Saturday, June 16, 2018


A UCLA group called "KELPS" - said to stand for Knights Earls Lord Potentates Sultans - operated in the late 1940s and early 1950s, apparently mainly to play pranks on USC.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Change in plans

Not available
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block will be filling in Friday as the keynote speaker during UCLA College commencement ceremonies, replacing actress Mayim Bialik, who withdrew amid a labor dispute between the university and service workers.
Block will speak in place of Bialik, a UCLA grad best known for her role as neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory.” Bialik received a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience with a minor in Hebrew and Jewish studies from UCLA in 2000 and a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA in 2007.
Although she had been announced previously as the UCLA College commencement speaker, she withdrew in late May, responding to a call from the union representing University of California service workers amid a labor dispute.
“These issues are near and dear to my heart, especially since the LAUSD teachers’ union helped support my family for my entire young life,” Bialik said in a statement released by the university. “I send deepest regrets to the UCLA community and I hope to be able to join you soon to celebrate your accomplishments.”
Block will speak in Bialik’s place at both the 2 and 7 p.m. commencement ceremonies at Pauley Pavilion.

Question: What do doctors have?

Answer: Patients.


Question: What do we need in waiting for an analysis of the new state budget?
Answer: Patience. A newspaper headline is not a budget. Possibly, the governor may line-item veto some elements of what the legislature passed - although he hasn't used that authority much in the past. In any case, there will soon be more detailed information available from official sources - and then we will provide some analysis. Note that the $200 billion figure is NOT the General Fund which is usually viewed as "the budget." The $200 billion includes funds outside the General Fund for all kinds of earmarked functions such as transportation. The General Fund has typically run around two thirds of this type of overall figure over the years. But the news media seem fascinated this time around by the round $200 billion. Anyway, patience! We'll have details soon enough.

Thursday, June 14, 2018


The story continues:

In the never-ending saga of CRISPR patents, the University of California has finally put some points on the board, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granting it two genome-editing patents. One, granted on Tuesday, was first applied for in 2014. The other and more significant patent, applied for in 2015 but based on a 2012 discovery, will be granted next week.
The granted patent, number 9,994.831, covers “methods and compositions for modifying a single stranded target nucleic acid.” Next week’s, which is to be issued on June 19, covers the use of CRISPR-Cas9 for genome-editing in anything other than a bacterial cell and, specifically, where the targeted region on the genome is 10 to 15 nucleotides, or base pairs, long — the “letters” that constitute DNA and its cousin RNA. Next week’s patent is considered more foundational and therefore significant...
(There's more, but you have to go through a paywall to get it.) Source of above:


Yours truly likes to point to the UCLA Anderson Forecast - which was presented yesterday - for two reasons. 1) The economic news is of interest, and 2) It serves as a reminder that conference facilities can be had around campus apart from the UCLA Grand Hotel, a low-priority project nonetheless built at a time the university was budget-stressed. (The Forecast was presented in the Korn Auditorium of the Anderson School.)

Here is the official summary of the California portion of the Forecast (which is based on a gradually slowing economy - but no recession, albeit with some risks seen as stemming from international developments). It's a scenario that suggests no state budget crisis is likely to develop, although that matter was not discussed.

The California report

California employment hit another record high in April 2018. As the economy has been expanding as expected, the current forecast has not changed much since last quarter’s forecast, released in March 2018. Full employment has been less of a constraint on this growth with recent increases in the labor force.
It is anticipated that California’s average unemployment rate will remain higher than the U.S. rate and be at 4.3 percent in 2020, a consequence of a younger and more entrepreneurial workforce.
The forecast for total employment growth for the current year and the next two years is 1.7 percent, 1.8 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively, with payrolls growing at about the same rate. Real personal income growth is forecast to be 2.5 percent, 3.6 percent and 2.9 percent in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively.
“Affordable housing in California continues to be the subject of considerable discussion,” writes UCLA Anderson Forecast director Jerry Nickelsburg. (He examined) the complex ties among the state’s employment growth, the attractiveness of California and the building, zoning and environmental restrictions affecting housing supply. Although the forecast calls for a continued rise in housing prices, “the impact on economic growth is not as great as one might expect,” he writes.
There was even a silent protest aimed at panelist and State Senator Scott Wiener who had sponsored (and later dropped for this year) a bill that would have overridden some local zoning/growth controls. You can see the protesters' banner in the photo on the upper left charging Wiener was beholden to real estate interests.

[Click on the pictures to enlarge.]

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Believe it or not

Colleague known at UC as likable, honest guy — and Air Force calls him most-wanted deserter

Nanette Asimov and Megan Cassidy, June 12, 2018,
San Francisco Chronicle 

Employees in the University of California president’s office in Oakland knew their former colleague Tim O’Beirne as the personable, brainy number-cruncher for the UC system’s vast health benefits program. They were stunned Tuesday to learn that the Air Force has identified him as William Howard Hughes Jr., a captain with top-secret clearance who vanished in 1983. The Air Force declared him a deserter and one of its most wanted fugitives — and some suspected he had defected to the Soviets — until his capture last Wednesday.

“Wow. Wow!” said Stephanie Rosh, a retiree insurance manager at UC, when told his story by The Chronicle. She, like other employees, knew O’Beirne as a cheerful health benefits actuary and consultant for Deloitte in San Francisco. He was contracted to work in the UC president’s office during the mid-2000s. Hughes was a specialist in radar surveillance who worked closely with NATO during the Cold War until he walked away 35 years ago, at age 33.

The Air Force said O’Beirne admitted last week that he was Hughes. He is in confinement at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield amid an investigation, and has not been charged with a crime, said Linda Card, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. No bail or court date have been set. O’Beirne lived and worked for decades in high-profile positions in one of the busiest metropolitan regions of the country.

He lived in Daly City as Barry O’Beirne and Timothy O’Beirne, and was apparently married. Neighbors knew the couple as Giants fans. Former colleagues say he worked for UC as a consultant for much of the 2000s, preparing presentations to the UC Regents, representing UC in labor negotiations and drawing up the documents that would set forth their health insurance benefits for the rest of their lives.

“This just floors me,” said Judy Boyette, a San Francisco attorney who signed O’Beirne’s consulting contracts when she ran human resources and benefits at UC more than a decade ago. Looking at a photo of her former colleague in custody, Boyette was stunned. “My gosh, that’s Tim! Oh, my word. That is unbelievable. But that’s him! Wow.”

She and other former colleagues described O’Beirne as smart, articulate — especially when describing complicated numbers and concepts so that others could understand them — and kind.

“The thing I loved about him was that he could relate to everybody. Just a very nice personality,” Boyette said.

Insurance number-crunchers are often introverted, more at home with statistical tables than with the people who benefit from them, Boyette said. “So it’s really good to find an actuary who’s comfortable socializing with people.”

O’Beirne was so good that she sent him into the delicate realm of labor negotiations.

“I wanted to send someone I thought the union could trust — and they did,” she said. “He was very likable.” ...

Full story at:

Believe it or not:

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California

“It may be a state election, but make no mistake; California’s gubernatorial race will be a referendum on Donald Trump. The President’s lack of popularity provides an excellent target for Gavin Newsom, who should be a heavy favorite going into the fall.”

Full story at

Letter to Congress

June 11, 2018


Dear Members of Congress:

On behalf of the University of California (UC), the California State University (CSU) and the California Community Colleges (CCC), as well as the more than 2.8 million students these institutions serve, we write to express our opposition to the PROSPER Act (HR 4508) – the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization bill currently under consideration by the House of Representatives.

Our public institutions of higher education are committed to providing affordable, accessible, and equitable pathways to success for our students and increasing the well-being of all Californians. HEA reauthorization provides an opportunity to develop federal education policies that promote these goals. Unfortunately, we have significant concerns with many of the changes proposed in the PROSPER Act, which we believe would undermine our efforts and increase college costs for California’s students and families.

Our institutions have particular concerns with the following provisions of the PROSPER Act: 

• Elimination of federal student aid programs and federal loan subsidies: With the elimination of the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program, over a hundred thousand California students would lose access to funding that is disbursed only to low-income students, often after a serious financial setback that affects their ability to continue their education. Eliminating the in-school interest subsidy forstudents with financial need who utilize Federal Stafford loans would raise borrowing costs for California undergraduates by millions of dollars per year.

• Elimination of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): Every public higher education institution in California educates future public servants, including firefighters, police officers, physicians, nurses and educators, as well as nonprofit employees. The PROSPER Act’s elimination of PSLF threatens a vital pipeline of committed public servants who might not otherwise be able to dedicate their careers to service, simply because of the loan burden they must carry through repayment.

• Reduced oversight and consumer protection: The PROSPER Act reduces or eliminates many of the consumer protection measures that were created to ensure that higher education institutions are held accountable to students and to the public. The federal government has a responsibility to ensure that federal funds do not flow to low-performing institutions that fail to prepare students for employment opportunities or degree-granting programs that likely will enable them to repay their loans.

• Dramatically reduced funding to build capacity at minority-serving institutions: The PROSPER Act fails to renew mandatory funding that expires after FY 2019, resulting in a loss of $255 million promoting minority STEM education each year.

We urge you to work with your colleagues to develop legislation that benefits the students studying at California’s public higher education institutions. Our institutional experts would be happy to discuss these and other concerns further, and to be a resource in developing a reauthorization bill that will support California and our nation’s students.

Yours very truly,

Janet Napolitano, President, University of California
Timothy P. White, Chancellor, California State University
Eloy Ortiz Oakley, Chancellor, California Community Colleges


Monday, June 11, 2018

The day is coming

There is now a substantial literature documenting bias in student ratings of professors with regard to race, sex, etc. At some point, someone is going to sue, presumably a faculty member denied a promotion or experiencing some other adverse employment action. It's not clear that the university's current defense will pass muster, i.e., lots of things are taken account of, not just teacher ratings. While it is true that lots of things are taken account of - research, publications, service, teaching (including ratings), the fact that the evaluation process is something of a black box will tend to undermine the defense.

A recent editorial in the Daily Bruin suggests that UCLA needs to do something about this issue before it gets to the courts:

A word to the wise: End-of-quarter course evaluations are more important than you think. In fact, they’re probably a lot more dangerous than you think.

Course evaluations have become a facet of student culture at UCLA. Some students wait eagerly for the evaluation forms to open up ninth week to critique their professors. Most others, though, find little reason to give feedback to their professors and teaching assistants. But these evaluations help determine hiring and promotion decisions at UCLA. This is in spite of the fact that several studies have shown course evaluations can illustrate more about students’ biases than the content and quality of a course.
Evaluations are written into the University of California’s decision-making process when it comes to academic employees. But given the lack of standardization and the heavy presence of bias in conventional course evaluations methods, it’s high time the University changed its policies to use evaluations exclusively for feedback purposes, not for its personnel matters.

The UC’s Academic Personnel Manual specifies that all department chairs are responsible for submitting evidence demonstrating an instructor’s teaching effectiveness at different levels of the University. This evidence can and normally includes, in addition to other factors, student evaluations for all courses since a candidate’s last review, and the percentage of students completing evaluations. It’s difficult to ascertain how big an impact student voices have on the development of classes as there is no consistent way they are used. Adrienne Lavine, the faculty director of UCLA’s Office of Instructional Development, said departments are free to use evaluations as they wish, most commonly passing information to instructors and using data to determine who should be hired and promoted.

But the latter function can be concerning, seeing as studies have shown that some students base their opinions more on an instructor’s identity than their knowledge and delivery. A 2014 study found that when online instructors disguised a woman as a man and a man as a woman, the female identity received lower performance reviews. A 2015 study looking at student reviews on the website found that instructors with Asian last names were rated lower on “clarity” and “helpfulness” than instructors with Western names.

And in January, former UCLA psychology professor David Jentsch tweeted about an evaluation that complains about not the content of his course or teaching style, but that “It’s disgusting that UCLA allows gay people to teach our courses.” This demonstrates that students don’t see instructors in a vacuum. Identity politics, not to mention other nonacademic factors, can play a role in how they evaluate a course.

That’s not to say evaluations are inherently a broken system. But when study after study shows students are likely to be biased in evaluations, it’s clear that the UC should not be lending too much credence to this information. Furthermore, other avenues to determine hiring decisions, such as peer reviews from other faculty members, exist. While these are still subjective accounts subject to bias, their more intimate, long-term and professional nature makes them less of a target of racial or gender bias.

Lavine said UCLA is aware of the potential harm evaluations have due to bias, explaining that a faculty committee is already piloting a new evaluation method that would shift focus from a student’s opinion of an instructor toward a more direct evaluation of their teaching style. This development is promising. But that doesn’t preclude the fact that the current evaluation system can be changed to protect faculty and TAs from its pitfalls.

Evaluations can be helpful in shaping programs, such as online courses and freshman cluster series. But they are most useful when they remain between the instructor and the student. And UCLA should keep it that way, not allow some student’s homophobic comment determine a professor’s employment options.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Will UCLA follow the Santa Monica example?

Note that the motorized scooters tend to undermine the business models of the docked rental bicycles. Both UCLA and Santa Monica sponsor docked rental bike operations.

As scooters multiply, Santa Monica plans regulations to address community concerned

6-8-18  The Open Daily Los Angeles

A new set of proposed regulations for dockless electric scooters in Santa Monica seeks to establish a 16-month pilot program for Shared Mobility Devices, creating a framework that balances the city’s desire for mobility innovation, public safety, and sustainability goals.

The recommended regulations would allow up to three providers to operate a maximum of 1,500 devices in the city, with the potential to increase that cap to 2,250 by the end of 2019. The plan, which will be introduced to the Santa Monica City Council on June 12, would also establish minimum operating requirements for maintenance, education, safety, customer service, and data sharing, and create a checklist for evaluating the performance of these mobility startups. The proposal also advocates hiring a program coordinator to oversee the pilot.

Kenneth Baer, a spokesperson from Bird, the most popular scooter startup operating in Santa Monica, was happy the proposed ordinance allows operations to continue, but was disappointed that the proposal introduces a cap on the number of vehicles.

“It will severely undercut our ability to serve all of the neighborhoods and residents of Santa Monica,” says Baer. “If the ordinance is put into place as introduced, then electric mobility companies like Bird will need to put scooters only in the areas of densest use, limiting our potential to help all people get out of cars, reduce traffic and cut carbon emissions.”

The pilot underlines that success, as Santa Monica sees it, will only come with an “open and productive partnership,” where operators such as Bird prove themselves “highly responsive to real community concerns about safety and adverse impacts on members of the public who walk, bike or drive in Santa Monica.”

Cities everywhere struggle to regulate scooters

The spread of, and backlash against, dockless electric scooters has become a national story as companies like Bird and Lime have raced to introduce this new transit option to more than 30 cities across the country and met “inapplicable, inadequate or inappropriate” regulation.

As the Santa Monica proposal, which evolved from a series of emergency rules passed in March, notes, these new options are causing “significant upheaval as well as shifts in travel behavior nationwide. Public agencies have “struggled to get out ahead of venture-capital-funded disruptive technologies.”

But in many ways, the story started in Santa Monica and Venice, where Bird, a startup which may soon be valued at $1 billion, began operations last fall. Today’s announcement, ahead of a highly anticipated regulatory proposal from San Francisco, underscores how Santa Monica has been wrestling with this issue longer than most other cities.

Santa Monica has already taken action to address scooter-related safety and traffic. Last December, the city filed a criminal case against Bird, accusing it of operating without proper permits and owing more than $6,000 in fines. Bird eventually settled with the city for $300,000 in February. On March 6, the city council established an impound fee for vehicles blocking the right of way.

Earlier this year, Bird, the dockless electric scooter startup, proposed its own set of rules and regulations for the nascent industry.BirdBut as the scooters continue to flourish, many of the main issues between riders, companies, and cities remain unresolved. City officials have received hundreds of community complaints regarding Bird scooters blocking sidewalks, curb ramps, ADA access, doorways, and the beach bike path. The Santa Monica Police Department, which has been enforcing existing laws pertaining to motorized scooters, has seen increased enforcement activity this year. During the first three months of the year, the department conducted 623 stops and issued 302 citations. In May alone, that number rose more than 809 stops and 366 citations.

Creating a better partnership for improved city transit

Santa Monica wants these mobility startups to be better partners, since city officials have embraced scooters as part of its overall transportation plan.

“Santa Monica is a multi-modal city focused on carbon reduction,” city spokersperson Constance Farrell told Curbed. “We’re supportive of…the concept of Bird. They just need to operate lawfully and safely.”

Lime announced that it will begin operating its Lime-S scooters in Santa Monica today.LimeThe proposal notes that scooters can help the city reduce congestion and emissions—echoing the startups’ pitch that scooters encourage car-free transit—and improve first/last mile connections. The shared mobility industry can help the city “expand mobility options without incurring the expense of operating its own service.”

Bird spokesman Baer noted that since the company launched nine months ago, riders have taken 577,930 rides. If just half of those Bird rides replaced a one-mile car trip, then according EPA data, Santa Monica riders have saved 257,372 pounds of carbon emissions.

Some suggestions within the proposal—adding “lock-to” requirements that would seek to reduce scooter congestion by requiring vehicles to be docked to a rack or stationary object, blocking vehicle distribution from areas with high pedestrian traffic such as the Third Street Promenade, or increased education of riders and users—seem to be attempts to meet the companies halfway when it comes to improving multimodal transit while respecting safety and existing rules.

The pilot program seeks $286,570 from the city for nine months of staffing and program costs during the 2018-19 fiscal year, but expects to generate $350,000 in annual revenues from operator and per device fees. The proposal includes a $20,000 per vendor per year, with a $130 fee per device. Fines would also bring in additional revenue, but can’t be accurately estimated. The pilot would begin in mid-September.

In anticipation of regulatory pushback from cities, some of the scooter companies presented their own rules for the nascent industry, hoping to establish themselves as responsible players in urban transit and counter the impression they were simply flooding the streets with unregulated vehicles.

Bird had previously introduced Save Our Sidewalks, a plan for scooter- and bike-sharing companies to avoid overcrowding and abandoned vehicles by promising to pick up vehicles every night, follow a sustainable growth model, and remit $1 per vehicle per day to city governments to fund improved transit infrastructure.

Adding to the regulatory questions over new mobility options, Lime, which has operated electric bikes in Santa Monica since early 2018, says it, too, will offer dockless electric scooters beginning today. The micro-mobility company, which operates in more than 60 cities, has partnered with local businesses in Santa Monica to distribute their scooters on private property, to avoid blocking public right-of-ways (though, that will only make an impact in the morning, when the scooters are set out for the day, since they can be parked anywhere during active operation).

Curbed has reached out to Lime to get their impressions on the proposed regulations, and will update this story once we hear back.


UC History and Future: Manhattan Continues - Part 2

Not everyone is happy with UC's continuation of its management role at Los Alamos:

The Government’s New Contractor to Run Los Alamos Includes the Same Manager It Effectively Fired for Safety Problems: The Department of Energy said it would seek new leadership for Los Alamos National Laboratory. But the University of California is still there, even after mismanagement caused it to lose its contract to run the lab — twice.

by Rebecca Moss, Santa Fe New Mexican, June 8, 2018, 11:30 p.m. EDT

This article was produced in partnership with the Santa Fe New Mexican, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

Despite a lengthy record of safety violations, the University of California will continue its 75-year legacy of running Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration announced Friday.

A management partnership that includes the university, research and development nonprofit Battelle Memorial Institute and Texas A&M University, the alma mater of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, will be paid $2.5 billion annually to run Los Alamos, the birthplace of the atomic bomb. They’re calling their partnership Triad National Security LLC.

The contract could be worth upward of $25 billion over the next decade, with hundreds of millions of dollars more in performance-based bonus fees. Six other corporations will join the team in support roles.

“We are committed to building on the legacy of world-class research, unparalleled innovation and service to public good that have been the hallmark of the laboratory since it was founded in 1943,” the University of California said in a joint statement with its new partners.

This is the second time the University of California has effectively maintained control over the laboratory despite concerns about serious mismanagement. In 2003, and again in 2015, the National Nuclear Security Administration said it would seek a new management contractor for the New Mexico lab following significant security breaches, costly accidents and injured employees.

The current management team, which also includes defense contractor Bechtel, amassed more than $110 million in fines and withheld bonuses because of health and safety issues. An electrical accident in 2015 left a worker hospitalized for over a month, and waste packaging errors led to a drum burst in 2014 at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, exposing workers to radiation. The accident caused the storage facility to shut down for nearly three years.

The latest competition to run Los Alamos pitted the University of California’s team against one led by its partner Bechtel and another that included the University of Texas system.

Critics of the lab questioned how the university emerged as a winner once again and how any serious overhaul of the lab’s problems can occur if part of the existing leadership remains in place. Even the federal government called for a “culture change” at Los Alamos when it solicited bidders for the new lab contract last year.

This is a pivotal time for the lab. Los Alamos is expected to take on new nuclear work, building up to 30 plutonium pits per year. Producing the softball-sized plutonium metal cores, which trigger a reaction inside a nuclear weapon, is dangerous work, and Los Alamos has struggled to safely build even a single stockpile-ready pit in recent years.

The lab’s entire plutonium facility was shut down in 2013 after workers nearly caused a deadly accident. Since production restarted in late 2015, workers have violated safety rules meant to prevent a runaway nuclear reaction, and several workers have been exposed to radiation.

Building new pits also requires the lab to handle significantly larger quantities of plutonium, a task that federal officials said would be a “learning curve” for the lab...

Full story at

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Latest Cash Report

The latest cash report from the state controller can be read in two ways. For the first eleven months of the current fiscal year, revenues are about $4.5 billion ahead of projections made when the budget was originally enacted last June. But it is about $780 million behind projections made by the governor as part of his May Revise budget.


Budget agreement: Latest news

$200 billion California budget deal rejects health care, tax breaks for undocumented

BY ADAM ASHTON, June 8, 2018, Capitol Alert of Sacramento Bee

[Editor's Note: Scroll down for UC; details await actual budget; Brown tends not to use his line-item veto once he agrees with majority legislative leaders.]

Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders struck a $200 billion budget deal on Friday that rejected two proposals that would have expanded access to health care and tax breaks to undocumented Californians.

The budget sets aside enough money in reserves to fill the so-called Rainy Day Fund with a sum equivalent to 10 percent of general fund spending, almost $14 billion. It places another $2.2 billion in contingency funds for other unexpected emergencies, and creates two new reserve accounts that might provide flexibility in downturn.

That gives the state about $16 billion in total reserves, enough to weather a mild recession without severe cuts to government services, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.

Brown in a news release crowed about the reserves, noting the turnaround in the state’s fortunes since he took office during a severe recession.

"After detailed discussions, California is on the verge of having another on-time, balanced budget,” he said. “From a $27 billion deficit in 2011, the state now enjoys a healthy surplus and a solid Rainy Day Fund."

One of the two proposals aimed at helping low-income, undocumented residents that did not make the cut would have offered Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented young adults and seniors. Earlier this year, legislative Democrats wanted to open the program to all undocumented residents at a cost of more than $1 billion a year.

Brown and lawmakers also rejected an Assembly proposal that would have allowed undocumented residents to receive the state Earned Income Tax Credit. The credit is available to households earning less than $22,309 in adjusted gross income.

The agreement puts the Legislature on track to meet its deadline to pass a budget by June 15.

"California's finances are on rock-solid ground," Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, wrote on Twitter. "Our budget is the strongest in a generation. It balances fiscal responsibility with social responsibility by investing in our people and guarding against the next downturn."

Brown’s office projected an $8.8 billion surplus for the state budget year that begins July 1. The Legislative Analyst's Office anticipates an ever larger surplus, projecting an additional $2.6 billion in revenue. The budget agreement adopts Brown's projection.

California's general fund is considered volatile – it can plunge by 20 percent in a recession – because revenue is heavily dependent on income taxes and capital gains. The reserves are intended to help the state avoid extreme cuts to government services in a recession.

Brown wanted to put almost all of the surplus into reserves and some one-time spending projects, such as refurbishing prisons, setting aside $100 million to build a California Indian Heritage Center in West Sacramento and seeding a new online community college program.

Democratic lawmakers also wanted to fill the reserves, but they also sought additional money for several programs, such as finding more money for the University of California and California State University, setting aside more money than Brown for efforts aimed at lifting people out of homelessness, expanding access to health care programs and providing more money to welfare programs for low-income Californians.

The compromise provides:

- $500 million in grants for programs designed to help communities address homelessness. That's $250 million more than Brown offered in his budget, but about half of Assembly leaders and mayors of California's largest cities wanted.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who advocated for the grants, celebrated the increase in funding from Brown's earlier proposal.

"It is fundamentally what we asked for, which is a flexible pot of resources to deal with that bridge of getting people off the riverbed and the streets and into permanent housing," he said.

- A significant boost in funding for California's four-year universities. The California State University will receive an additional $105 million in ongoing funding above Brown's budget proposal, and another $167 million for one-time expenses. The University of California gets another $177 million for one-time expenses. The budget includes $2.8 million to help UC Davis plan for its Aggie Square project, which would bring new programs to Oak Park.

"This investment will enable the CSU to enroll more students from a wide variety of backgrounds, and prepare them to improve their communities and lead the industries that are driving California. This is vital to our state’s future," CSU Chancellor Timothy White said.

- $90 million up front for the fourth quarter of the upcoming budget year and $360 million in ongoing funding toward raising welfare grants distributed through the CalWORKS program. State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, has advocated an increase in funding to lift low-income families out of deep poverty.

- $5 million to create a universal health care task force. The budget compromise generally avoids other new long-term health care commitments, rejecting Assembly-favored proposals that would have expanded Medi-Cal access to some undocumented immigrants.

Health care advocates were frustrated that the budget did not include more money to reduce the cost of the health insurance premiums or expend access to Medi-Cal.

"It is deeply disappointing that this budget takes no new steps toward Californians getting coverage and care," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California.

- $60 million to create a database tracking the cost of health care claims.

- $10 million to promote the state's Earned Income Tax Credit and additional money to expand eligibility for it to young workers and to senior citizens.

- $90 million to reach out to residents ahead of the 2020 Census. That's $50 million more than Brown initially requested.


UC History and Future: Manhattan Continues

UC has been involved in the Los Alamos lab since the World War II Manhattan Project. As blog readers will know, the Dept. of Energy put the management contract out to bid recently. UC teamed up with Texas A&M to submit a bid to continue its role. Apparently, that bid has won:

U. of California and Texas A&M Win Bid to Run Birthplace of Atom Bomb

By Megan Zahneis, June 08, 2018, Chronicle of Higher Ed

A corporation run, in part, by the U. of California and Texas A&M U. systems has won the bid to manage the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy announced.

The University of California and Texas A&M University systems are the leaders of a team that was awarded the contract on Friday to run Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The two systems will be joined by the research and development organization Battelle in a limited-liability corporation, Triad National Security, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Safety Administration announced in a news release.

Established in 1943, Los Alamos lab, northwest of Santa Fe, N.M., was used as a hub for the top-secret Manhattan Project to develop nuclear technology. It is known as the birthplace of the atomic bomb.

Today the lab works on designing and testing nuclear weapons, producing an annual report to the president on the state of America’s nuclear arsenal, and engaging in nonproliferation and counterproliferation efforts. It also conducts research in such fields as national security, space exploration, renewable energy, medicine, nanotechnology, and supercomputing.

Management of the lab is seen as a mark of prestige in the world of nuclear engineering. The University of California system currently operates the lab in partnership with the engineering and construction firm Bechtel, but their joint-management company has come under fire in recent years for a series of safety and security blunders. That team’s contract, scheduled to expire on September 30, will be extended for a four-month transition period.
After its leaders expressed interest in bidding for the project, Texas A&M threw its hat into the ring in recent months, and eventually joined the California system’s bid. Texas A&M is also the alma mater of the secretary of energy, Rick Perry, who has not hesitated to weigh in on university affairs since joining the cabinet. Notably, in 2017, Perry publicly condemned the university’s latest student-government election, saying it had “made a mockery of due process and transparency.”

Spokesmen for the California system and Texas A&M did not answer The Chronicle’s inquiries about why the Texas university had been added to the bid, instead pointing to an existing statement. Texas A&M has helped the California system run another national laboratory, Lawrence Livermore, since 2007.

 Triad’s contract to run the lab is for five years, at $2.5 billion annually, with five one-year options to extend, for a potential total of 10 years.

“We are committed to building on the legacy of world-class research, unparalleled innovation, and service to public good that have been the hallmark of the laboratory since it was founded, in 1943,” Texas A&M’s chancellor, John Sharp, said in a news release.

Lee Bernstein, the Nuclear Data Group leader at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who also works as an adjunct in the University of California at Berkeley’s nuclear-engineering department, said the partnership between the Cal system and national laboratories like Los Alamos is invaluable.

Berkeley’s nuclear-engineering program, Bernstein said, has five to 10 students involved in research at Los Alamos at any given time. The affiliation with the labs is a draw for potential students, and in some cases the research collaboration allows the university to provide students with tuition remission and salary support.

Most important, Bernstein said, the lab partnership gives students hands-on experience in the field.

“When it comes to experimental research, it’s really important to get into the laboratory and work with the equipment,” Bernstein told The Chronicle. “You can talk about it in the classroom as much as you like, you can have good upper-level undergraduate or graduate laboratory classes that familiarize students with techniques and methods, but unless they’re there, actually involved in the research, they don’t get a really good appreciation for what’s involved.”

Working in a national laboratory also offers mentorship opportunities that can lead to job offers.

“I once jokingly heard UC-Berkeley nuclear engineering referred to as the gateway drug to the national laboratories,” Bernstein said. “A lot of our students who come to us want to get involved in national-laboratory research, and we’re viewed as a good way to do that.”


As we have done when this topic comes up, we urge you see the BBC's 7-part 1980 "Oppenheimer" series which looks at the Manhattan Project and its connection to the Berkeley physics department. Its location on YouTube seems to shift around. Current location is below:

Part 1:

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:
Part 6:
Part 7:

Friday, June 8, 2018

UCLA History: Rock

Founders' Rock was originally moved from the Perris area to the new UCLA Westwood campus. It stood in the main Hilgard entrance and then was moved to a relatively obscure site near Murphy Hall. Exactly why a boulder was needed is not so clear. But then again, LACMA has a boulder, so why shouldn't UCLA?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Post-Primary Footnote at Irvine

Bruising Primary Drives Wedge Between UC Irvine Law Prof Candidates

6-6-18,, Karen Sloan

Katie Porter, a professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, on Tuesday narrowly defeated her faculty colleague, David Min, to secure a spot on the ballot for a Congressional seat following a hard-fought primary that turned ugly.

Porter snagged 20 percent of the vote—the second-highest percentage behind Republican incumbent Mimi Walters, for whom 53 percent of voters cast their ballot. Min won 17 percent of the vote, but only the top two vote-getters will appear on the November ballot under California’s primary system. (The results aren’t final, as absentee ballots have until Friday to arrive, but Porter currently has a 2,600 vote lead over Min.) 

The pool of law professors who run for federal office is fairly small, and it’s highly unusual for two professors from the same campus to compete against one another for the same seat.

The two had enjoyed a friendly relationship before the campaign. Porter said she helped to recruit Min to U.C. Irvine law school five years earlier, and he graduated from Harvard Law school one year after she did. But their relationship has soured amid the campaign, with Porter accusing her faculty colleague of dragging details about her divorce into the spotlight and Min denying involvement.

Porter and Min, both Democrats, hoped to flip trionally Republican Orange County blue by unseating Walters. California’s 45th Congressional District, which covers parts of Orange County, including the University of California, Irvine, voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, fueling Democratic hopes there. 

Porter still has a chance to bring the district into the Democratic fold, having apparently fended off Min and three other challengers in a closely watched primary. Neither Porter nor Min responded to requests for comment Wednesday.

“I am running for Congress to stand up to Trump and Mimi Walters, and to be the congresswoman that fights for OC families, not powerful special interests,” Porter wrote on Twitter after the results came in. “Tonight, thanks to 1000s of voters who cast a ballot for change, we moved one step closer to taking our fight to Washington.”

In a message on his campaign website, Min on Wednesday urged supporters to vote for Porter, while also acknowledging the rough and tumble nature of the campaign.

“I realize this has been a heated primary, but there is simply too much at stake to let our differences get in the way,” Min wrote. “Real lives are on the line.”


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Whether you like it or not

Gavin Newsom will be the next governor. And it's going to happen, whether you like it or not. His rival in November will be a no-name Republican who doesn't have a prayer, but was supported by both Newsom and Trump. The former wanted to coast to victory in November. The latter wanted to have a Republican on the top of the ticket to inspire a GOP turnout in November that might aid Republicans in retaining control of the House in some swing California districts.

Some folks may remember the like-it-or-not line which Newsom said in marrying gay couples as a test of Prop 22 - the anti-gay marriage proposition (which passed). When 22 was voided by the state supreme court, his line was used in the campaign for the second anti-gay marriage proposition - Prop 8 - which passed. Newsom later said he regretted that choice of words.

As lieutenant governor, Newsom has been attending regents meetings fairly regularly. He predictably votes against tuition increases on the premise that UC should get the money from the legislature. But he presents no Plan B on what to do if the legislature doesn't come through. How he will be on UC funding as governor is anyone's guess.

It's going to happen:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

UCLA History: Before the move

The Vermont Avenue campus of UCLA shortly before the move to Westwood in 1929

Monday, June 4, 2018

Getting to the line

...After six years, fewer than half of first-time, full-time Pell recipients receive a bachelors degree at the school where they first enrolled...

Some school systems have been able to buck this trend: of the 1,566 institutions studied, 242 reported higher grad rates for their Pell students.

The University of California system is a good example, with UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Irvine leading the way. UCLA boasts an 88 percent graduation rate for its Pell recipients, and 85 percent of Pell students graduate from UC San Diego and UC Irvine...

Full story at:

It never rains (or snows) in Southern California...

...except in 1929 and 1932, as above.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

UCLA History: Sunset Canyon

Construction of Sunset Canyon Recreation Center in 1966

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Up the ladder

UCLA ranked No. 9 in Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings
UCLA is one of the world’s leading universities, according to leading academics from around the world. In the newest Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, published today, UCLA placed No. 2 among U.S. public universities and No. 9 among all universities worldwide, public or private. UCLA joins the top 10 for the first time since 2014.
The reputation survey, completed by more than 10,000 senior academics from 138 countries, was established in 2011 as a spinoff of the annual Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The questionnaire targets published scholars for their views on excellence in research and teaching within their disciplines and at institutions with which they are familiar…

Friday, June 1, 2018

Concerns over UC science research funding

From CALmatters: Since President Donald Trump took office, scientists have criticized his administration for reportedly allowing political appointees and their aides to spike grants at the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department, proposing deep cuts to climate research, and barring government employees who study global warming from presenting their findings.

But how might such decisions affect funding for scientific research at California universities? That’s the question University of California faculty raised in a recent letter to university chief Janet Napolitano.*

Calling the political vetting of federal research grant applications “a significant threat to academic freedom,” the letter, endorsed by UC’s Academic Council and sent earlier this month, urged the university to better track whether and why its proposals are turned down. It also said tenure committees should avoid penalizing professors if they miss out on funding because their research interests clash with Trump administration priorities.

“It has long been the case that funding priorities change from one administration to the next,” the letter reads. “What is new is the present administration’s open hostility toward science, particularly science that touches on climate change, that examines the impact of fossil fuels on public health, or that entails international collaboration.”

UC Davis law professor Christopher Elmendorf, who wrote the letter on behalf of the university’s academic freedom committee, said his committee has not yet uncovered any instances of UC grant applications being denied for political reasons. But he said the committee heard reports of faculty members trying to avoid “certain magic words” when asking the government for funding.

“If you can write your grant application describing it as being about climate science or write it as being about something that you don’t describe as climate science, maybe you choose not to use those words,” he said.

UC received about $3.4 billion in federal research funding in the 2016-17 academic year, with the bulk of it coming from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. More than $200 million of those federal dollars support climate-related research, according to a UC report. Both UC and California State University have benefited from fellowships and research partnerships sponsored by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—two agencies running climate science programs that Trump has targeted for budget cuts in 2019.

Because application processes can be lengthy, and many grants run for multiple years, the choices federal officials make today could take a while to hit universities’ pocketbooks...

Full story at

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Where things are now

The table above from the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) shows the difference between the governor's, senate and assembly version of the budget. Before the legislature can pass a budget, the senate and assembly versions must be combined into a unified compromise version. Although the three versions of the budget depend on different assumptions, the main difference is more revenue being assumed in the legislative versions which allow more spending and bigger reserves. As can be seen below, the senate version gives more to higher ed than the assembly version, although both give more than the governor proposed.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Money with a proviso

...Pension wars, UC front

Assembly Democrats have a sweet offer to help the University of California shore up its pension system, but the deal comes with a catch that would block it from offering an alternative plan that's popular with some new employees.

Democrats are offering $120 million toward the UC's unfunded pension liability. To get the money, the UC would have to refrain from offering a 401(k) style retirement plan to tens of thousands of rank-and-file workers represented by AFSCME 3299 and University Professional and Technical Employees.

Already, thousands of workers are opting for the 401(k) plans. The UC system reports that 37 percent of new employees want the 401(k) instead of a traditional public employee pension. 

Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Phil Ting said the proposal is intended to ensure that rank-and-file UC employees have a retirement plan that they can count on in their golden years. He's open to retaining 401(k) plans for high-earning UC leaders who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

"We still believe that defined-benefit program is the best (for) long-term economic security. We're not moving away from that," he said at a press conference on Tuesday. "We didn't think it was appropriate for UC to move away from that model for the bulk of their employees making $60,000 a year."

Assembly leaders put their pitch in the budget proposal, and they'll try to persuade Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate leaders to adopt it.

UC workers represented by AFSCME and UPTE don't have a choice to take a 401(k). That depends on their next contract, and the UC is pressing them to accept a deal that would open new workers to defined contribution retirement plans. The unions characterize the offer as a "risky" one that could weaken the University of California Retirement Plan. 

Earlier this year, Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, offered a bill that would have let new state workers choose between a 401(k) plan and a CalPERS pension. Pensions tends to reward career civil servants, but people who don't want to spend decades with a single employer tend to have more to gain from a defined contribution plan.

Glazer's bill died in committee, where SEIU California lobbyist Terry Brennand called it a "disaster waiting to happen."

Full story at

More at the legislature - not clear what guv will do

...Colleges and universities would get more from legislative Democrats than from the governor. Both houses propose additional spending on higher education compared with Brown’s May budget plan. The Senate proposes a slightly bigger boost — $473 million over Brown’s proposal, compared with the Assembly’s $369-million effort. In both cases, the goal would be to avoid tuition increases and expand enrollments at the University of California and California State University campuses.


Chancellor Tweets

For those who do Twitter, you may be interested in knowing (or following) the chancellor's new Twitter account:


A former Fresno State University student was convicted Tuesday of fatally stabbing a 21-year-old UCLA student whose body was discovered after a September 2015 fire at her Westwood apartment.
Jurors deliberated about a day before finding Alberto Hinojosa Medina, 24, guilty of first-degree murder for the Sept. 21, 2015, slaying of Andrea DelVesco, along with the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a burglary, according to Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila.
The panel also found Medina guilty of one count each of arson of an inhabited structure and cruelty to an animal -- the latter involving DelVesco's dog, which had to be euthanized, along with two counts of first-degree burglary with a person present involving DelVesco's apartment in the 10900 block of Roebling Avenue and another apartment across the street, the prosecutor said.
Medina is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole, with sentencing set for July 20 at the Airport Courthouse in Los Angeles.
Prosecutors had opted earlier not to seek the death penalty against Medina...
Co-defendant Eric Marquez, 25, was attending UCLA when he was charged with murder and two counts of first-degree burglary with a person present, but subsequently pleaded guilty to one count each of burglary and being an accessory after the fact. He is awaiting sentencing June 7.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Money well spent

From time to time, yours truly likes to point to contributions to the university that DO NOT result in brick-and-mortar construction but which add to research, teaching, or other good services academia can provide. From the Bruin:

A social science research program at UCLA received a $2.85 million grant to research social problems including homelessness, poverty, crime and education inequality.
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation donated a total of $5.5 million to support the California Policy Lab, a research program at UCLA and UC Berkeley which partners with state and local governments to provide scientifically backed solutions to social problems.
The lab was established as a pilot program in 2017 with a $2 million grant from the Arnold Foundation. The foundation has called for the campuses to also donate to the lab, asking UCLA to contribute $1.85 million.
The lab is conducting research in areas such as criminal justice, homelessness, income security and employment, educational access and welfare.
The lab has partnered with organizations including the California Employment Development Department, the Los Angeles City Council, the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative and the Los Angeles Police Department. 

The grant is part of the Centennial Campaign for UCLA, which seeks to raise $4.2 billion by December 2019.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Listen to the Regents Meeting of May 24, 2018

Yours truly has preserved the audio of the final, wrap-up meeting of the Regents of May 24. You can hear it at the link below.

One report from the LA Times:

UC regents approve leaner budget for Janet Napolitano

MAY 25, 2018 | 8:20 AM  LA Times

University of California regents on Thursday unanimously approved a leaner, more transparent budget for President Janet Napolitano, moving to address political criticism over the system's central office operations.

The $876.4-million budget for 2018-19 reflects spending cuts of 2%, including reductions in staffing, travel and such systemwide programs as public service law fellowships, carbon neutrality and food security.

Napolitano shifted $30 million to campuses for housing needs and $10 million to UC Riverside to support its five-year-old medical school. She also permanently redirected $8.5 million annually to help enroll more California students, as required by the state.

The spending plan incorporates changes recommended by a recent state audit, which found several financial problems in previous budgets, including a $175-million unreported reserve. UC officials said the money had been allocated to university programs but was not clearly reported. The new budget specifies all sources and uses of funds.

Napolitano told regents at their San Francisco meeting that the UC budget was more complex than any she had ever seen, including those she handled as Arizona governor and U.S. Homeland Security secretary.

The budget has 466 different funds with varying restrictions on their use. Two-thirds of the total revenue is fees for assistance — such as investment and legal services — that the central office gives campuses, or money that passes through the president's office en route to others, such as state dollars for tobacco disease research.

"Our goal was to clarify and simplify the financial operations of the Office of the President, and to make them more transparent," Napolitano told regents. "And I believe we've made great progress."

In a lively discussion, regents asked a range of questions about the budget reserve, the fees for services, the use of campus housing money and the rising costs for the new systemwide information technology system, UCPath, as it goes online at more campuses.

Board Chairman George Kieffer called the new budget presentation "a remarkable turnaround" as he and other regents praised the staff for their thousands of hours of work on it.

"This is a breath of fresh air," said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, an ex-officio regent who is running for governor. "This is exactly the kind of engagement and transparency we need."

Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley said the more transparent document would put to rest ideas that the president's office was hiding money.

"This goes a long way in addressing the false notion that there was a slush fund," he said.

Regents also discussed UC's financial aid program, which, combined with state grants, amounts to one of the most generous in the nation. About 56% of undergraduates receive grants, and an additional 8% receive state middle-class scholarships.

Tuition and fees are waived for those whose families earn less than $80,000, though some regents noted that even those students struggle under California's high cost of living.

"We leave the impression that we're covering the needs of all students who are low-income, and that's simply not true," Ortiz Oakley said.

In other matters, regents voted to make it slightly easier to qualify for in-state tuition by shortening the time, from two years to one, that students under age 24 are required to show they are financially independent from parents who live outside California. They are still required to live continuously in California for more than a year and prove their intent to make the state their permanent home.

Students who qualify as Californians will save nearly $120,000 in nonresident tuition over four years. UC staff could not say how many students might be affected by the change.


Link to audio: