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Friday, January 19, 2018

Vandalism incident sparks responses from Jewish student leaders

Vandalism incident sparks responses from Jewish student leaders

Daily Bruin, 1-18-18, Thomas Lim

The president of UCLA’s undergraduate student government rededicated a new mezuzah outside of her office Thursday after her previous mezuzah was vandalized over winter break.

Rabbi Dovid Gurevich led the rededication with a speech about the cultural significance of the mezuzah in the Jewish faith and closed the event with the installment of the new mezuzah. The previous one was torn off Undergraduate Students Association Council President Arielle Yael Mokhtarzadeh’s doorframe between Jan. 2 and Jan. 8.

A mezuzah outside former USAC President Danny Siegel’s doorpost was damaged in 2017 as well, Mokhtarzadeh said.

A mezuzah is a small ornament that is placed on the doorframe of Jewish homes and synagogues. It contains two passages from the Torah that symbolize protection for practitioners of the faith, Gurevich said.

UCPD Lt. Kevin Kilgore said the department is investigating the incident as a potential hate crime because the mezuzah is religiously significant to the Jewish faith, and Mokhtarzadeh identifies as Jewish. He added there are currently no suspects or leads in the investigation...

Mokhtarzadeh said she plans to take measures to prevent these types of incidents from occurring again by working with Associated Students UCLA to install security cameras on the third floor of Kerckhoff Hall.

Full story at http://dailybruin.com/2018/01/19/vandalism-incident-sparks-responses-from-jewish-student-leaders/

Photo: https://www.facebook.com/arielle.mokhtarzadeh/posts/1796874336992115

CRISPR case never seems to draw to a conclusion

A decision from the European Patent Office (EPO) has put the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on shaky ground with its intellectual property claims to the gene-editing tool CRISPR. EPO yesterday revoked a patent granted to the Broad for fundamental aspects of the technology, one of several of its patents facing opposition in Europe.

In the United States, the Broad has had better fortune. It has so far prevailed in a high-profile patent dispute with the University of California (UC), Berkeley. Last February, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board ruled that although a team led by UC Berkeley structural biologist Jennifer Doudna had first laid claim to the use of CRISPR to cut DNA in a test tube, the use of the method on human cells by molecular biologist Feng Zhang’s team at the Broad was still an advance.

But in Europe, a dispute that has gotten much less attention could derail several key Broad patents. The patent just revoked was filed in December 2013, but to show that its claims predate competing publications and patent filings from UC and other groups, the Broad cites U.S. patent applications dating back to December 2012.

Unfortunately, those earliest U.S. filings include an inventor, microbiologist Luciano Marraffini of The Rockefeller University in New York City, who was not listed on the European filing. Disagreement between Rockefeller and the Broad over Marraffini’s role in key CRISPR inventions led to a bizarre dispute, creating conflicting, identical patents with different authors, The Scientist reported in 2016.

The two institutions settled the disagreement earlier this week. But because of strict rules in Europe about the listing of inventors on patents, Marraffini’s exclusion from the European filing meant the Broad couldn’t claim the “priority date” of the earliest U.S. patents, and therefore couldn’t lay first claim in Europe to the technologies described.

The invalidated patent is one of several facing formal “oppositions” filed with EPO. One opponent of the now-revoked patent was CRISPR Therapeutics, co-founded by microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, now at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, who collaborated with Doudna on early CRISPR technology and is listed on key patents. And the same issue could threaten more of the Broad’s intellectual property in Europe, says Jacob Sherkow, a patent specialist at New York Law School in New York City. “If the Broad can’t get the priority date that they want in their patents, things are just going to be really bad for them,” he says. “It looks like UC Berkeley and Emmanuelle Charpentier are going to have the dominant patent position in Europe going forward.”

The Broad said in a statement that it plans to appeal the decision. But the likelihood that EPO will reverse course is “slim,” says Catherine Coombes, a patent attorney with HGF Limited in York, U.K., who has handled some CRISPR-related litigation but is not involved with what she refers to as “the foundational” intellectual property at the center of these disputes.

She notes that the decision doesn’t threaten the many follow-on patents the Broad has filed for gene-editing technologies, including alternatives to the Cas9 enzyme used in the early CRISPR work. And the new blow to the Broad doesn’t change the fact that companies commercializing CRISPR-based products will likely have to license technology from multiple patent holders. “The CRISPR landscape is a lot murkier in Europe because it’s perfectly feasible to have lots of overlapping rights,” she says. “I can’t say that it’s suddenly a winner-takes-all scenario.”

Source: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/01/broad-institute-takes-hit-european-crispr-patent-struggle

Explanation

Yesterday, yours truly noted an article in the Bruin indicating that a ban had been imposed on alcohol at frat parties. There was no further information. Below is what happened:

A former UCLA fraternity president was free on bail Thursday following his arrest in Westwood last weekend on suspicion of assault with intent to commit rape and oral copulation. Benjamin Orr, 21, was arrested after police were called about 9:15 a.m. Sunday to the 500 block of Gayley Avenue to investigate a report of a sexual assault that allegedly occurred the previous night at an off-campus party, according to UCLA Police Department Lt. Scott Scheffler.
Orr, who was arrested at 547 Gayley Ave., was booked into sheriff's custody and was freed after posting $100,000 bail, Scheffler said.
The address is that of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. The Daily Bruin reports that Orr was the fraternity's 2016-17 president. On Tuesday, the UCLA Interfraternity Council Executive Board and President's Council met and voted to impose "an indefinite ban on events involving alcohol that take place within IFC chapter facilities," according to a statement from the council's executive board.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

UCPath now at ASUCLA

The UCPath payroll system, which has featured repeated delays and large cost overruns, is now in place at ASUCLA. It was due originally to replace the local system at UCLA as a whole, but was confined initially to just ASUCLA to see what happened. Details can be found in the Bruin:
http://dailybruin.com/2018/01/18/ucpath-program-launches-at-asucla-digitalizing-uc-payroll-system/

UC DACA Statement

UC statement on government’s push for Supreme Court ruling on DACA

UC Office of the President, Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The University of California looks forward to defending the federal district court injunction on appeal. U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup’s order rightly rests on the correct application of settled legal principles, which do not permit an agency such as the Department of Homeland Security to act based on a mistaken view of the law. Judge Alsup correctly recognized that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was a lawful exercise of enforcement discretion and rejected the government’s argument to the contrary.

We will oppose the government’s highly unusual attempt to take an appeal directly to the Supreme Court. The administration’s disregard for ordinary appellate procedures echoes the irregular manner in which it tried to rescind DACA.

Judge Alsup’s injunction requiring DHS to accept DACA renewals remains in place, and we urge all DACA recipients to submit renewal applications as soon as possible. This does not, however, negate the urgent need for a legislative solution that will allow DACA recipients to permanently remain in the United States.

Source: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/uc-statement-government-s-push-supreme-court-ruling-daca

Also:

University of California President Janet Napolitano and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Wednesday urged young immigrant students to renew their applications for an Obama-era program that protects them from deportation amid reports that immigration officials in Northern California could conduct a sweep of undocumented people in the coming weeks...

Full story at https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/UC-President-Urges-Students-Renew-DACA-Applications-469725593.html

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Regents and Tuition (or Not)

As we noted in our postings on the governor's proposed budget, he has assumed no tuition increase at UC for next year. But the Regents are reported to be planning to raise tuition (or to be considering a raise) at their upcoming meeting, Jan. 24-25. Some Regents are now reported to be requesting a delay. The agenda for the Regents as of this morning does not include an explicit overall tuition item, but here is the LA Times on the issue:

Controversy is brewing over whether University of California regents should vote next week on another possible tuition increase — or delay a decision to allow more people to weigh in.

UC officials have floated the idea of another increase of 2.5%, which would amount to about $290 more in tuition for the coming 2018-19 academic year.

The regents approved a similar increase last year — the first since 2010-11 —  which brought tuition for California resident undergraduates to $11,502.

Regents last year also increased the student services fee by $54, but offered enough financial aid to cover the higher costs for two-thirds of the university system’s roughly 175,500 California resident undergraduates. 

State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, an ex-officio regent, asked UC President Janet Napolitano over the weekend to delay a vote because he and some of the other regents won’t be able to attend the budget discussion scheduled for Jan. 25 at UC San Francisco. That’s because Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State address is scheduled for the same day.

At least two other ex-officio regents, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torklakson, also will attend Brown’s address and miss the regents meeting. Newsom opposes any tuition increase, his spokesman said.

“To start, it lets the Legislature off the hook of addressing the state’s underfunding of public higher ed,” Rhys Williams, Newsom’s spokesman, said in a text Tuesday. 

[Note: Newsom is running for governor.]

Students also have asked Napolitano to delay any vote until the March meeting, to be held at UCLA. Student Regent Paul Monge said he and two other student leaders met with Napolitano on Friday and asked for a delay, saying more students would be able to voice their views at a meeting at UCLA than at UCSF, which has no undergraduate campus. 

“We’re wanting to provide access to the meeting and make sure there’s robust input from students,” Monge said Tuesday. 

Monge said UC officials told students that they wanted a decision on tuition in January to give families time to prepare for any increase. But students countered, he said, that admission decisions for freshmen and transfer students usually are not released until the spring anyway. Freshmen have until May 1 to commit to enroll and transfer students, until June 1.  

Delaying a vote, Monge argued, also would give the UC community more time to lobby the Legislature and governor for more money. That, in turn, could eliminate the need for another tuition increase, he said.

Brown made it clear in the 2018-19 budget proposal he unveiled last week that he did not support another tuition increase at UC or Cal State.

“The Administration remains concerned about the impact of tuition increases on lower income students and families and believes more must be done to reduce the universities’ cost structure,” his budget proposal said. “Further reforms should be implemented before the segments consider charging students more.”

At the same time, Brown proposed a 3% increase in base funding for 2018-19, down from a 4% increase in each of the last few years. Leaders of UC and Cal State have expressed concern over the smaller funding increases. 

Napolitano and UC Board of Regents Chairman George Kieffer could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. 

Source: http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-essential-education-updates-southern-some-uc-regents-push-to-delay-vote-on-1516143261-htmlstory.html

Items on the Regents' agenda include a "Master of Management" degree at Merced to be run by the School of Engineering (with a tuition premium):
http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/regmeet/jan18/a2.pdf
and a look at the total cost of attendance for students - as opposed to just the tuition element:
http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/regmeet/jan18/a6.pdf

There is a report scheduled on the bid to continue UC's managerial role in Los Alamos, a legacy of the Manhattan Project. UC has been reported in the news media to be bidding in partnership with Texas A&M, but nothing about the details of the bid appears in the agenda item: http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/regmeet/jan18/n3.pdf

Budget approval for additional student housing at UCLA is also on the agenda:
http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/regmeet/jan18/fin.pdf

The overall agenda (as of this morning) is at:
http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/meetings/agendas/jan18.html

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Big Blue Bus UCLA-Subsidized Ridership Up

The Big Blue Bus took a hit last year, losing 12 percent of its overall ridership, according to a year-end performance report on fiscal year 2016-2017. While ridership has declined across agencies in Los Angeles County, local analysts say the biggest competition in Santa Monica came from the Expo Line. BBB routes that run parallel to light rail lost 1.5 million passengers year over year, accounting for 46 percent of ridership loss system wide...The report also blames changes in demographics, income, car affordability, low gas prices and Uber and Lyft, for declining ridership...

(But) ridership numbers were good for bus lines that provided subsidies for students and gave them access to areas with expensive or restrictive parking, like UCLA. In fact, UCLA students rode 14 percent more trips in Fiscal Year 2016-2017 than they did the year before...

Full story at http://smdp.com/routes-face-possible-changes-after-commuters-find-other-rides/163900

AEA professional conduct review

After disclosures of inappropriate sexist comments on an unofficial website used by economists, the American Economic Association (AEA) set in motion a review. The AEA is the primary professional association of economists. A report on what occurred and a response is at:
https://www.aeaweb.org/resources/member-docs/code-of-conduct-interim-report

An announcement of a proposed code of conduct is below:

January 16, 2018

To: Members of the American Economic Association
From: Peter L. Rousseau, Secretary-Treasurer
Subject: AEA Draft Code of Professional Conduct – comments requested

In October 2017 Alvin E. Roth formed an Ad Hoc Committee to Consider a Code of Professional Conduct for Economists, and charged it with evaluating various aspects of professional conduct, including those which stifle diversity in Economics. The ad hoc committee, composed of John Campbell (chair), Marianne Bertrand, Pascaline Dupas, Benjamin Edelman, and Matthew D. Shapiro discussed an interim report* and draft code with the AEA Executive Committee at its meeting on January 4, 2018, and provided an update to the AEA membership at the Annual Business Meeting on January 5 in Philadelphia. The interim report and draft code are now ready and available for viewing and comment by the AEA membership at large, and the Executive Committee encourages your participation and assistance in bringing these items ahead to final versions.

=================

Draft AEA Code of Professional Conduct

January 5, 2018: https://www.aeaweb.org/resources/member-docs/draft-code-of-conduct

The American Economic Association holds that principles of professional conduct should guide economists in academia, government, and the private sector.

The AEA's founding purpose of "the encouragement of economic research" requires intellectual and professional integrity. These demand honesty and transparency in conducting and presenting research, disinterested assessment of ideas, and disclosure of conflicts of interest.

The AEA encourages the "perfect freedom of economic discussion."  This goal requires considering each idea on its own merits and an environment where all can freely participate. Economists have a professional obligation to conduct civil and respectful dialogue in all venues including seminars, conferences, and social media. This obligation applies even when participating anonymously.

The AEA seeks to create a professional environment with equal opportunity and equal treatment for all economists, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, health condition, marital status, parental status, genetic information, professional status, or personal connections.

Economists have both an individual responsibility for their conduct, and a collective responsibility to promote responsible conduct in the economics profession. These responsibilities include developing institutional arrangements and a professional environment that promote free expression concerning economics. These responsibilities also include supporting participation and advancement in the economics profession by individuals from diverse backgrounds.

The AEA strives to promote these principles through its activities.

=================
*https://assets.aeaweb.org/assets/production/files/6219.pdf

Similar concerns coming to UCLA?

Chinese institute at UMass Boston is accused of promoting censorship

By Laura Krantz, Boston Globe, Jan. 16, 2018

A group of UMass Boston students, professors, and alumni as well as outside advocates are raising concerns about the Confucius Institute that operates on its campus, accusing it of promoting censorship abroad and undermining human rights.

The Chinese government oversees the center, one of more than 90 on campuses across the United States and abroad and one of two in the state.

“Confucius Institutes use their foothold in prominent academic institutions to influence and steer academic discourse,” the group said in a recent letter to interim chancellor Barry Mills, asking for a meeting to discuss their concerns.

The organizer of the objectors said she hopes to persuade the university to shut down the campus institute.

Source: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/01/15/chinese-institute-umass-boston-accused-promoting-censorship/U5nL824cIpKTFF7h186TSP/story.html

10 AM

UCLA is pushing its "TIE-INS" program:

If you go on the website listed below, you will find that the application process becomes available at 10 AM today. From an email circulated today:

Now in its tenth year, as an initiative developed at the Chancellor’s behest by the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS), the program enables children of UCLA employees to attend eight public schools:
  • Beethoven Street Elementary School
  • Broadway Elementary School
  • Brockton Elementary School
  • Nora Sterry Elementary School
  • Walgrove Avenue Elementary School
  • Emerson Middle School
  • Mark Twain Middle School
  • University High School
For your convenience, the 2018-2019 application is online at the TIE-INS website.* Please check the website for application deadline dates for each school.
===

Monday, January 15, 2018

UC's Los Alamos Bid

University of California official promises better management at LANL

By Mark Oswald / Journal Staff Writer / January 14th, 2018 / Albuquerque Journal

OHKAY OWINGEH – A top University of California official acknowledged Friday that there have been shortcomings at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the past but said the school remains “deeply committed” to the future of the lab as UC bids for LANL’s next management and operations contract.

Kim Budil, the university’s vice president for national labs, said UC, which has been involved in running LANL since 1943, had adapted and improved since an accident caused by LANL shut down the nation’s nuclear waste storage facility near Carlsbad in 2014.

Budil also admitted there had been “missed opportunities” for the university to establish more of an institutional presence in northern New Mexico over the decades, but she touted new programs to support tech start-ups and for entrepreneurial fellowships as ways to do more in the future.

Budil as well as representatives of Texas A&M University and the University of Texas – also bidders for the lab contract – spoke at a meeting of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities at the Ohkay Owingeh Casino Resort Hotel north of Española.

The Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration is scheduled to award the new LANL operating contract, worth more than $2 billion annually, later this year. It was rebid after Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS), a private consortium that includes UC and Bechtel, failed to receive adequate performance reviews in recent years.

Most of Budil’s remarks came in response to polite but pointed questions from Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, the coalition chairman. He said there has been “a lot of disappointment with the mistakes that were made at Los Alamos,” citing the radioactive contamination that closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in 2014 when a waste drum improperly packed with a combustible mix at LANL burst open.

He also said it appeared that the university had been “passive” on addressing issues such as poverty, air quality and drug addiction in northern New Mexico.

“Donating money to a foundation and feeling like that might be the end of the obligation is not necessarily what I consider (being) a good corporate citizen,” Gonzales said.

And the mayor said leaders of the local communities that make up the Regional Coalition have had to go to Washington, D.C., “alone” to lobby for more funding to clean up LANL’s hazardous waste from decades of nuclear weapons work, without help from lab researchers to make the case that “there are some real health issues” to address.

Concerning the WIPP accident, Budil said that when management at the lab shifted to the current consortium in 2006 – in the first open-bid process for the LANL contract after UC had run the lab alone since World War II – the idea was to bring the strengths of the university together with best practices from the private sector. “Some aspects worked exceptionally well” but others didn’t, she said, with the WIPP contamination “highlighting” shortcomings in how the partnership was built.

“People with deep expertise of the chemistry of nuclear waste weren’t necessarily deeply embedded” in the operational side of the lab. “It’s not operations and science,” Budil said. “Those things have to come together in a very seamless way.”

Budil said the lab had responded vigorously since 2014 and made lab operations much better, citing successes like the successful remediation of dozens of additional drums containing wastes similar to those that leaked at WIPP. “I stand by that record,” she said, adding, “We transformed the way we operate in very fundamental ways.”

On community issues, she said UC has been a strong contributor to the LANL Foundation and will continue that beyond the current LANS contract and is trying to find ways to do more, but she acknowledged the California school should have stronger relationships with local universities and more local presence in economic development efforts and other issues. Budil added that’s why she wants to push new public-private partnerships and tech transfer efforts, and using resources from “the greatest public research university in the world” on the regional problems cited by Gonzales, Budil added.

UC is reportedly teaming with Texas A&M in a joint bid for the lab contract, although neither school has publicly confirmed the partnership. A&M’s Scott Sudduth touted his school’s history in nuclear engineering and community service.

Susan Rogers, a consultant for University of Texas system, said that school’s primary goal in bidding for the lab contract was to fill the “critical need for effective national security” and that UT has “unmatched qualifications and scientific accomplishments.” The school also knows it “must play a significant role in the community that is its home,” Rogers said...

Full story at https://www.abqjournal.com/1119078/university-of-california-official-promises-better-management-at-lanl.html
=================================

As we always do when this matter comes up, we recommend the 1980 BBC series - free on YouTube - dealing with Oppenheimer, Los Alamos, and politics at Berkeley in the World War II era:

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sSOprKCEME [link below]
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX0fvoPHOZM
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io3WSJwVk1I
Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo0jZqxcrWE
Part 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo6s9G1W8Ng
Part 6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msadwfwjWfo
Part 7: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0dfw_uPlQo

King Speech at UCLA

Several years ago, the Dept. of Communications Studies put up on YouTube some audio tapes of speeches at UCLA by notable individuals. The tapes were apparently forgotten in a file cabinet somewhere but then discovered. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech in 1965 which is among those that are available. You can hear it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny6qP0rb_Ag or below:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Did you know?


Did you know there is a plaque near Powell Library with the early history of UCLA?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The LAO on the governor's budget

Following past practice, the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) - the neutral arm of the legislature which evaluates public policies - has issued its report on the governor's January 10th proposal for the 2018-19 state budget.

Although the LAO is nonpartisan, it does represent the legislative interest in budgetary and other concerns, so it always tilts toward advising the legislature to set its own priorities, even if the governor's proposals seem reasonable. That approach is pretty much what you find in the LAO's commentary on the budget proposal.

It does hint that revenues may in fact be seen to be higher than projected by the governor by the time the May revise proposal for the budget is made. And, while characterizing the governor's goal of building up the rainy day fund as reasonable, LAO suggests the legislature should set its own target for building up the reserves. Since the legislature is unlikely to lean towards more prudence than the governor (more reserves than he proposes), you can read between the lines to read the LAO as saying that maybe the reserve target could be lower (and thus spending higher).

LAO does not have much to say about higher ed spending:

$92 Million Each for CSU and UC. The Governor proposes augmenting General Fund spending for CSU and UC by $92 million each, which represents an increase of about 3 percent at each university system. This increase is somewhat lower than the 4 percent to 5 percent base increases the state has provided in recent years. Coupled with the proposal, the Governor indicates he does not want either CSU or UC to increase tuition charges for resident students in 2018-19. Both the CSU Trustees and UC Regents are in the midst of considering such increases. In addition, the Governor’s budget does not establish new enrollment targets for CSU or UC or designate any new funding for enrollment growth.

The fact that LAO highlights the modest increase proposed compared to the past and notes there is no funding for increased enrollment can be read as a hint that perhaps additional funding might be allocated.

You can find the full LAO report at: http://lao.ca.gov/reports/2018/3731/budget-overview-011218.pdf

Friday, January 12, 2018

Still more on Jerry Brown's Budget

January 10 news conference
At his news conference on Wednesday in which Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his proposed state budget for 2018-19, a reporter asked him a question related to the end of his fourth term as governor. (Brown will be termed out in the midst of fiscal year 2018-19.) Essentially, the question asked about whether there were some things he wished he had done during his gubernatorial career and referred to the "L-word," i.e., "legacy."

Gov. Pat Brown receives the Master Plan from
UC president Clark Kerr
Brown peculiarly answered that governors don't leave legacies and cited past governors (Frank Merriam - elected 1938), Goodwin "Goodie" Knight - lieutenant governor who became governor when Gov. Earl Warren went to the U.S. Supreme Court), and George Deukmejian (elected 1982) as examples of non-legacy governors.

He didn't mention Governor Pat Brown, Jerry's dad," who is remembered for the State Water Project, a big expansion of the freeway system (transportation), and - important as far as higher ed is concerned - the Master Plan for Higher Education, and the major expansion of the three segments, UC, CSU, and community colleges, that followed. Pat Brown surely had a legacy. Indeed, there is even a movie about it:



Jerry Brown's proposed water project - the Delta Fix/twin tunnel project - has so far gone nowhere. His transportation/high speed rail is under construction in central California, but it lacks major funding to connect to the Bay Area and to southern California and may never be completed. And in higher ed, there is nothing that compares to the Master Plan. Despite the record of his dad, this is what Jerry Brown said on Wednesday:

Thursday, January 11, 2018

More on state budget and UC

We noted yesterday that the governor proposed in his 2018-19 budget to give UC an additional 2.1% compared to the current year. (He records it as 3% because some of the current year money was designated as "one time.") However - and this point was made at the governor's news conference - through December, the state's revenue is running $3.8 billion ahead of projections made when the 2017-18 budget was passed.* So it appears to be flush with cash at the moment, which could add to legislative appetites for spending beyond the governor's proposal.

A statement from UC holds out prospects for an increase beyond what the governor proposed. Email from "UC advocacy":

===

Yesterday, Governor Brown introduced his 2018/19 state budget and we are pleased that it provides a funding increase to our core educational budget. This 3 percent increase, however, falls short of the 4 percent growth that UC had anticipated under the agreement we had established with the governor.

We hope to continue conversations with the governor and the legislature to ensure funding for expanded access to UC and to maintain adequate support for our mission of teaching, research, and public service.

Over the next several months, we will keep you apprised of ongoing budget conversations and opportunities to help us advocate for the university.

Thank you for your continued commitment to UC.

Fiat Lux!

Meredith Turner 
Associate Director, Legislative Advocacy
===

Note that a lot of the extra cash received by the state came in during the month of December. Tax accountants were telling clients who were likely to be hit by the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions to pre-pay the fourth installment of estimated state income tax in December instead of January. So the extra cash may be a one-time event for 2017-18 that won't repeat in future years. No one knows for sure.

The governor prefers to put extra cash into his rainy day fund and argues that a recession will inevitably come and cause a budget crisis. In his news conference, he emphasized that the duration of the recovery from the Great Recession has been especially long with the implication that it would likely soon end in his successor's term of office:

===
*https://www.sco.ca.gov/Files-ARD/CASH/December%202017%20Statement%20of%20General%20Fund%20Cash%20Receipts%20and%20Disbursements.pdf

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

No tuition increase in governor's 2018-19 budget

As noted in earlier posts, today was budget proposal day for fiscal year 2018-19 (beginning July 1) by the governor. The headline for UC (and CSU) is that he proposes no tuition increase and there was an implied threat in the presentation that if there were a tuition increase, it would be subtracted from the state appropriation. Of course, this is a proposal which now goes to the legislature and the proposal itself will be revised in May. There is an overall general fund (GF) increase for UC of 2.1%, about the official rate of inflation.

Below are the overall budget figures:

$millions                          2017-18            2018-19
----------------------------------------------------------------
Starting GF balance                 $4,611             $5,351

Revenue and transfers              127,752            129,792

Expenditures                       126,512            131,690

  Surplus/deficit                     +740             -1,898

Ending GF Balance                    5,351              3,453

----------------------------------------------------------------
Rainy Day Fund
  Start                              6,713*             8,411
  End                                8,411             13,461

  Surplus/deficit                   +1,698             +5,050

----------------------------------------------------------------
Total Reserves
  Surplus/deficit                    2,438**            3,152** 
  Total end reserves                13,762***          16,914*** 

  % of expenditures                  10.9%              12.8%
----------------------------------------------------------------
*From enacted budget estimate for 2017-18.
**Sum of surplus or deficit for general fund and rainy day fund.
***Sum of end balance in GF and end balance in rainy day fund.

Source: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/FullBudgetSummary.pdf

Note: The higher ed portion of the budget is at http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/2018-19/pdf/BudgetSummary/HigherEducation.pdf

Listen to the Regents' Executive Comp working group meeting of Jan. 8, 2018

The Regents' working group on executive compensation met last Monday to work out its agenda and gather information. It started with a public comment period which mostly dealt with the substitution of student workers for contract workers as parking valets at the UCLA Reagan hospital.

The working group is apparently trying to come up with a set of policies, at least in part in the context of the critical state audit of 2017. Some of the issues discussed were defining comparison groups for determining executive pay ("market reference zones"). There were also questions about what levels of executives should be under the new policies. It was noted that cost of living varies across areas and campuses.

Basically, the new policies need to be ready by mid-February due to the need to respond to the state audit. Later this month, the full Board of Regents will meet; what input the Board may have in this process at that meeting is unknown.

You can hear the working group meeting at the link below:

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Budget leaks start

We've noted in previous posts on this blog that typically there are some leaks about the governor's proposal for a new (2018-19) state budget before the official announcement. Up to this point, there weren't any leaks and the announcement will be tomorrow. But now the leaks are beginning. There is an article in the Sacramento Bee that mainly indicates that despite added revenue, the governor will continue to caution about Bad Times to come. (No surprise there.) Another in the LA Times indicates that the governor is fully funding his K-12 formula that shifts revenue toward schools in poorer districts. But nothing has leaked about higher ed (so far).

The Bee article is at:
http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article193579089.html

The Times article is at:
http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-updates-gov-jerry-brown-s-signature-plan-for-1515466995-htmlstory.html

It's worth reminding ourselves that we are talking about a proposal, which must go through the legislative process. And typically, the governor's proposal is revised in May before the legislature acts on its final budget.

Not So Easy

Hard to do
Under a recent California court ruling, it's not so easy to cut public pension promises to active employees, such as those at UC (and likely still more so for current pension recipients). There have been some rulings that chip away at the ironclad legal protections for pension promises. But the latest sets a standard that is pretty tough. From calpensions.com:

An appeals court yesterday ruled that the pensions of current employees can be cut without providing an offsetting new benefit, but only if there is “compelling evidence” that a reduction is needed for the successful operation of the retirement system...

Full story at https://calpensions.com/2018/01/09/high-hurdle-for-pension-cuts-in-new-court-ruling/

Eventually, this issue will be taken up at the state Supreme Court. It might be noted that Gov. Brown (soon to be termed out and not running for anything), has quietly sided with those who want some ability to cut pensions From "Pensions and Investments":

California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. is intervening in several court cases that ultimately will be decided by the California Supreme Court, arguing that public worker pension benefits in the state can be reduced during employment. If the court agrees with the governor, it would mark a revolutionary change from a ruling it made more than 60 years ago that pension benefits are guaranteed from date of hire...

Monday, January 8, 2018

Title 9 complicated case at UCLA

A Grad Student Defended a Controversial Instructor. Now He Says He’s Being Silenced.

Chronicle of Higher Education, Sarah Brown, 1-5-18

Last June, a Ph.D. student at the University of California at Los Angeles wrote a letter supporting a lecturer whose job was in jeopardy. The lecturer was Keith A. Fink, an outspoken lawyer who had taught communication courses part time at UCLA for a decade, including a popular one on campus free speech.

The graduate student, Justin Gelzhiser, had read in the campus newspaper about Mr. Fink and his battles with administrators. Mr. Fink argues that he lost his faculty job because of his conservative views and because he often criticized the administration in his teaching.

When Mr. Gelzhiser learned that Mr. Fink was on the verge of losing his job, he felt compelled to call attention to what he saw as threats to Mr. Fink’s academic freedom. Mr. Gelzhiser was a teaching assistant in the communication department and served as a graduate-student representative on the Academic Senate’s academic-freedom committee.

But the letter, to the interim dean of social sciences, ended up putting Mr. Gelzhiser’s own job in jeopardy, he says. He has accused university administrators of threatening him with a sexual-misconduct complaint to try to force him to leave the department.

The scuffle is another twist in Mr. Fink’s case, which captured national attention last year, especially in conservative circles, and prompted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to demand answers from the university. It also has sparked a discussion at UCLA about how, as Mr. Gelzhiser alleges, a Title IX investigation could be used as a threat — and how to prevent that from happening.

Last month Mr. Gelzhiser filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging that UCLA officials had used the gender-equity law Title IX as a bargaining chip to try to silence him.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fink has undertaken a public campaign to call out what he sees as the university’s disregard for academic freedom and due process, and he’s created a nonprofit organization to provide legal help to UCLA students and faculty members. Both men are also fighting to get their jobs back.

In Mr. Gelzhiser’s view, one thing is clear: He was targeted because of his advocacy on Mr. Fink’s behalf. "Keith’s case was essentially done on campus until I brought it back into the light," he said. But as a consequence, he said, his teaching-assistant contract wasn’t renewed, and "my life has been turned upside down."

Kerri L. Johnson, chair of the communication department, said she couldn’t comment on Mr. Gelzhiser’s specific claims. She did say, though, that she had never seen the letter he wrote in support of Mr. Fink, and that the department’s staff members immediately report any sexual-misconduct issues to the Title IX office.

A university spokesman wrote in an email that "due to individual privacy rights that protect both students and university employees, we are unable to comment on this specific matter." He added that "the Title IX Office does not condone any manipulation of its investigatory processes."

A Letter of Support

Last year Mr. Fink went through an "excellence review," as all UCLA lecturers do after teaching at the university for 18 quarters.

The department’s nine tenured professors deadlocked on whether to promote him; three voted yes, three voted no, and three abstained. That left the final decision to Laura E. Gomez, who was then interim dean of social sciences.

Mr. Gelzhiser sent a letter to Ms. Gomez on June 5 discussing Mr. Fink’s popularity among students and praising his teaching. Mr. Gelzhiser also suggested that UCLA is a predominantly liberal campus and pointed to the instructor’s conservative views as an asset.

"The university will be doing the students a disservice if they limit them to ways of seeing the world because it could make them uncomfortable or overstimulated," he wrote. "Removing Prof. Fink would be such a move."

On June 27, Mr. Fink received a letter from Ms. Gomez informing him that he would no longer be employed at UCLA after that month. On July 13, Mr. Gelzhiser was called into an emergency meeting by two administrators in the communication department: Jane Bitar, the department manager, and Pia Svenson, the undergraduate adviser.

Documents provided by Mr. Gelzhiser from a grievance he filed through his union shed some light on the university’s perspective.

According to the university’s response to Mr. Gelzhiser’s grievance, the two administrators said they informed him that a student had, in her application to become a communication major, complained about a teaching assistant’s "insulting and inappropriate behavior towards her."

The response states that Ms. Bitar and Ms. Svenson had confirmed with the student that the teaching assistant in question was Mr. Gelzhiser. In the meeting with him, they said, he was "emotionally apologetic." He later suggested that he should no longer serve as a teaching assistant, they said, and they quickly reported the allegations to the Title IX office.

Mr. Gelzhiser recalled the meeting much differently. He said the administrators demanded, "Tell us what you did." They quizzed him about his sexual history, he said, and then told him that if he didn’t resign from his teaching-assistant position, they would file a Title IX complaint against him. He was told to contemplate that option in advance of a scheduled follow-up meeting, he said.

His impression was that "they wanted me out as fast as possible" because he was "creating noise for Keith Fink." Mr. Gelzhiser said that he had told the two administrators he wanted to bring a union representative to the subsequent meeting and that they canceled it. After his teaching-assistant contract wasn’t renewed, he filed the grievance. He said he didn’t hear anything about the possibility of a Title IX complaint against him for months.

Harassment Claim Is Dropped

That fall, Mr. Gelzhiser sought help from Alexander Stremitzer, a law professor and fellow member of the academic-freedom committee. The Ph.D. student said he eventually did sit down with Mohammed Cato, UCLA’s Title IX coordinator. That was on November 21, more than four months after the allegations first surfaced.

Mr. Cato would say only that a report had been filed but that the case had been dropped because the alleged victim hadn’t responded to his office’s attempts to contact her, Mr. Gelzhiser said. (Mr. Cato referred requests for comment to a spokesman.)

Mr. Gelzhiser then raised questions about exactly when the alleged harassment was reported to the Title IX office. The university’s initial response to his grievance states that Ms. Bitar and Ms. Svenson contacted the office on July 14, the day after they talked to him. But he said Mr. Cato told him that the administrators had first contacted the office on July 17.

After pressing Mr. Cato for more details, the Title IX coordinator later told him that the communication department had actually reported the allegations on July 13.

"However, this does not negate the allegation that you raised against the Department in regards to attempting to use the Title IX Office as a means of forcing you to leave your position," Mr. Cato wrote, in an email provided by Mr. Gelzhiser. "This is a serious concern and the Title IX Office will look into this matter."

The university’s shifting timeline, Mr. Gelzhiser said, suggests to him that there were ulterior motives behind his Title IX case. He believes Ms. Bitar and Ms. Svenson didn’t file a complaint right away because they were waiting to see if he would resign. Or perhaps, he said, they never filed a complaint. "They thought if they said ‘Title IX’ to me, I’d get scared and run away," he said.

Ms. Bitar and Ms. Svenson referred requests for comment to Ms. Johnson, the department chair.

Mr. Stremitzer, the law professor, wrote in an email to The Chronicle that the academic-freedom committee discussed last month how to ensure that the threat of a Title IX investigation isn’t used to intimidate students or anyone else.

The members of the committee largely agreed, he said, that there should be a policy requiring people accused of Title IX violations to be notified immediately about the nature of the accusation and the filing date of the complaint. The committee has invited the Title IX coordinator to its next meeting to discuss that possibility, Mr. Stremitzer added.

The experience has made Mr. Gelzhiser question whether he wants to stay in academe after he wraps up his Ph.D., which he hopes to do this spring.

He’d like to teach in the department again, but ultimately he’s more concerned about future abuses of Title IX. He said he was recently elected by UCLA’s Graduate Students Association to serve on a new Title IX advisory group. "The fact that this school abused Title IX as a bargaining chip to intimidate students," he said, "is not going to happen again while I’m at this university."

Source: https://www.chronicle.com/article/A-Grad-Student-Defended-a/242175 as reproduced in the UCOP Daily News Clips

Waiting

You may have seen yesterday's story in the LA Times about Jerry Brown's plans for retirement, now that he will be termed out in his fourth term as governor. According to the Times, he will retire to a rural life on his ranch - maybe.

Actually, however, he has some things to do before next January. One of them is to present his state budget proposal for fiscal year 2018-19 this coming Wednesday (even though his successor will arrive half way through that year and budget). We noted in an earlier post that elements of budget proposals are often leaked out ahead of the official presentation. This time there have been no leaks. That absence could mean that nothing dramatic is going to be proposed. Or it could mean that secrecy has been maintained. We will have to wait until Wednesday morning to find out, unless something leaks between now and then.

Of course, we are also awaiting the special committee meeting of the UC Regents later today.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Plan B for reading this blog

There are two ways to read this blog. One is what you are doing now. But the other is to wait until the end of the quarter and flip through it through the link below. Of course, you will lose all the clever videos, audios, and animated gifs if you go the flip route.

So below is Plan B, the flip option:


Saturday, January 6, 2018

No Pot at UC

You've probably been reading about the feud brewing between California and the federal government over use of marijuana. As far as UC is concerned, however, there is no conflict; pot is illegal on UC campuses. See below from the Sacramento Bee:

Anybody 21 or older can legally buy recreational marijuana in California... But they still can’t take it to school... Claire Doan, director of media relations for the UC president’s office, said because universities in the UC system receive federal funding, both the Drug-Free Schools and Communities and Drug-Free Workplace acts prevent it from relaxing its stance on marijuana.

“Marijuana use, possession and distribution is still illegal federally, despite the passage of Proposition 64 – so any non-compliance with applicable federal laws could jeopardize funding,” Doan said...

Full story at http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article192191849.html

So at UC, only the music is allowed:

Friday, January 5, 2018

Tax Avoidance - Part 2

An earlier post on this blog noted that there are proposals to use charitable deductions to get around the $10,000 cap on federal income tax deductions for state taxes embodied in the new tax law. We noted that this idea predates the current debate and was featured in a chapter in the 2013 edition of California Policy Options co-authored by UCLA law professor Kirk Stark.*

Prof. Stark was interviewed yesterday on KCRW's "Press Play" program about the idea in the new context. He notes that there are already precedents for the idea in effect and that it would be complicated for the IRS to overturn such an arrangement in California without affecting other programs in other states. You can hear the interview at the link below:

You can also go directly to:
https://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/press-play-with-madeleine-brand/national-security-reporter-on-washingtons-marketplace-of-secrets/california-floats-plan-to-let-you-donate-your-state-taxes-charity-style
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*http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2018/01/tax-avoidance.html

Thursday, January 4, 2018

FYI: Budget and State of the State

In case you are wondering about some upcoming dates on the state political calendar - namely the governor's state budget presentation for 2018-19 and his State of the State address - here are the dates:

Wednesday, Jan. 10: State Budget, 10 AM

Thursday, Jan. 25: State of the State, 10 AM

These two events will be the last ones presented by Jerry Brown since he is in his last term. Both events will be carried on the CalChannel and likely streamed. Whether there will be any revelations relating to UC is unknown.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

FYI: Special Regents Meeting, January 8

REGENTS WORKING GROUP ON EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION
Date: January 8, 2018
Time: 3:00 p.m.

Agenda – Open Session

Public Comment Period (20 minutes)

1) Discussion Overview of Senior Management Group Compensation Practices, Methodology, and Market Position

2) Discussion Discussion of Working Group Goals and Key Issues

Working group membership: Regents Anguiano, Elliott, Lansing, Makarechian, Monge,
Napolitano, Pérez, Sherman (Chair), and Tauscher

Source: http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/regmeet/jan18/workinggroup.pdf

As always, we'll archive the audio when it becomes available.

Santa Cruz has a problem


UC Santa Cruz has offerings far beyond hippies and banana slugs. So why can't it draw more transfer students?

Teresa Watanabe  LA Times  1-3-18

UC Santa Cruz sits on an idyllic expanse of redwood groves and rolling meadows. World-class surf is just minutes away. Its researchers were the first to arrange the DNA sequence of the human genome and make it publicly available. It is quirky and colorful, with campus traditions that include a naked run through the season’s first heavy rain and a banana slug for a mascot.

So why can’t the university attract as many transfer students as the state says it must?

About nine miles away, Cabrillo College in Aptos is the closest community college. But at a recent UC Santa Cruz sales pitch featuring University of California President Janet Napolitano, numerous Cabrillo students made it clear Santa Cruz wasn’t their first transfer choice. Cal State is cheaper and classes are smaller, said one student. Santa Cruz housing is too expensive, said another. Several named UCLA or UC Berkeley as their dream schools.

“Santa Cruz life is too hippie for me.” said Rachel Biddleman, a 21-year-old studying political science. “I’m more of a city person.”

UC Santa Cruz recently launched a million-dollar effort to reach out to community college students around the state in an effort to change minds and boost its transfer numbers. The university is under pressure to meet state demands that eight of the nine UC undergraduate campuses enroll one transfer student for every two freshmen. Santa Cruz and Riverside both fall short, a failure Gov. Jerry Brown cited last year as one reason why he is withholding $50 million from UC’s budget.

Last year, Santa Cruz enrolled about three freshmen for every transfer student. Of the campuses under state scrutiny, only Riverside did worse, with about four freshman per transfer. State finance officials will decide this spring if the campuses have made sufficient “good faith efforts” toward meeting the ratio, which was set by Brown and Napolitano in 2015, said H.D. Palmer, the spokesman for the state finance department. He said one reason why Brown is pushing for increases is that they provide a more cost-efficient path to a four-year degree because transfer students complete their first two years of studies at the less expensive community colleges.

But he says the campus is trying hard — starting with correcting what he said were misperceptions. People still hear the name and picture the campus “Rolling Stone” once dubbed “the stonedest place on earth.”

“Some people still think of us as a kooky place … as banana slugs, hippies and protests,” he said. “We’re also a serious university.”...

Full story at http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-uc-santa-cruz-transfers-20170103-story.html

So whose fault is it? Maybe the link below has the answer:

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Monday, January 1, 2018

Looking back: Something positive from last year's Berkeley confrontation

Berkeley was the location of some unfortunate confrontations last year.

The "Reveal" program aired on Dec. 31, 2017 on KCRW told an interesting tale that occurred during one demonstration. (It appears to be a repeat from an episode of an earlier broadcast.)

You can hear it at the link below:

Teller on Global Warming

An interesting article has appeared in The Guardian on UC-Berkeley physics professor and his predictions of global warming. Teller was much better known as the father of the H-bomb, his participation in the Manhattan Project, and his postwar testimony against former Berkeley physics professor J. Robert Oppenheimer in the aftermath of the Project.

Excerpt from Teller's remarks to a conference on the hundredth anniversary of the oil industry in 1959:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am to talk to you about energy in the future. I will start by telling you why I believe that the energy resources of the past must be supplemented. First of all, these energy resources will run short as we use more and more of the fossil fuels. But I would [...] like to mention another reason why we probably have to look for additional fuel supplies. And this, strangely, is the question of contaminating the atmosphere. [....] Whenever you burn conventional fuel, you create carbon dioxide. [....] The carbon dioxide is invisible, it is transparent, you can’t smell it, it is not dangerous to health, so why should one worry about it? 

Carbon dioxide has a strange property. It transmits visible light but it absorbs the infrared radiation which is emitted from the earth. Its presence in the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect [....] It has been calculated that a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe...

Tax Avoidance

An earlier post on this blog provided some information (not advice!) about personal tax avoidance through pre-paying property taxes in the context of the new tax law.* The New York Times today carries an article about high-tax states such as California seeking to circumvent the $10,000 cap on deductions for the sum of property and income taxes paid to state and local governments that was part of the recent federal tax legislation. Among the ideas is the proposal that charitable contributions to the state could be deductible dollar for dollar from the state income tax. Charitable contributions are not subject to the $10,000 cap. UCLA law professor Kirk Stark is mentioned in that context:

...Some proposals are more complex. Kirk Stark, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, has suggested that states encourage residents to donate money to their state governments, then let the governments credit those donations against their state income taxes. Such donations would qualify as charitable donations, which are still fully deductible on federal taxes.

Mr. Stark noted that such programs already existed, albeit in a much more limited form. Several states let residents count donations to private schools as state tax payments under certain circumstances, an initiative that conservatives have promoted as a step toward school vouchers...

Kevin de León, a Democrat who is president pro tem of the California Senate, has announced plans to introduce legislation aimed at reducing the impact of the tax law. He is consulting with Mr. Stark, among others, to develop the legislation.

Mr. de León and other legislators concede that they are trying to game the system. But they argue that Congress left them little choice.

“This is highly unusual tax policymaking,” said Mr. de León, who has announced plans to run for the United States Senate next year. “However, this is a highly unusual time in the history of this country.”...

Full story at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/31/business/high-tax-states-law.html

In fact, Prof. Stark co-authored a chapter about this option some time ago - and long before the current tax law came along - in the context of avoiding the alternative minimum tax and benefiting California. You can find his review of the issue in the 2013 edition of California Policy Options, an annual volume edited by yours truly. Go to:
https://issuu.com/uclapubaffairs/docs/2013_ca_policy_options
and flip to chapter 2 on page 49.
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*http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2017/12/fyi-prepaying-property-tax.html

And another counter to New Years cheer

We'll continue with our theme from yesterday that things don't always work out better just because the calendar flips to a New Year. Our previous post featured a fable by George Ade. Here's a poem by Robert W. Service, also from the late 19th century: