Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A periodic reminder that your emails, etc., aren't private

From time to time, we like to remind our blog readers that because UC is a public institution, their emails and other documents may not be private. As an example, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (a conservative business group), is suing UCLA for such information under the California Public Records Act, as the image to the left shows.

CEI's media release is at:

A Nip and Tuck Contest - Part 2

Thurmond vs. Tuck
The ballot count for superintendent of education has now flipped from Tuck to Thurmond. As superintendent, the winner will become an ex officio regent. See below:

As California counties continue to process mail-in and provisional ballots, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, has for the first time taken a narrow lead in the race for California’s state superintendent of public instruction.

Thurmond has erased the 86,000 vote lead Marshall Tuck enjoyed last Wednesday, according to the latest figures released on Monday afternoon by the California Secretary of State.

The earlier count did not include millions of uncounted mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day, or provisional ballots issued at polling stations.

The latest figures indicate that both Tuck and Thurmond have 50 percent of the vote, but that Thurmond has 3,500 votes more than Tuck.  Thurmond currently has 3,613,883 votes, compared to Tuck’s 3,610,380...

Full story at

In the meantime, the Regents' meetings begin today. As usual, yours truly will preserve the audio and keep track of what is happening as time permits.

Harvard Admissions - Part 14

The Harvard admissions case has now been presented and the judge's decision is expected early next year. However, the NY Times notes that the Asian American admissions issue was foreshadowed back around 1990 at the University of California, Berkeley and at UCLA. See below:

‘It’s Like Reliving My Past’: Harvard Lawsuit Echoes Previous Fight Over Race and Admissions
By Mihir Zaveri, Nov. 12, 2018, NY Times
In March 1990, L. Ling-chi Wang got on a plane to Washington, where he felt that his words were being twisted.
The University of California, Berkeley, professor, Mr. Wang had recently scored a victory when the school acknowledged it disproportionately hurt Asian-American applicants in its admissions, amid a wave of similar allegations of discrimination sweeping more than a dozen other universities.
But in Washington, Mr. Wang lobbied against a resolution introduced by a representative from California, Dana Rohrabacher, that called for the federal government to ramp up investigations into reports of such discrimination.
What troubled Mr. Wang, a strong supporter of affirmative action, was that Mr. Rohrabacher was claiming that universities’ policies helped underrepresented black and Hispanic students get in while, as the congressman put it, squeezing Asian-Americans out.
“We feared that the resolution would pit Asian-Americans against other minorities and gut affirmative action as a tool for correcting past injustices,” Mr. Wang said in an interview.
When the resolution died, Mr. Wang felt vindicated.
The conflict, however, was far from over.

...Mr. Wang’s experience decades ago, and its parallels with today’s debate, reflects how Asian-Americans have continually grappled with being positioned against other minorities.
Claire Jean Kim, a professor of Asian-American studies at the University of California, Irvine, said the Harvard lawsuit is the “continuation of a historical dynamic that’s been around for almost two centuries.”
The phenomenon gained particular significance in the mid-20th century, when white people praised the work ethic and ability of Asian-Americans as a way to discredit the struggle of African-Americans. At that time, Japanese- and Chinese-Americans were repeatedly portrayed by politicians and the media, including The New York Times, as docile and industrious.
Surveys show that Asian-Americans — an extremely diverse, fast-growing and economically divided part of the population — are generally more likely to support affirmative action in education. Some, though, support the Harvard lawsuit’s claims, particularly an increasingly vocal group of Chinese-Americans who fear that affirmative action would mean their children lose out while other racial groups benefit.
For his part, Mr. Wang was not always focused on civil rights. He was originally from Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States in 1957 as a freshman in high school. He was a music major, and as a graduate student in Chicago, studied Middle Eastern languages. Then he spent the summer of 1966 in the San Francisco Bay Area during a high point of civil rights activism.
Mr. Wang saw the challenges many Chinese-Americans faced, like barriers to employment or underrepresentation in police and fire departments, as similar to challenges facing African-Americans that had been described by civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. That is when he became an ardent affirmative action supporter.
In the 1980s, as the Asian-American population in the United States was booming, many young Asian-Americans were seeking admission at America’s top universities. In 1981, The Times reported that the number of students of Asian background at Berkeley had quadrupled.
Mr. Wang and others began hearing stories of frustrated parents whose children were denied admission despite strong qualifications.
He pored over admissions data, concluding that Asian-Americans were not being admitted at the same rates as white applicants. He rallied a group of local leaders, recruiting them to a community task force to pressure Berkeley to investigate and rectify the discrepancy.
The group would continue for five years to push the issue with the university, which initially resisted their claims, as a number of other universities grappled with similar accusations.
At the time, the Justice Department told The Times that it had received a number of complaints of discrimination from other universities, too, and in 1988 the Education Department said it had opened inquiries into the University of California, Los Angeles, and Harvard.
In 1990, the Education Department concluded that U.C.L.A.’s math department illegally gave preferences to whites over Asian-Americans. Later that year, the department cleared Harvard of discrimination charges, but noted that Asian-Americans were admitted at a lower rate than white applicants, which the department attributed to preferences given to the children of alumni and to recruited athletes.
Berkeley’s chancellor, Michael Ira Heyman, would appear with Mr. Wang and other activists at a news conference and apologize.
“It is clear that decisions made in the admissions process indisputably had a disproportionate impact on Asians,” Mr. Heyman said at a news conference, according to The Los Angeles Times, pledging to improve its admissions process. “That outcome was the product of insensitivity. I regret that that occurred.”
“I felt very much vindicated,” Mr. Wang said.
...Ultimately, California voters, riding a wave of conservatism, voted to dismantle affirmative action in public universities in 1996. (A state university official told The New York Times last year that the number of Hispanic and black freshmen on the University of California campuses declined immediately after the state’s affirmative action ban took effect in 1998, and that Hispanic and black students were the least represented at Berkeley, the most selective campus.)
But Mr. Wang felt his lobbying helped bring attention to discrimination against Asian-Americans... At Berkeley, the proportion of Asian-Americans in its freshman class has increased to 46 percent in 2015 from 34 percent in 1990, according to a Times analysis last year.
“The most satisfying part is that I managed to successfully separate what we were asking for from affirmative action,” Mr. Wang said.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Bolting from Boalt

For more than a century, UC Berkeley's elite law school has been closely tied to the name of the building that houses it, Boalt Hall.

Law school alumni have affectionately referred to themselves as “Boalties.” The Boalt name has been attached to more than 120 organizations, public forums and positions related to the law school — including its alumni and student groups, endowed chairs, school directory and Facebook page. Over time, in the California legal community, many people simply came to call the law school Boalt Hall.

But the revelation that John Henry Boalt, a 19th-century San Francisco attorney, was virulently anti-Chinese has rocked the school and plunged it into the national debate over what to do when honored historical figures turn out to have unsavory pasts. The Berkeley controversy comes as other schools, such as Stanford, the University of San Francisco and Cal State Long Beach, are reexamining California’s past and changing building names or dropping mascots associated with those who kept slaves or mistreated Native Americans and Asian Americans.

Boalt, the public now knows, was instrumental in pushing the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 — the nation’s first immigration ban on a specific group of people. In one influential treatise, he wrote that the Chinese were unassimilable liars, murderers and misogynists who provoked “unconquerable repulsion.” Public sentiment against Chinese immigrants had grown in the 19th century as more than 300,000 came to California as laborers.  

A few scholars were aware of Boalt’s racism, but it became widely known only last year when Charles Reichmann, a Berkeley law lecturer, published an op-ed and law review article. This month, law school Dean Erwin Chemerinsky plans to announce whether he will move to strip the Boalt name from the school’s main classroom building and elsewhere. 

The dean also must decide what to do about two endowed chairs established by Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt, who specified the professorships carry the family name. She also donated $100,000 in memory of her husband in 1906 to help build Boalt Hall. 

Chemerinsky’s decision will follow months of deliberation by a review committee, with the help of a town hall meeting and a survey sent to all alumni, students, staff and faculty. All told, the law school has received more than 2,500 comments divided between Boalt loyalists and critics. In the survey, nearly half wanted to strike the Boalt name, while a third favored keeping it...

A Nip and Tuck Contest

Tony Thurmond vs. Marshall Tuck
In an earlier posting soon after the recent election, we noted that there would be new ex officio Regents starting in January. It appeared at the time that Marshall Tuck had a narrow lead for superintendent of education. However, the counting of absentee and other such ballots has narrowed the narrow lead:

...As of Sunday at 9 p.m, Tuck, with 50.2 percent of the vote, was 0.4 percentage points ahead of Thurmond, with 49.8 percent, according to the California Secretary of State. Tuck is now 29,424 votes ahead of Thurmond in the nonpartisan race, out of just over 7 million ballots reported by the Secretary of State. But after Tuesday’s vote Tuck led Thurmond by nearly 86,000 votes, indicating that the large numbers of uncounted ballots are tilting strongly in Thurmond’s favor. Since the Election Day tally, Thurmond has sliced Tuck’s lead by about 56,000 votes. Tuck currently has 3,539,406 votes, compared to Thurmond’s 3,509,982 votes...


In short, we will see.

UCLA History: Veterans of Future Wars

Members of UCLA's "post" of the "Veterans of Future Wars," dressed in World War I-era military uniforms, mug for the camera in the mid-1930s. The "Veterans of Future Wars" was a satirical organization begun by students at Princeton University. The group formed after World War I veterans, many of whom had become unemployed since the beginning of the Great Depression, unsuccessfully lobbied Congress to pay them the full value of their military bonuses immediately, the sum total of which was $3.6 billion dollars, originally to be paid out in 1945. The "Bonus Army" descended on Washington, DC in 1932. Eventually, then-President Herbert Hoover called out the Army to remove the veterans, an act that sealed his defeat in the 1932 election.

The Veterans of Future Wars claimed that they were likely to fight and perhaps die in the wars the United States would fight over the next 30 years, and as such should be paid their military bonuses while they were still alive to spend them. The organization became quite popular on college campuses in 1936, attracting conservative students who opposed the fiscal policies of FDR's administration, and leftist and pacifist students who saw the organization as a statement against war itself. By June of 1936, the group boasted 50,000 students on 584 campuses. The organization disbanded in April of 1937. Ironically, many of the students who belonged to the Veterans of Future Wars would serve in World War II, including all but one of its founding members at Princeton.

Source (with corrections and modifications):

Newsreel footage of the 1932 Bonus Army

Mistreatment of World War I veterans - who had fought for their country but were now unemployed - was a major theme of the Great Depression. Note the lyrics of the classic Depression song, "Brother Can you Spare a Dime?":

...Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that yankee doodly dum.
Half a million boots went sloggin' through hell,
And I was the kid with the drum.
Say, don't you remember, they called me Al.
It was Al all the time.
Why don't you remember? I'm your pal.
Say buddy, can you spare a dime?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Air Update

The latest from UCLA above.

Back to the Future

Our previous post reminded yours truly of a fire that threatened the UCLA campus in 1961 - not that yours truly was in LA at the time - the Bel Air fire. Here we see then-former VP Nixon spraying down his house in Bel Air at the time.


Although the emergency system alert doesn't quite fit on an iPhone screen (as shown above), the message is clear enough.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Still Running Ahead

Although somewhat less cash came to the state in October than was projected back when the budget was put together in June, the state is still running ahead of projections by about $1 billion in receipts for the first four months of the fiscal year. So Governor-elect Newsom doesn't have to panic. But he will have to submit a proposed budget for fiscal 2019-20 shortly after taking office in January. And that budget will presumably give some indication of the new governor's priorities.

You can find the controller's cash statement for October at:

Leobardo Felipe Estrada

From LA Times, 11-9-2018

Friday, November 9, 2018

UCPath Glitch

From the Bruin: Hundreds of UCLA student workers have not been paid for over a month due to problems with a new payroll system.
The new system, University of California Payroll, Academic Personnel, Timekeeping and Human Resources, aims to centralize payroll across the University of California. Since UCPath was implemented at UCLA in September, many student workers said they have been paid incorrectly or not at all...
Daniel Schoorl, vice president of University Council-AFT Los Angeles, Local 1990, said lecturers have self-reported pay issues, including a lack of payment or payment shortages. UC-AFT is a union that represents UC librarians and non-Senate faculty...

Hard to see the scandal

The article from the Sacramento Bee shown on the left leaves the implication that there is some kind of scandal because applicants to UCLA and other universities pay an application fee, but many applications are rejected. It's unclear why that fact should be seen as a scandal.

Calculations of the revenue obtained are simply applicants times the fee. There is no mention in the article of the fact that the application fee can be waived based on family income, etc. Unless the number of applicants used in the calculation removes those who received fee waivers, the estimated revenue must be an overstatement.

There is no calculation or estimate in the article as to the cost of processing an application, successful or not. Note that some successful applicants - presumably including some who got fee waivers - don't come. Is it a scandal that they imposed a cost on the university without coming? We seem to have a non-story. Slow news day?

Full article at

PS: If you think the article above is not hinting at scandal and is just presenting data, take a look below at how the conservative Flashreport news aggregation site is portraying the piece:

Can't Bear It - Part 4

The email below - circulated this morning - appears to be an aftershock of the recent bear logo controversy:

To the Campus Community: Next year, UCLA will mark 100 years of transforming its mission of education, research and service into opportunities for students. As we plan for our Centennial Celebration and the next century, it is important to think about how the UCLA Marks (campus logos, department logos, seals, etc.) reflect the institution and its highest ideals. As we all strive to serve UCLA's mission, our diversity and individuality is one of our greatest strengths, but at the core we are one UCLA. Policy 110, which governs the use of UCLA Marks, has undergone a comprehensive review and been updated to unify our use of the UCLA Marks and how we represent ourselves to the global community. The updated Policy 110 is officially in effect as of today and is posted online with other UCLA Administrative Policies and Procedures.
Over the past two years, a group of representatives from several key campus groups have worked together, reviewing and revising campus policies and procedures related to our use of the UCLA Marks. These changes to policy and procedure provide an opportunity for the campus community to refresh and update as we forge ahead into the next century. This effort resulted in three important changes now in effect:
  • UCLA Policy 110: Use of the University’s Names, Seals and Trademarks* has been revised and reflects changes that will impact all uses of the UCLA Marks, including departmental depictions. Per University policy, every use of a UCLA Mark requires authorization; fortunately, UCLA Policy 110 sets forth when the marks may be included and pre-authorizes many common uses. Please spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the permitted, restricted and prohibited uses of the UCLA Marks.
  • UCLA Brand Guidelines have been updated and enhanced to meet ADA compliance standards and to provide you with detailed instructions about how to use the new logos, colors and typography. The guidelines also provide useful templates and tips to help you apply the brand in a variety of formats. As UCLA Policy 110 stipulates that every use of a UCLA Mark must follow the UCLA Brand Guidelines, it is important to make use of this vital resource.
  • Requests to use the UCLA Marks will now be processed online. Whether you are printing a logo on a flyer, custom designing t-shirts with UCLA Marks, or co-branding a new initiative, the new system will help you to navigate policy provisions and obtain the proper permissions.
Thank you for your help in presenting UCLA and its myriad organizations and programs as a united institution under one brand. If you have any questions regarding these changes, please email
Michael J. Beck, Administrative Vice Chancellor
*This link seems to be the heart of the updated policy.

Can the pension promise be broken? Brown's parting gift

As he requested, Gov. Brown will get a chance before leaving office to defend a public employee union challenge to his pension reform that some think could result in a ruling allowing pension cuts.

The state Supreme Court yesterday announced oral arguments scheduled Dec. 5 in Los Angeles on a firefighter appeal to allow employees to continue boosting their pensions by purchasing up to five years of “airtime,” credit for years in which they did no work.

If the court finds airtime is a vested right, the court could modify the “California rule” that prevents cuts in the pensions of current workers, limiting most cost-cutting reforms to new unvested hires, which can take decades to yield significant savings. 

The airtime case, Cal Fire Local 2881 vs. CalPERS, one of five similar challenges to the pension reform, was fully briefed last January. Brown’s legal office replaced the state attorney general in the defense of the airtime ban...

Although UC's pension has no "airtime" component, the more general issue being raised in this court case could potentially affect UC. As we have noted in past posts, the pension issue is not really of concern for current retirees. Rather, it should be seen as a concern to current employees who are partially being paid with pension promises.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

And speaking of the use of the bear logo...

It's apparently great for selling hotel rooms:

Of course, yours truly has a preference for using grants and gifts for research, teaching, scholarships, etc., uses that don't require keeping rooms filled to justify past capital spending. Example:

UCLA scientists were awarded a $3.5 million federal grant to develop a blood test to detect early liver cancer, the university announced Nov. 7. The National Institutes of Health issued the five-year grant to develop a UCLA center focused on developing an affordable blood-based cancer screening test.
“If you can detect any cancer early, it’s much easier to treat – especially for liver cancer,” said Xianghong Jasmine Zou, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, in a statement...
Full story at

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Can't Bear It - Part 3

UPDATE to previous post.

UCLA is reported now to accept the bear logo of the NSJP for the upcoming conference so long as the word "UCLA" is not present on the picture:

...Ricardo Vazquez, UCLA’s associate director of media relations, said, “NSJP has complied with our request to remove the UCLA name from their conference logo and have committed to include ‘at’ or will otherwise clearly indicate the reference to UCLA as the place in which the event is being held.”...

Full story at

Call for Nominations to the Academic Advisory Board of the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement

TO:  Deans

RE:  Call for Nominations to the Academic Advisory Board of the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement

Dear Colleagues,

I write to solicit nominations for a campus representative to the Academic Advisory Board of the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, to be submitted directly to my office

The call for nominations has been issued from the UC’s National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.  Below is information provided by the Center describing its mission, in addition to the purpose and function of the Academic Advisory Board:

UC's National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, founded in 2017, is committed to exploring how the fundamental democratic and academic principles of free speech and civic engagement should enrich the discovery and transmission of knowledge in America' s colleges and universities. It is also dedicated to ensuring that the next generation of students is prepared to understand, defend and advance these values. As part of its mission, the Center sponsors fellowships in order to explore cutting- edge constitutional, sociological, and political issues relevant to free expression and civil discourse.

An integral part of the Center will be an Academic Advisory Board. This Board will be comprised of at least one member from each UC campus representing a diversity of disciplines such as political science, education, psychology, law, public policy, sociology, history or statistics. Appointments to the Board may be for up to 3 years.

This Board will meet in person at least twice yearly. The Board will advise the Center on its research and other efforts. It also will participate in the annual selection of fellows.

We would be grateful if you could disseminate this request to your faculty and academic leaders across your campuses in order to generate nominations to the Academic Advisory Board. Individuals may nominate themselves or be nominated by others. Nominations should include a one-page statement of qualifications and interest.”
Michael S. Levine
Vice Chancellor, Academic Personnel

Source: Email circulated today.

Back to the Future With CPEC?

Jerry Brown removed all funding for the California Postsecondary Education Commission in 2011. Partly it was a budgetary move in the budget crisis of that era. Partly, Jerry was fine with his own views about higher ed:  [Scroll down below memo for more text.]
Now it appears that Governor-Elect Newsom may want to recreate CPEC in some fashion. From Inside Higher Ed:

...In his campaign (for California governor, Gavin) Newsom stressed the link between what happens early in a child's life and the progression through school to higher education. He has pledged as governor to create a program where every new kindergarten student in the state is given a savings account by the state to start the path of saving for college. Newsom has also spoken out about the need to address equity gaps early on to assure that students from all groups excel in higher education. He has called it "unacceptable" that of the 10,244 California high school students who took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science in 2016, only 27 percent were female, 15 percent were Latino and 1 percent were black.

The university and community college systems in the state, he said during the campaign, "operate in their own silos." To change that, he has vowed to re-create a coordinating board for higher education (a previous board was killed in 2011) "to set bold statewide goals and hold institutions accountable to them."...

New Ex Officio Regents

New (ex officio) Regents. Yesterday, well before CNN or anyone else, your truly "called" the California gubernatorial election for Gavin Newsom. It didn't take much political skill. We know from 2014 what happens in a gubernatorial race when a no-name underfunded Republican runs against a known Democrat; in 2014 it was Brown vs. Kashkari, 60% vs. 40%. In 2018, it was Newsom vs. Cox and the preliminary results as of this morning are 59.4% vs. 40.6%, essentially the same outcome.

As lieutenant governor, and now as governor (as of January 2019), Newsom remains an ex officio Regent. But that means we will have a new lieutenant governor, Eleni Kounalakis, who will become an ex officio Regent. (She won against Ed Hernandez, 56% to 44% as of this morning with final tally yet to be completed; both are Democrats.) Lieutenant governors tend to show up at Regents meetings, since they have not much else to do.

The superintendent of public instruction is also an ex officio
Regent. It appears that the new superintendent will be Marshall Tuck, primarily noted for his support of charter schools. (He appears to have won narrowly over Tony Thurmond; as of this morning, the results were reported as 50.6% to 49.4%.) Tuck will replace termed-out Tom Torlakson. (Both Tuck and Thurmond are Democrats although the office is officially non-partisan. If the final result changes and Tuck is not the winner, we will so note in a later posting.)

Note: Election results are at

Can't Bear It - Part 2

What began as an ostensible trademark dispute over the UCLA Bruin logo, as noted in an earlier post, is becoming a bigger thing.* It's likely to come up at the Regents meeting next week, at least in public comments, as it did at the last Regents meeting in September.

The national chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine has apparently refused to follow a cease-and-desist letter from the University of California, Los Angeles—the site of the annual National SJP (NSJP) conference this month—a day past the deadline. The letter, dated Oct. 31, states that NSJP’s logo for the conference, which will be from Nov. 16-18, consists of “the unauthorized use” of UCLA’s Bruin Bear playing with a Palestinian kite, “which some may interpret as an intention to endorse violence against Israel.”

NSJP’s description of the logo is: “The bear native to California as inspiration for grassroots organizing in the west coast, the kite to signify the power and hope in the Gaza March of Return, the Kuffiyeh, and the birds of freedom leading our way with radical hope towards liberation for all and a Free Palestine.”

Michael Beck, the school’s administrative vice chancellor, wrote in the letter: “Taken as a whole, these uses claim, suggest, or imply an affiliation with or an endorsement by UCLA of NSJP and/or its annual conference, which is simply incorrect.” He demanded NSJP redo the logo using UCLA’s name to demonstrate that the university is just the venue of the conference, and not an affiliate or endorser...

Full story at

Also: L.A. City Council Approves Resolution Calling on UCLA to Cancel SJP Event

Oddly, as of 7 AM today, yours truly could find nothing about this controversy on the Daily Bruin website.
* (Includes disputed logo.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

We'll Call the Election Early...

...At least this facet of the election.  And we'll hope for the best, although at least one person sees trouble ahead:

Not Private

From the NY Times:

Dennis J. Ventry Jr., a law professor at the University of California, Davis, drew the ire of tax preparation companies like Intuit and H&R Block this summer by criticizing a deal they have to provide a free tax filing service through the Internal Revenue Service.
The companies promptly hit back with a tactic that corporations, lobbyists and interest groups are increasingly using against academic researchers: Their trade coalition filed a public records request with the university in July seeking everything Mr. Ventry had written or said about the companies this year, including emails, text messages, voice mail messages and hand-jotted notes.
The university estimated that it spent 80 to 100 hours complying with the request, filed under the California Public Records Act, which requires employees of any state agency or institution to produce, upon request from any member of the public, any record that relates to “the conduct of the public’s business” that is “prepared, owned, used or retained” by the university.
The request generated 1,189 pages of documents, university officials said. And it was just one example of how both state-level public records laws and the federal Freedom of Information Act, written to ensure transparency and accountability in government, have morphed into potent weapons in legal and business disputes, raising questions about the chilling effects — and costs — they impose on targets who are doing research in controversial or sensitive fields...

Monday, November 5, 2018

Long-Term Care Insurance and CALPERS

Although UC is not part of the CALPERS retirement system, as state employees, UC employees some time ago were offered the chance to by long-term care insurance from CALPERS. But then they, like other participants in the insurance, were hit by very large premium hikes. Some dropped the insurance or accepted lower-grade policies.

Not surprisingly, litigation arose out this episode. Below is a report on the status of that litigation:

The State Worker of Sacramento Bee

$1 billion lawsuit over CalPERS insurance rates moves forward with trial date

By Adam Ashton, Nov. 5, 2018

A class-action lawsuit that could cost CalPERS $1 billion is headed to trial in June, and many of the 122,000 retirees who bought an insurance plan at the center of the case are receiving small checks from an agreement that settled a portion of the claims.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Friday set a date for the main trial, known as Sanchez. vs. CalPERS. The three- to four-week trial is scheduled to begin on June 10.

Michael Bidart, the attorney representing CalPERS members who allege the pension fund carried out a contract-breaking rate hike on their long-term health care plans five years ago, anticipates that the trial will go forward as scheduled.

He estimated the plaintiffs could receive as much as $1 billion in damages from the case. “There are just so many people,” he said.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, meanwhile, has asked a state appeals court to decertify the class of plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which would greatly limit its financial exposure.

CalPERS says in its petition to the 2nd District Court of Appeal that winning the case would actually harm people who bought the plan because the pension fund would be compelled to more than double the rates it charges for long-term care insurance.

“There is no source of funds to pay a judgment other than the long-term care fund itself. Should the fund come up short because of a judgment, we would have to raise rates significantly,” CalPERS spokesman Wayne Davis said.

The lawsuit stems from a series of rate increases that CalPERS adopted for long-term care insurance beginning in 2013, peaking with an 85 percent rate hike in 2015. CalPERS says in its most recent appeal that it would raise rates on the plan by 124 percent if it loses the lawsuit. Bidart contends that the structure of the rate increases breached the contracts people signed when they bought the policies beginning in 2003. 

Those agreements included assurances that rate hikes would be spread among those who bought long-term care insurance, and that people who bought inflation protection policies would not see their rates increase because of expanded benefits, according to court documents. Bidart criticized CalPERS’ argument that winning the case would harm plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“When they make that argument, it takes your breath away,” he said. “Your defense is you can do whatever you want, you can create harm, that the harm you create is so great that you cannot carry on your program without sticking it to the people you stuck it to once.”

In July, people who bought the long-term health insurance plan began receiving checks worth about $80. The money came from a settlement that CalPERS consultant Towers Watson reached in late 2017. The settlement separated the firm from the case, but did not resolve the bigger claims against CalPERS. About 20,000 people had not cashed their checks by September, according to an update Bidart’s team posted to a website it created for the case,


Le Conte

From a new article on 19th century UC professor Joseph Le Conte in Boom California, a UC Press publication:

...Throughout his works, (Joseph) Le Conte asserted that his racism is grounded in Darwinism and evolutionary science. “The laws determining the effects of contact of species… among animals may be summed up under the formula, ‘The struggle for life and survival of the fittest.’ It is vain to deny that the same law is applicable to the races of man also,” asserts Le Conte. White supremacy, therefore, is simply following the laws of nature. “Given two races widely different in intellectual and moral elevation, especially in the capacity for self-government, in other words very different in grade of race-evolution…the inevitable result will be, must be, that the higher race will assume control and determine the policy of the community.” Bigotry, in the view of Le Conte, is simply an extension of evolutionary self-preservation. “Race-prejudice, or race-repulsion, to use a stronger term,” writes Le Conte, “is itself not a wholly irrational feeling. It is probably an instinct necessary to preserve the blood purity of the higher race.” ...

Full article at

Streets such as Le Conte and Hilgard were named after prominent UC (Berkeley) faculty when UCLA moved to Westwood. Street name changes presumably would be within the authority of the City of LA, not the university. Although the Le Conte name has become an issue at UC-Berkeley, it hasn't been a concern (yet) at UCLA.

Slow News Day

On slow news days, we feature pictures of the construction of the new Anderson building. Why? What else should we put on the blog?*

* Some readers may need to Google "mohel."

Sunday, November 4, 2018

There's No Place Like Holmes

Our prior post referred to the supposed benefits of good PR for Harvard. The idea is not confined to that institution:

UC President Napolitano retools office after criticism over state audit

By Matier & Ross, Sunday, November 4, 2018, San Francisco Chronicle

UC President Janet Napolitano is spending more than a $1 million to retool her office staff after stinging criticism last year from Sacramento lawmakers over their handling of a state audit.

The first step was to bring in Huron Consulting Group on a $735,000 contract to give the office a once-over.

Based on recommendations from Huron, Napolitano has just hired a veteran communications and public relations expert — Claire Holmes — to a revived post as the $360,000-a-year senior vice president of external relations and communications.

It’s a nice salary but less than the $374,625 that Dan Dooley (husband of Gov. Jerry Brown’s chief of staff, Dianna Dooley) made before the position was eliminated in 2014.

Napolitano has faced some rough going since an independent investigation found her office interfered with a state audit of its spending habits, findings that contributed to the departure of two of her trusted aides.

That prompted Napolitano to hire Huron to re-evaluate her operation. Now, based on firm’s recommendation, the heads of the communications and external affairs units will report to Holmes, who in turn will report to Napolitano.


Be she ever so humble...

Harvard Admissions - Part 13

Note: Did Harvard really help its case by personalizing the admissions process as the product of one dean's design? The Harvard admissions case is a judge-trial, not a jury trial, so having the dean come across as a good guy may count for less than otherwise. If the admissions process is one man's design, and if that one man has biases...

Yours truly suspects that Harvard would have liked to settle this out of court somehow, but since the plaintiffs are apparently aiming for the U.S. Supreme Court - and a test of affirmative action - such a deal was not possible. So, although there was no jury, there was the larger external "jury" of public opinion; having an amiable admissions dean was good PR for Harvard.

Anyway read on.

At Harvard, the legacy of longtime admissions dean on trial

By Laura Krantz, Boston Globe, Nov. 3, 2018

It was early 2013 and William Fitzsimmons, the legendary admissions dean at Harvard, was agitated. In fact, he was furious. The reason? A New York Times column by David Brooks highlighting the implication by conservative Ron Unz that Harvard sets a quota for the number of Asian-American students it admits each year. Fitzsimmons, 74, had spent his entire career pushing Harvard to become more diverse by every measure possible. The suggestion that he was purposely limiting the number of Asian-Americans hit him like an insult. So in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, Fitzsimmons fired off not one but four possible rebuttals to Brooks’s column to his staff for review.

“There will never be limits on excellence at Harvard,” he wrote in one draft. “We will continue to seek the nation’s and the world’s most promising students from all ethnic, cultural and religious heritages.”

Brooks anticipated the blowback. “You’re going to want to argue with Unz’s article all the way along,” his column said. “But it’s potentially ground-shifting.”

The column was prophetic; the ground has shifted. Six years later, Harvard finds itself defending its admissions practices against a group claiming Harvard illegally discriminates against qualified Asian-American applicants. The trial has become one of the most closely followed events in higher education this decade. The case will likely reach the US Supreme Court, and the outcome could influence admissions and affirmative action policies nationwide.

In many ways, it is Fitzsimmons’ own legacy that is on trial, for he has run the Harvard undergraduate admissions operation for 32 years. He graduated from the school in 1967, in an era when it largely catered to the children of the East Coast elite. Today Harvard awards free tuition to all low-income families and scours small towns in middle America for new talent. Fitzsimmons himself has become something of an institution, the personification of the modern philosophy that determines which lucky 2,000 students each year receive acceptance letters.

“I’m proud that Harvard over time . . . has really opened the gates of Harvard in all kinds of ways to a much larger range of talent,” Fitzsimmons said from the stand in federal district court last week, in a scene that would likely have felt unfathomable to him just a few years ago.

Four days in a row, Fitzsimmons took the stand to explain, in granular detail, the techniques he has honed over the years to pick a freshman class from thousands of sterling applicants. And how all of it is intertwined with his own blue-collar upbringing.

“Diversity adds an essential ingredient,” Fitzsimmons told the court. Race is just one factor among many considered, he said. He called the Harvard of today a “profoundly better place” than it was during his time, because of the diversity his admissions team has brought to campus.

Through a spokeswoman, he declined a request for an interview from the Globe.

As the son of a Weymouth gas station owner, Fitzsimmons is living testament to the power of a Harvard education to change a person’s lot in life.

Growing up just 20 miles from Cambridge, he had never heard about Harvard until he read about it in an encyclopedia. Now he golfs with millionaires. The summer after he graduated, he had to get a bank loan to travel to Europe with classmates. Now he jets around the world on Harvard’s dime. Growing up, Fitzsimmons hung out with his parents’ friends at the gas station, and with the boys at Archbishop Williams, the Catholic high school he attended. He recently celebrated his 50th Harvard reunion with friends at the Kennebunkport home of Craig Stapleton, the former US ambassador to France.

But talk to people who have known Fitz, as everyone calls him, since he was an 18-year-old with a severe crew cut, and they’ll tell you he’s still the same man. He has traded the buzzed hair for graying temples and wire-framed spectacles, but he has managed to guard the humility, fairness, and boyish sense of humor that have been his since childhood. He has no children of his own, but he is the grandfather of nearly 40 classes of Harvard freshmen.

The trial has also shown him to be a savvy operator, balancing his dedication to equal access, even as Harvard grants an extra boost to athletes and the children of donors and alumni.

Fitzsimmons often enlists friends to help with admissions recruiting, and his 1967 classmate Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor, calls him “an egalitarian soul.” Ridge said they joke about the “Erie quota,” meaning whether the school will accept any students from the small town where Ridge grew up in public housing.

Last year Fitzsimmons called him excitedly, Ridge said, because a Somali student from Erie had been admitted. Fitzsimmons wanted Ridge to call and welcome him to the class.

“I thought, that is very reflective of how he views his responsibility to build as diverse a class as possible,” Ridge said.

Fitzsimmons is the rare 74-year-old admissions dean who still takes recruiting trips. Every year he goes to West Virginia with his counterpart from Yale.

“I just remember myself feeling tired . . . and watching Bill’s energy and being truly amazed at Bill’s ability to do that,” said the Yale dean, Jeremiah Quinlan. The pair always stop at Weaver’s, a diner on the Maryland border, for pie. Quinlan said he admires Fitzsimmons’ encyclopedic memory and knowledge about the country.

“He connects the larger demographic and socioeconomic issues of the country to the admissions work that we do,” he said.

Fitzsimmons is also aware of the sway his post gives him over the admissions industry. In the early 2000s, he was part of an effort to reduce the influence of standardized tests. Before that, he was known to rail against expensive SAT tutors and academic coaching.

“We want to get the word out more clearly that tests should not be used in a rigid way,” Fitzsimmons said in 2008 at a conference of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which had asked him to lead a panel examining testing issues. Many colleges, though not Harvard, today are test-optional, and the role of such assessments is indeed diminished.

“There’s no other way to say it, but if Fitz is on something, or leads something, people pay attention,” said Joyce Smith, who is now chief executive officer of that association.

Fitzsimmons’ pioneering efforts have not always been successful. In 2006, Harvard did away with a policy known as “early action,” which allowed students to apply early to one school and commit to it, if admitted. Fitzsimmons said it was his attempt to quell the “college admissions frenzy,” which was particularly bad for low-income students because it lessened their chance of receiving financial aid.

But when few other elite schools followed suit, Harvard reinstated the policy after Fitzsimmons said he was losing diverse applicants to other schools, who were locking them in.

When the international recruitment market was just beginning in the 2000s, he traveled to China to tout Harvard as a place for scholars of math and science, not just humanities.

“There are no quotas, no limits on the number of Chinese students we might take,” he told a group of students at Beijing No. 4 High School in 2008. “We know there are very good students from China not applying now. I hope to get them in the pool to compete.”

He was something of a diplomat at the time as well, meeting with Chinese officials to persuade them to offer the SAT in mainland China instead of just Hong Kong or Taiwan so students who couldn’t afford that trip could apply.

That sort of international hob-nobbing is a long way from where he started. When Fitzsimmons was a junior admissions officer at Harvard, he was assigned to recruit from the Boston Public Schools. Michael Contompasis, the longtime headmaster at Boston Latin School, met Fitzsimmons back then. Over the years, they negotiated over hundreds of BLS students who applied to Harvard.

Recently, when Contompasis was back at BLS as interim headmaster, he pushed for a student who had grown up in the Mildred C. Hailey Apartments housing project in Jamaica Plain and overcome major obstacles in his academic rise. Harvard was hesitant, but Contompasis won.

“Fitz, over the years, obviously has developed an inner sense of ‘Is this kid going to make it here, does he or she have the wherewithal to go through four years at Harvard?’ ”

If anyone can understand where Fitzsimmons is coming from in all this, it is Joe O’Donnell, a wealthy Boston businessman who rose from similarly humble roots thanks to Harvard. The son of a cop from Everett, he said Cambridge felt like another country to him when he first stepped on campus. He and Fitzsimmons bonded over that. The summer after they graduated, the pair took a trip with friends to Europe. Fitzsimmons and O’Donnell each borrowed $1,000 from the bank to afford the six-week vacation.

“Who would have thought that when Malden was a long trip for me from Everett, that we were in Europe,” he said. “We were walking along and thinking how lucky we were to go to a place like Harvard.”

Now when he and O’Donnell play golf, Fitzsimmons brings applications along to read. “My guess is he goes to bed with them,” O’Donnell said.

Fitz was not the only Harvard admissions employee to take the stand during the trial, but he was the most fluent, speaking with the ease that comes from decades of experience. But even as he fends off the charges of unfairness — charges he considers manifestly unfair — he admits there is always more to do.

“It’s a work in progress, we always feel we can do better,” he said. Soon applications will begin to flood in for the class of 2023.


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Regents Will Meet Nov. 13-15

November will be the last Regents meeting for Jerry Brown, if he attends.
The Regents will be meeting November 13-15 and the agenda is now posted.* It looks like a relatively tame meeting, i.e., no grand controversies on the agenda.

To the extent that there is an agenda item that could be especially important, it is to be taken up in a closed session of the Compliance and Audit Committee.** There is litigation which appears to go back to 2010 as to whether Lawrence Livermore employees have some entitlement to UC retiree health benefits. A byproduct of that litigation could be a court decision that retiree health care is an entitlement for all UC employees. The position of UC has been that retiree health care is a nice thing the Regents do, but not something they have to do. That is, unlike the pension plan, retiree health care is not a vested benefit. There will also be discussion - in open session of the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee - of the annual valuation of UC retiree health benefits (F14).*** That committee will also get a report on the status of UCPath (F12).
** Requa is the Lawrence Livermore case.