lose $3.7 million in its first year of operation.

The center had about 44 percent of its space booked in the first half of its fiscal year, which ended in December, said Peter Angelis, assistant vice chancellor of Housing and Hospitality Services. The low occupancy rate contributed to the center’s net loss, Angelis added.

Angelis said the center experienced a low occupancy rate because it was only able to host conferences beginning in September, even though its fiscal year began last June. He added the occupancy rate increased to 70 percent in the second half of the fiscal year.

It has hosted 219 conferences since it opened last fall and more than 20,000 guests have stayed in the center’s rooms, said Les Utley, the center’s general manager. He added 76 conferences and 57 meetings are booked for the rest of the fiscal year.

The center will not make a profit because it must service the $112 million loan that funded construction, Angelis said. He said without the $5 million necessary to service the loan, the center would actually report a $1.5 million positive net revenue.

Angelis added the center’s slow start is normal for new hotels, and UCLA Hospitality plans to make up for this year’s loss by taking financial reserves from its other venues, such as the UCLA Guest House and Lake Arrowhead Conference Center.

Angelis said it was difficult to persuade organizations to book conferences at the center before construction ended because the organizations typically make bookings years in advance.

When you open a new hotel, you don’t have a finished building that organizations can see before booking a conference,” he said.

However, Utley said many academic conferences have now been coming to the Luskin Conference Center, because UCLA faculty and students who are part of national organizations recommend the center as a potential site.

“UCLA faculty and students are part of a lot of trade associations, like (medical associations), and they play a big part in working with our sales team to get conferences here,” he added.

Thus far, about 60 percent of booked hotel rooms were booked by people attending conferences, with 40 percent of those conferences being UCLA-related, Angelis said. He added the rest of the booked rooms were for individual purposes, such as parents visiting campus or faculty visiting from other universities.

Angelis said the center performed 10 percent above comparable private sector hotels in third-party customer satisfaction surveys. He added about 96 percent of respondents have said they were satisfied with their stay.

Several organizations that hosted conferences and events at the Luskin Conference Center said the center met their needs.

Amy Junge, a consultant at Education Evolving, which held the Teacher-Powered Schools National Conference in January, said she thinks the center was well-designed to accommodate large groups.

Junge said Education Evolving also chose to stay at the Luskin Conference Center because they did not want to pay additional taxes on hotel rooms. Guests at the Luskin Conference Center do not have to pay local taxes on their rooms because the center is not classified as a hotel, Angelis said.

Cary Gordon, who helped organize Code4Lib, a coding conference for libraries and archives, said the Luskin Conference Center was able to meet their large technological needs.

“Since we were doing coding, we brought a lot of technology and used a lot of devices, but the venue was able to accommodate all that and everything worked well,” he said.

Gordon said it was originally difficult to pay the Luskin Conference Center’s cost.

“We don’t really have a formal budget and we really had to scramble to make the payments,” he said. “But we’ve been doing this conference for 10 years and I have to say (Luskin) had some of the best food and facilities we’ve ever had.”

Brandon Baker, executive developer of development for the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, said he thinks the center fulfilled space-related needs and the school saved a lot of money by shifting its events there.

“It always used to be a fight for space, but Luskin allowed us to bring events closer to South Campus and to the Engineering School,” he said.

Baker added he thought the center’s accommodations, such as its restaurant Plateia, were nice places to have meetings with donors and other sponsors.

The Luskin Conference Center projects a 61 percent occupancy for the fiscal year as a whole, Angelis said. He added the center hopes to break even in profits next year.

“We have to build up our business the old-fashioned way, through word-of-mouth, and keep spreading the word,” he said.

Full story at

Yours truly has highlighted the word "hotel" above, since the powers-that-be persistently try not to use the word.

UC Appeals to Overturn CRISPR Patent Decision

Need to overturn
he University of California has filed an appeal to overturn a February decision by a US patent tribunal that dealt UC a setback in its efforts to win foundational patents on the revolutionary genome-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9.
In that decision, the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board ruled that CRISPR patents issued to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in 2014 did not cover the same inventions for which UC had sought patents. The PTAB decision found that the claims can be patented separately. That left UC free to pursue its original patent applications, but was deemed a setback because the Broad was left with what many experts considered the more valuable intellectual property...
CRISPR is a a big deal. For those not in the know, below is a link to a Radiolab program on the subject: