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Friday, March 22, 2019

Athletic Scandal Touches UCLA - Part 10

UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo resigned in the wake of his alleged involvement in accepting $200,000 in bribes to help enroll two players using fake athletic profiles, an athletic department official confirmed Thursday.

Salcedo had been placed on leave since being indicted last week on charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering after facilitating the acceptance of one female and one male student to the school under the pretense of being soccer players even though they did not play the sport competitively...

Full story at:
https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/la-sp-jorge-salcedo-20190321-story.html

Listen to a Regents Committee Debate an Out-of-State Tuition Increase

We earlier posted audio of the entire Regents meeting of last week. At the time, yours truly was in the midst of dealing with end-of-quarter teaching activities. So we had only limited time to deal with the substance of the meeting.

The key item that received public attention was a regental rejection of a proposed tuition increase for out-of-state and international students. This issue was first introduced in the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee of March 13, 2019. At that Committee, although the proposal was ultimately endorsed by a split but majority vote, it became clear that the issue might not pass at the full Board the next day. The UC prez made an appeal for passage at the Committee, citing budgetary needs. Those regents who favored the tuition increase argued in part that out-of-state and international students on average come from families with notably higher incomes than are found (on average) among in-state students' families. Nonetheless, the opponents argued that it was a Bad Thing to discriminate against out-of-staters who bring a diversity of outlook.

You can hear the discussion, starting around minute 3, at:
https://archive.org/details/0RegentsAcademicAndStudentAffairs31319am/0-Regents+Finance+and+Capital+Strategies+3-13-19am.wma

Speech - Part 3

University of California responds to executive order on free speech

UC Office of the President, Thursday, March 21, 2019

University of California President Janet Napolitano issued the following statement today on the White House’s executive order tying free speech protections to federal funding for colleges and universities nationwide:

The executive order that President Trump signed today is unnecessary. Like many higher education institutions across the country, the University of California is ground zero for robust exchanges of ideas and differing viewpoints.

UC’s policies already align with applicable laws protecting free speech, a fundamental tenet of our democracy and the guiding principle of academic rigor. We have established a national free speech center to explore the evolving dynamics of the First Amendment on campuses. The university has spent significant resources on security and logistical support to facilitate the expression of diverse speakers and opinions. A simple visit to any of our campuses would underscore the superfluous nature of this executive order.

We do not need the federal government to mandate what already exists: our longstanding, unequivocal support for freedom of expression. That tradition is alive and thriving on all of our campuses. This executive order will only muddle policies surrounding free speech, while doing nothing to further the aim of the First Amendment.

Source: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/university-california-responds-executive-order-free-speech

Comment: As we have noted in a prior post, it might be best to leave this issue alone. The executive order is unlikely to affect anything related to UC. But free speech is a Big Deal, and seeming to oppose it by opposing the executive order is not good PR. The general public doesn't do nuance. The last paragraph of the item above could have been omitted. All that was needed was to say that we already do what the executive order requires.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Learned Review of Trigger Warnings

From Inside Higher Ed: Trigger warnings don’t help students, and they might even hurt those grappling with serious trauma. That’s the upshot of a new study on trigger warnings published in Clinical Psychological Science.

Concerned about the use of trigger warnings absent clear evidence of their effectiveness, the authors conducted a series of experiments on 1,394 people, a mix of first-year psychology students at Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand and internet users. They wanted to know to what extent trigger warnings affect people's ratings of negative material and their symptoms of distress, namely "negative affect," intrusive thoughts and avoidance.

Subjects either watched or read content on topics from car accidents to domestic violence (content involving sexual violence was not part of the experiment -- more on that later). Some got trigger warnings about what was ahead, while others did not. Some reported experiencing traumatic events, such as a "really bad car" or other accident, or domestic abuse.

Afterward, subjects rated their negative emotional states, and the degree to which they experienced intrusive thoughts and tried to avoid thinking about the content. Some subjects were tested on their reading comprehension abilities following exposure to sensitive content.

A “mini meta-analysis” of the experiments revealed that trigger warnings didn’t make any difference. Subjects who saw them, compared with those who did not, judged the videos to be similarly negative, felt similarly negative, experienced similarly frequent intrusive thoughts and avoidance, and comprehended subsequent material similarly well...

Full story with link to study at https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/03/21/new-study-says-trigger-warnings-are-useless-does-mean-they-should-be-abandoned

New Parking System Coming

It was easier back then (1932)
From an email:

Dear UCLA Parking Permit Holder,

Beginning Sunday, March 24, all parking structure access gates will remain open, except for Jules Stein, UCLA Ronald Reagan Hospital, Medical Plaza, and Luskin Conference Center parking areas. 

This change comes in preparation for the launch of the new Bruin ePermit system, which will alleviate the need for gate access cards for most areas and eventually lead to a permanent transition of no gates within the parking structures.

Please note that although most gates will be left open, your regular parking permit privileges will still be enforced. You are responsible for checking your parking privileges before you park to ensure your permit is valid for that specific structure.

Parking permit privileges: https://ucla.app.box.com/v/uclaparkingprivileges

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at (310) 794-7433.

Sincerely,
UCLA Transportation

Speech - Part 2

Note: UC created a free speech center in order to fend off political and judicial attacks. But it has tended to be on the wrong PR side of this issue. When the Trump administration announced it would be producing some kind of free speech regulation, the response should have been "fine, we already do it," rather than a long argument that the rule was unnecessary. Free speech is a motherhood-and-apple-pie value.

In any case, see below:

UC Berkeley in spotlight as Trump expected to issue campus free-speech order

Michael Cabanatuan, March 20, 2019, San Francisco Chronicle

Motherhood and you-know-what

kind of pie
The debate over free speech on college campuses moves into the White House on Thursday, and as has often been the case over the past 50 years, UC Berkeley will be front and center.

President Trump is expected to issue an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal funding — and four past or present members of the Berkeley College Republicans, the conservative student organization that helped provoke a nationwide debate over free speech on college campuses, say they’ve been invited to witness the signing.

The group has organized numerous events featuring or promising conservative headliners, including provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, whose speech was canceled in February 2017 by the university after protesters — many of whom were non-students affiliated with local anarchist groups — broke through barricades, stormed the building, broke glass and lit fires.

That incident led to protests, counter-protests and sometimes violent confrontations on the streets of Berkeley and in Civic Center Park downtown.

While much of the tension over the free speech issue on the Berkeley campus has eased, it hasn’t disappeared. Last month, Hayden Williams was punched in the face while recruiting for a conservative organization at a table on Cal’s Sproul Plaza. The attack was captured on video, went viral on the Internet and was played and commented on repeatedly on Fox News. Williams’ attacker was later arrested. Neither man is a UC Berkeley student.

Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ condemned the attack as “reprehensible” and having “no place here.” The university has spent $4 million in the last year to ensure the right of conservative students to “safely and successfully” hold events, Christ said. It settled a lawsuit last fall with the nonprofit Young America’s Foundation, pledging to accommodate conservative events even if protests are threatened.

Still, earlier this month, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump welcomed Williams to the stage, suggested that he sue the university, and promised an executive order requiring universities and colleges to assure free speech if they want to continue receiving federal money. No specifics have been mentioned. Critics have said such an order is unnecessary.

Matt Ranau, president of the Berkeley College Republicans, said he supports the president’s order and is thrilled that he’ll be able to see it being signed. Ranau and three present or former members of the conservative campus group, were invited Monday to the signing ceremony.

“Being invited is a huge honor,” Ranau said. “I’ve never been to D.C. or seen the president up close. Obviously free speech on college campuses is something very close to me. I’m really glad President Trump is taking some action on addressing this issue. I’m fully supportive.”

Naweed Tahmas, the group’s former vice president who graduated in May; Troy Worden, the group’s past president; and Jacob Nikolau, a current student and member, who was working at the table with Williams, also were invited to attend.

The anticipated executive order would come the week after a federal judge in Oakland again dismissed four other conservative students’ lawsuits against UC Berkeley and its officials but allowed them to sue two UC police officers for their actions in the 2017 riot that prompted the cancellation of Yiannopoulos’ speech.

The students say that the police allegedly put them in danger by locking the doors to Martin Luther King Center, blocking a possible escape route as the violent protest raged outside.

Wednesday’s court ruling will allow the conservative students’ attorney to question UC officials, including President Janet Napolitano and police officials, about the orders given officers, said Shawn Steel, an attorney in the case and a Republican National Committeeman.

“That’s going to be fun,” Steel said.

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the university “is prepared to vigorously and successfully defend our position in court.”

On Wednesday night, the Associated Students of the University of California was considering a resolution supporting free speech, condemning violence and noting that UC Berkeley, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, has come under a “misconception... that depicts the University to be one that is against free speech.”

Source: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/UC-Berkeley-in-spotlight-as-Trump-expected-to-13704663.php

UPDATE: The text of the order is at:
https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/White%20House%20Executive%20Order.pdf

FURTHER UPDATE: There are lessons in the sequence of stories below from South Dakota concerning excess internal political correctness and external political response.

Noem, GOP target university 'political correctness' with first-of-its-kind diversity, speech law

Jonathan Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader | Published 7:57 p.m. CT March 20, 2019
https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2019/03/20/gov-kristi-noem-gop-target-university-political-correctness-south-dakota-legislature-free-speech/3226155002/

South Dakota became the first state in the country to pass a law requiring its university system to promote intellectual diversity after Gov. Kristi Noem signed a bill into law Wednesday.

The measure also bars the South Dakota Board of Regents and the state’s six public universities from interfering with constitutionally protected speech, including speech that some might find “offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical or wrong-headed.”

"Our university campuses should be places where students leave their comfort zones and learn about competing ideas and perspectives,” Noem said in a release. “I hope this bill lets the nation know that in South Dakota, we are teaching our next generation to debate important issues, work together to solve problems, and think independently.”

The bill had the support of two national groups, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which promotes intellectual diversity, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that promotes free speech, association and religious liberty on college campuses.

“An act of this scale concerning academic freedom and intellectual diversity is unprecedented, and sets a strong example for leadership in other states," said Michael Poliakoff, president of ACTA.

The bill was introduced after Republican lawmakers probed the Board of Regents for more than a year about incidents related to whether students’ free speech rights were being squelched by political correctness. Conservative groups have criticized colleges across the country following incidents in which conservative speakers were denied opportunities to speak, either by college administrators or angry protesters.

In response to lawmaker questions about free speech and so-called “free speech zones,” which limited where students had free speech rights, the board last fall passed new policies that guaranteed free speech on campuses.

But some lawmakers wanted those free speech rights, as well as the promotion of intellectual diversity, added to state law.

The bill passed the House but died in a Senate committee. However, lawmakers revived it after students at the University of South Dakota School of Law were asked to change the theme of a winter social from "Hawaiian Day" to "Beach Day" amid concerns that calling it Hawaiian was culturally incentive. The students were also told by the administration not to hand out lei, traditional Hawaiian flower garlands, at the party.

"Free speech zones send the false and illiberal message that a student's First Amendment rights are dangerous, and should be constrained within tiny, pre-approved areas of campus,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “We commend legislators in South Dakota for recognizing the critical importance of free speech to higher education, and encourage other states to follow their lead.”

The Board of Regents, which had opposed the bill, agreed to a compromise version signed by Noem.

Besides promoting free speech, it requires each university to report each year what they did to promote intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas, and to describe instances in which intellectual diversity or the free exchange of ideas were impeded.

The intellectual diversity provision also had the backing of conservatives, who point to surveys showing that Democrats far outnumber Republicans among college faculty and administrators.

===

USD regents back investigation into 'Hawaiian Day,' possible free speech policy violation

Jonathan Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader | Published 9:28 a.m. CT March 4, 2019 | Updated 11:33 a.m. CT March 4, 2019
https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2019/03/04/regents-back-investigation-into-usds-hawaiian-day/3054342002/

The president of the South Dakota Board of Regents said Monday that he approves of the University of South Dakota’s investigation into whether the board’s policy on free speech was violated in connection with a student party.

Kevin V. Schieffer commended USD president Sheila Gestring, who called for an investigation over the weekend into actions that led the law school’s Student Bar Association from changing the name of its “Hawaiian Day” social event to “Beach Day.” In a message to its members, the association said the name had been changed after it was “informed that our previous ‘Hawaiian Day’ was politically incorrect and a violation of our inclusive excellence policy.” The students were also advised not to hand out leis because the flower garlands given to tourists might be deemed “culturally incentive.”

Schieffer and other board members voted last fall to update the board’s policy on free speech, in an effort to bolster free speech rights for students on the state’s six university campuses.

“The board has made it very clear in policy that neither professors nor administrators can block or unduly interfere with free speech simply because some might find it offensive,” Schieffer said in a release Monday. “While it is important to conduct a careful investigation to ensure we understand all of the facts, it is also important to send a strong and prompt message that our freedom of expression policies will be enforced on the campuses. President Gestring has done that. We look forward to a full accounting of this case based on a record of factual findings rather than unsubstantiated reports.”

Schieffer added that the board looks forward to a report on the incident.

“We need to know that all of our institutions are effectively communicating and enforcing free speech,” he said. “Regardless of the outcome, this case presents a good opportunity to make sure that happens.”

On Saturday, Nathan Lukkes, the board’s general counsel, sent a memo to university presidents that said the board’s policy protects speech that some might find “offensive, bigoted, or otherwise distasteful.”

“The goal of our universities should not be to shield students from speech they find to be upsetting, offensive, or even emotionally disturbing,” he said.

“Our students,” he added,” should learn the importance of winning the day by persuasion, ideas, and facts, not by obstruction or censorship.”

The Hawaiian Day controversy comes as the first test of the board’s new policy on free speech, which was updated amid incidents on college campuses across the country in which academics, writers and others were denied opportunities to speak at colleges because their views were considered unwelcome.

On Wednesday, lawmakers in the South Dakota Senate defeated a bill that would have added free speech requirements for the state’s universities into state law. The bill also would have mandated intellectual diversity among faculty and staff. The Board of Regents lead efforts to kill the bill.

But following the Hawaiian Day controversy, some lawmakers were contemplating efforts to revive the bill, which had already passed in the House.

===
USD president launches investigation into law school’s ‘Hawaiian Day’ decision

Trevor Mitchell and Jonathan Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader | Published 4:39 p.m. CT March 2, 2019 | Updated 11:34 a.m. CT March 4, 2019
https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2019/03/02/university-south-dakota-investigate-law-schools-hawaiian-day-decision/3042963002/

The University of South Dakota will be investigating the actions that led to a student organization renaming an event after it was told holding a “Hawaiian Day” event violates the school’s inclusiveness policy, the university announced Saturday.

USD President Sheila Gestring initiated the investigation, which will focus on the actions of the interim administration of the University of South Dakota School of Law, according to a press release.

The school's Student Bar Association notified members Wednesday in a Facebook message that the event would be renamed “Beach Day,” but that leis would still be distributed.

The association later said that leis would no longer be handed out after "it was determined that these are culturally insensitive by the administration after doing research based off of the essay written by the initial complainant."

Michelle Cwach, the university’s director of marketing communications and university relations, earlier this week said the interim administration advised that “certain elements of the programming be changed” and that leis not be distributed after hearing concerns from another law student.

The investigation will determine whether those actions violated Board of Regents policies, specifically related to the regents’ commitment to freedom of expression.

The policy, quoted in part in the release, notes that the university has a "fundamental commitment to the principle that viewpoints may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the institution’s community to be offensive, unwise, immoral or wrong-headed."

The release says policy violations are a serious matter, and the investigation into whether a violation occurred will be "thorough and swift."

"Administrative censorship of student speech and expression is a serious matter and not something USD condones," the release said, "without compelling justification consistent with Board policy, such as a genuine threat."

===
USD law students change party theme after 'Hawaiian Day' deemed 'culturally insensitive'

Jonathan Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader | Published 6:56 p.m. CT Feb. 28, 2019 | Updated 12:17 p.m. CT March 1, 2019
https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2019/02/28/university-south-dakota-law-school-hawaiian-party-theme-nixed-usd-deemed-inappropriate/3020086002/

A student organization at the University of South Dakota has been told that holding a “Hawaiian Day” social event violates the school’s policy on inclusiveness.

As a result, the Student Bar Association of the USD School of Law changed the name of the event to “Beach Day.” In a Facebook message to its members, the group said: “We greatly apologize to those we offended; it was unintentional.”

In the same message announcing the change from Hawaiian Day to Beach Day, members were told that the dress code was the same – floral shirts – and that leis, the traditional flower garlands that are often given to tourists in Hawaii, would also be handed out. But in a second message that went out to members on Wednesday, bar members were told that leis had been nixed from the event.

“It was determined that these are culturally insensitive by the administration after doing research based off of the essay written by the initial complainant,” the message said.

“All in all,” the message continued, “please try to just enjoy the event tomorrow – no matter what side you are on. Free food is still free food!”

Michelle Cwach, the university’s director of marketing communications and university relations, said the law school’s interim administration advised the Student Bar Association not to distribute leis because using items of cultural significance might be viewed as inappropriate. However, students were not told they couldn’t wear leis.

The event started as a pre-spring-break morale booster in what has been a brutal run of cold and snow in the Upper Midwest.

But after the event was announced as Hawaiian Day, SBA leaders were approached by another law student who expressed concern about the use of indigenous cultural symbols, Cwach said in an email.

A group leader met with school administration to discuss the issue. The administration reviewed an essay submitted by the concerned student and advised that the Hawaiian Day theme be changed, Cwach said.

The decision to change the event Wednesday came on the same day that South Dakota lawmakers killed a bill that would have mandated free speech on the state’s college campuses and required the Board of Regents to promote intellectual diversity among college faculty and staffs. Paul Beran, the CEO and executive director of the board, urged lawmakers to kill the bill, which had already passed in the House. A Senate committee voted the bill down.

Last fall, the board revised its policy on free speech to in what Cwach said was a “strong commitment to the First Amendment.”

“USD has already addressed this issue with interim law school administration and the SBA to clarify its commitment to the First Amendment,” she said. “USD continues to seek new ways to educate its campus community and current and incoming leaders on its responsibility to the First Amendment.”

Janelle Toman, the spokeswoman for the Board of Regents, described the review of the Hawaii Day party as an “isolated instance.”

“There is no system-wide review of university social events by the Board of Regents, and we have no such plans to do so going forward,” she said in an email.

===

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Admissions Scandal Reaches Legislature

California lawmakers debate how to prevent another college admissions scandal

By Felicia Mello | March 19, 2019 | CALmatters

When state legislators grilled University of California staff at a hearing Tuesday about the university’s response to the recent college admissions scandal, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty asked the question that’s been reverberating since the story broke last week.

“How do we reassure the public that the system is not totally rigged?”

It’s a dilemma for lawmakers who feel pressure to respond to a nationwide cheating scheme that cuts at the heart of higher education’s legitimacy. Among the dozens of people charged by federal law enforcement with using fake test scores and athletic profiles to secure admission for wealthy students at elite colleges, one was a UCLA soccer coach and another the parent of a UC Berkeley alumnus. The scandal stung all the more given the massive demand among Californians for a UC degree.

Though Tuesday’s hearing generated strong talk of crackdowns and expulsions, there are limits to what state government can and can’t do to prevent future scandals. State officials have little ability to influence the private schools at the center of the investigation, and even within California’s public university system, key decisions about admission are made within the ivory tower, by UC faculty and staff.

But legislators do have significant control over UC’s purse strings and the governor and lieutenant governor sit on the UC Board of Regents. Here are three takeaways from the state’s response so far.

UC policy allows campuses to admit up to six percent of each entering class as “admissions by exception,” meaning they don’t meet usual standards but have a special talent such as athletics or performing arts.

Those under-the-radar admissions are the kind the FBI alleges parents exploited at UC and elite private schools, by bribing sports coaches to bring on their children as walk-on players...

Full story at https://calmatters.org/articles/california-college-admissions-scandal-uc-legislature-sat-athletes/

Below is a link to the hearing. The discussion of the admissions scandal starts at minute 18:50.

Athletic Scandal Touches UCLA - Part 9

No soccer experience, but she still got a spot on elite UCLA team in college admissions scandal

By Matthew Ormseth and Richard Winton, 3-20-19, LA Times

Lauren Isackson’s athletic credentials were dwarfed by those of her teammates. She joined the vaunted UCLA women’s soccer program in 2017 alongside members of the U.S. and Canadian national teams — elite athletes accustomed to dominating the high school and club circuits, being the best in their leagues, their states, even their entire home countries. Isackson’s biography on the UCLA roster, meanwhile, lists her as an honorable mention all-league selection in 2014 for the West Bay Athletic League in Northern California.

But even that was false, according to federal prosecutors who have implicated Isackson’s parents in a broad conspiracy to sneak the children of wealthy and powerful families into top-flight universities they may not have been qualified to attend. Fifty people were indicted last week for their alleged roles in the scheme. Coaches, university officials and dozens of parents — including Hollywood actresses, business executives and a fashion designer — are accused of working in concert to rig college entrance exams and misrepresent applicants as recruited athletes. The Isacksons allegedly made their payment in Facebook stock...

Singer, who began cooperating with the government in a bid for leniency, called Isackson’s parents in September. With the FBI listening in, he told them his charity was being audited by the Internal Revenue Service and wanted to be sure their stories dovetailed.

Bruce Isackson insisted on talking in person, telling Singer that while he “can’t imagine they’d go to the trouble of tapping my phone,” he was “so paranoid about this [expletive] thing,” according to a transcript in the affidavit. Singer met Bruce Isackson at his Hillsborough home, wearing a wire. Bruce Isackson was recorded fretting about how the operation could unravel, and the embarrassment it would spell for his family.

“If they get into the meat and potatoes” of the scheme, he allegedly said, it could be “the front page story.”

“The embarrassment to everyone in the communities,” he said. “Oh my God, it would just be -- yeah. Ugh.”

Full story at https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ucla-admissions-soccer-recruit-20190319-story.html

More Strike News

Workers strike today at UC hospitals, campuses statewide for third time in 11 months

Cathie Anderson, March 19, 2019, Sacramento Bee

Thousands of University of California workers are launching their third strike in less than a year Wednesday at 10 campuses and five medical centers statewide, saying their labor contract negotiations have stalled because UC leaders are not willing to address wage inequality and job security...

“For over a year, the University of California has continued to ignore the well-founded concerns of the workers that make this the finest research institution in the world,” said Jamie McDole, president of UPTE-CWA 9119, the union that called the 24-hour strike. “By shortchanging the frontline workers who make UC run every day, administrators are showing a profound lack of commitment to the students, patients, and taxpayers that this institution is supposed to serve.”

The University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America 9119 represents 14,000 research, technical and health care workers at UC facilities around the state. Roughly 25,000 members of the AFSCME 3299, the largest UC union, agreed to strike in sympathy with them. The two unions and the UC have been in contract negotiations for roughly two years.

Claire Doan, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said: “If UPTE and AFSCME leaders had channeled as much effort into negotiations as they do into organized theatrics, we’d have a deal by now. Three disruptive strikes in less than one year come at a cost to everyone – patients, students and UC communities – while doing nothing to help unionized workers get closer to a contract and wage increases.”

UPTE-CWA spokesperson Dan Russell said UC leaders continue to ignore their employees’ concerns over wage inequality, job insecurity and employment benefits. Wednesday’s job action drew the attention of presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the nation’s most outspoken critics of the growing gap in pay between executives and their rank-and-file employees. He will speak at a rally at UCLA...

The UPTE-CWA membership includes positions such as art therapists, case managers, audiologists, animal technicians, lab assistants, art models and pharmacists on the UC’s 10 campuses and five medical centers. AFSCME 3299 represents many low-wage workers, including admitting clerks, anesthesia technicians, MRI technologists, cooks, gardeners and security guards.

AFSCME and UPTE-CWA joined the California Nurses Association in a walkout in May. Nurses ratified a contract deal in September that gave them 15 percent wage increases over five years, and as part of that agreement, they said they would not launch sympathy strikes. Members of AFSCME 3299 voted to hit the picket line in October and UPTE-CWA joined them...

Full story at: https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/health-and-medicine/article228155304.html

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Professor-Emeritus Leonard Kleinrock on 50 Years of the Internet

First Telegram: 1844
Fifty Years of the Internet

When my team of graduate students and I sent the first message over the internet on a warm Los Angeles evening in October, 1969, little did we suspect that we were at the start of a worldwide revolution. After we typed the first two letters from our computer room at UCLA, namely, “Lo” for “Login,” the network crashed.

Hence, the first internet message was “Lo” as in “Lo and behold” – inadvertently, we had delivered a message that was succinct, powerful, and prophetic.

The ARPANET, as it was called back then, was designed by government, industry and academia so scientists and academics could access each other’s computing resources and trade large research files, saving time, money and travel costs. ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, (now called “DARPA”) awarded a contract to scientists at the private firm Bolt Beranek and Newman to implement a router, or Interface Message Processor; UCLA was chosen to be the first node in this fledgling network.

By December, 1969, there were only four nodes – UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, the University of California-Santa Barbara and the University of Utah. The network grew exponentially from its earliest days, with the number of connected host computers reaching 100 by 1977, 100,000 by 1989, a million by the early 1990’s, and a billion by 2012; it now serves more than half the planet’s population.

Along the way, we found ourselves constantly surprised by unanticipated applications that suddenly appeared and gained huge adoption across the Internet; this was the case with email, the World Wide Web, peer-to-peer file sharing, user generated content, Napster,  YouTube, Instagram, social networking, etc...

Admissions Scandal Arrives at Berkeley

UC-Berkeley named in college admissions scandal

Friday, March 15th, 2019, ABC News

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC News has learned UC-Berkeley is among the universities tied to the nationwide college admissions scandal. 

A former Canadian football player was arrested March 8 in San Jose on charges related to the scandal. David Sidoo is pleading not guilty. 

Court documents indicate Sidoo paid $200,000 for someone to take the SAT for his sons in 2011 and 2012. 

Sidoo's older son went to Chapman University in Orange County. His younger son, Jordan, went to UC Berkeley. 

The 2015 roster for Cal's men's rowing team name's Jordan Sidoo as a team member. A LinkedIn page associated with Jordan Sidoo indicates he graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in history last year and was a member of the varsity rowing team. 

The LinkedIn page also indicates Jordan Sidoo is pursuing an M.B.A. at Southern New Hampshire University, which offers online degrees. 

David Sidoo has temporarily stepped down from two companies in Vancouver, East West Petroleum and Advantage Lithium Corp. 

Thirty-three parents are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in the coast-to-cost scam to get their children into elite colleges, including Stanford, Yale, Georgetown, Wake Forest and the University of Texas. 

Source: https://abc7news.com/education/uc-berkeley-named-in-college-admissions-scandal/5196483/

UCPath is Back Again

UCLA
UCPath Implementation Project
Attention Faculty, Staff, and Student Employees,
The second scheduled UCPath system outage has ended and UCPath is back online. You are now able to access and download your pay statements, W-2s, leave balances, etc., and perform employee self-service actions such as signing up for direct deposit.
If you have any questions or need assistance, please visit UCPath and click on “Ask UCPath Center” to submit an inquiry. You can also contact the UCPathCenter, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (PT) at (855) 982-7284.
For more information, contact the Central Resource Unit (CRU):
Phone: (310) 825-1089 and select option 5, Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Visit the Central Resource Unit (CRU) website for further assistance.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Buried Lede

"Block said he supports switching from the quarter system to a semester system to reduce stress on students."


---
So we'll just redesign every course offered and every degree program offered, all at the same time. Sounds very stressful.

UCLA Strike News: Rally Will Feature Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders Is Coming to L.A. for a UC Union Rally 

By Samuel Braslow, March 14, 2019, LA Magazine

Showing solidarity with thousands of striking Los Angeles workers, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will speak at a union rally at University of California, Los Angeles, next Wednesday, according to The Daily Bruin. Sanders, a candidate in the 2020 presidential race and a former candidate in 2016, has long advocated for robust unions and protections for workers. As he polls in second place among the 2020 hopefuls, just behind the yet-to-announce Joe Biden, the appearance looks ahead to California’s earlier and more influential primary.

On Friday, the University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America 9119 (UPTE 9119), which represents 14,000 research and technical workers in the University of California, put an end to months of protracted negotiations with UC officials by announcing a strike. On the heels of the announcement, UPTE 9119 was joined in the strike by 25,000 more UC employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 (AFSCME Local 3299).

The two unions have been locked in intermittent negotiations with the university since 2017, with the two sides unable to come to a resolution over wage increases, healthcare premiums and retirement terms.

“For nearly 2 years, UC has refused to recognize the value of its workers and has instead worked to worsen income inequality,” AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said in a press release. “Thousands of UC workers represented by UPTE-CWA recognize that the University’s efforts to flatten wages, cut benefits, and eliminate middle-class career pathways are hurting families, and our members are proud to strike with them in solidarity.”

UC officials characterize the strike as reckless given the role of some of the workers in patient care.

“The University feels the way to a deal is at the bargaining table—not on the picket lines—and should not come at the expense of patients, students, the university and our communities,” Claire Doan, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said in an email statement.

Long before he rose to national prominence, Sanders legislated and advocated for robust unions and broad workers’ rights. But when the Independent and self-described  democratic socialist took the debate stage with Democrats in 2016, his candidacy (although unsuccessful) seemed to go viral, spreading with it his unapologetic embrace of a left-wing agenda.

While Sanders’ show of solidarity with UC employees makes sense on a ideological level, it also makes sense politically. With California’s primary now set much earlier in the line-up—moved from June to early March of 2020—the state plays a much more crucial role in determining the Democratic nominee.

Sanders lost the California primary in 2016 to Hillary Clinton, the eventual party standard bearer, by almost 7 points.

Sanders will speak at the event starting at noon. A location has not yet been announced.

Source: https://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/bernie-sanders-uc-union/

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Quote without comment (but with video):

The rich buying names on college buildings is ‘legal bribery,’ Gov. Gavin Newsom says

Phil Willon, March 16, 2019 | LA Times

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that the college admission scandal extends beyond the recent charges against rich parents buying entrance to elite colleges and suggested it should include the “legal bribery” of billionaires buying naming rights on university buildings.

The governor did not mention the University of California system specifically, but seemed to allude to it and other universities statewide.

His comments come just days after a slew of well-known Hollywood actors, business titans and college athletics officials were indicted as part of a widespread corruption scheme involving the admission of students to top universities using falsified test scores and athletic profiles.

“It’s a deeper issue than the bribery and holding these people to account, which they should be. It goes to the nature, again, of wealth,” Newsom told Buzzfeed on Friday. “What about the legal bribery that exists in higher education? Do you think, seriously, does anyone think someone who writes a $100-million check to a university doesn’t have a cellphone of someone who’s influential?”

As governor, Newsom sits on both the UC Board of Regents, which oversees one of the public universities in the middle of the developing scandal — UCLA. He also sits on the Board of Trustees of the California State University system.

Newsom’s comments came during an East Coast media campaign to defend his decision to impose a moratorium on the execution of California death row inmates. Newsom began Friday with an appearance on the “CBS This Morning,” followed by an appearance on ABC’s “The View” and National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”

When asked about the college admissions scandal, Newsom quickly pivoted to the systemic advantages that the rich and powerful exercise in the college admissions process, even at public universities.

“What about the folks writing the $20-million dollar check, putting their name on that building?” Newsom said during an interview on “CBS This Morning.” “Connect the dots to the folks they quietly called for admission, or wrote a letter of recommendation.”

Although the governor did not cite particular cases, there have been controversies in California involving the naming of college buildings, although not necessarily involving offspring of big donors getting special favors.

Newsom said the college admission system favors all “people of wealth and privilege,” not just those who were indicted in the current scandal. That includes influential politicians. The governor intimated that he has also been contacted to intervene in the admissions process.

“It’s true with anyone in positions with influence, and that includes politicians,” Newsom said.

The governor did not propose any new policies to address the issue, saying that “we’ve got to reflect on this in a much deeper way” before taking potential action.

Source: https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-governor-gavin-newsom-college-scandal-bribery-20190315-story.html

The guv said more or less the same thing on Buzzfeed:

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Listen to the Regents: March 12-14, 2019

Yours truly has been preserving the audio of the Regents meeting of this past week, since the Regents only "archive" them for one year. However, this is the end of the winter quarter when term papers, etc., must be graded. So, the audios can be found at the links below, but yours truly does not have time right now to go through them. There does seem to be one story that came out of the meeting, a freezing of out-of-state tuition despite a recommendation to raise such tuition by UC prez Napolitano. The rejection of the recommendation seems in part to have something to do with the burgeoning admissions scandal. See below:

UC regents revolt against $762 tuition hike for non-Californians: Opponents fear that only the rich will afford UC from outside the state.

3-14-19, Larry Gordon, EdSource

University of California regents revolted Thursday against an administration plan to raise tuition for out-of-state and international students, saying the $762 proposed hike to a $42,324 total would push out all but the wealthy.

As a result of the surprisingly strong opposition to UC president Janet Napolitano’s plan, the regents decided not to even vote on the scheduled item but instead to consider possible revisions in coming months. The proposal had been billed as a way to raise nearly $30 million in revenues to help support programs and classes for California students.

Regent Cecilia Estolano said she was against the increase because it would hurt UC efforts to enroll students from across socio-economic levels from different states and nations. “We shouldn’t just be the playground of a few very, very wealthy people from a few countries,” she said.

Regent Hadi Makarechian, who is chairman of the regents’ influential finance committee, emphasized that the sunken value of many foreign currencies against the dollar in recent years already has made a UC education out of reach for most low- or middle-income international students. The proposed $762 increase would worsen things, said Makarechian, who immigrated with his family from Iran.

Clearly frustrated by the opposition to the increase, Napolitano warned Thursday about possible spending cuts if the revenue is not replaced. “Look, a $30 million hole is a $30 million hole. It will have an impact on programs at the university,” she said. The UC president said that the ten-campus system values non-Californians but she said: “Our primary purpose is to educate the next generation of Californians.”

At the same time, faculty and students say everyone benefits by having viewpoints from outside the state in classroom discussions and that UC has a responsibility to ensure ethnic and economic diversity among the non-Californians who do enroll. And given this week’s explosive allegations about corrupt practices in college admissions, including at UCLA, regents are clearly sensitive about anything favoring the wealthy.

Napolitano said she hoped to work on revising the plan and possibly come back in May for another try.

One revision includes the possibility of raising private funds for financial assistance to help needy out-of-staters and international students, who now are barred from receiving UC-funded grants. A third of UC tuition revenues now go to grants for low- and middle-income students, who can receive federal and other state aid as well.

Regents also urged UC officials to seek extra funds from the legislature to cover the lost revenue. But that will be a tough prospect given that concern in Sacramento has focused mainly on reducing the number of non-Californians at UC and freezing tuition for state residents.

In a related issue, several regents called for changes in state rules that currently make it impossible for undocumented students who attended California high schools for less than three years to receive the state financial aid that other undocumented students get. So while those young people live in California, they are treated as if they are foreigners, ineligible for federal and state aid.

With promises of extra funding from Governor Gavin Newsom, UC officials recently announced that annual tuition for 2019-20 would not rise for state residents, staying at $12,570, not counting living costs and some campus fees.

Out-of-state students pay that basic $12,570 in tuition and system fees plus what is called “nonresident supplemental tuition.” Under Napolitan’s plan, that supplemental portion would have gone up $762, or 2.6 percent, to $29,754, with a combined $42,324 total. Last year, it increased $978.

The debate showed conflicting pressures about the issue of enrolling students from outside California.

Many California parents and legislators have reacted angrily to the rising numbers of out-of-staters at UC in the past decade, alleging that was taking spots away from in-state students.

The ranks of non-Californian undergraduates at UC skyrocketed after the recession to help fill in for state budget cuts: from about 5 percent of undergraduates to the current 18 percent of all 222,500 undergraduates in fall 2018, according to university statistics. That ranges now from about 24 percent at UCLA and UC Berkeley to less than one percent at UC Merced.

Reacting to political pressure, UC regents two years ago adopted a new policy that freezes the percentages of non-Californians at four undergraduate campuses — Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego and Irvine — while allowing growth to between 18 and 24 percent at the other five. Some legislators want those caps to be even lower.

The nearly $29 million from the higher nonresident tuition was expected to help fund classes “that are critical to students’ ability to enter and complete their majors on time,” pay for library and technology services and support financial aid to Californians, according to the plan on the regents’ agenda.

However, the UC Student Association, which represents both state residents and others, opposed the idea.

Source: https://edsource.org/2019/uc-regents-revolt-against-762-tuition-hike-for-non-californians/609839

===
Tuesday: March 12, 2019



Special Committee on Basic Needs:
https://archive.org/details/RegentsInvestments31219Edited/Regents+Special+Committee+3-12-19+edited.wma

Investments:
https://archive.org/details/RegentsInvestments31219Edited/Regents+Investments+3-12-19+edited.wma

===
Wednesday Morning, March 13, 2019



Full Board:
https://archive.org/details/0RegentsAcademicAndStudentAffairs31319am/0-Regents+Board+3-13-19am.wma

Academic and Student Affairs:
https://archive.org/details/0RegentsAcademicAndStudentAffairs31319am/0-Regents+Academic+and+Student+Affairs+3-13-19am.wma

Finance and Capital Strategies:
https://archive.org/details/0RegentsAcademicAndStudentAffairs31319am/0-Regents+Finance+and+Capital+Strategies+3-13-19am.wma

===
Wednesday Afternoon: March 13, 2019



Governance:
https://archive.org/details/0RegentsGovernanceCommittee31319pmEdit/0-Regents+Governance+Committee+3-13-19pm+edit.wma

Compliance and Audit:
https://archive.org/details/0RegentsGovernanceCommittee31319pmEdit/0-Regents-Compliance+and+Audit+3-13-19pm+edit.wma

===
Thursday, March 14, 2019



Full Board:
https://archive.org/details/regents-3-14-2019edit
===

Athletic Scandal Touches UCLA - Part 8

If you are legally minded, and would like to read the lawsuit on admissions that includes UCLA as a defendant, you can find it below:

Friday, March 15, 2019

Still More CRISPR

Patent Office: 1924
University of California and Partners Awarded Third U.S. CRISPR-Cas9 Patent

March 12, 2019, GenEngNews

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted a new CRISPR-Cas9 patent covering the use of one or multiple single guide RNAs in any cell type to the regents of the University of California (UC), the University of Vienna, and CRISPR pioneer Emmanuelle Charpentier, PhD, director and scientific member at the Max Planck Institute of Infection Biology, Berlin, UC said today.

U.S. Patent Number 10,227,611, “Methods and compositions for RNA-directed target DNA modification and for RNA-directed modulation of transcription,” covers the use of single molecule RNA guides and Cas9 protein in any cell, with the aim of creating efficient and effective ways for scientists to target and edit genes.

Charpentier is listed as an inventor on the patent, along with CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna, PhD, of UC Berkeley; Martin Jinek, PhD, of University of Zurich, a onetime postdoctoral student of Doudna; and Krzysztof Chylinski, PhD, of University of Vienna, a onetime postdoctoral student of Charpentier.

The patent covers claims that provide:

  • A DNA-targeting RNA that comprises a targeting sequence and, together with a modifying polypeptide, provides for site-specific modification of a target DNA and/or a polypeptide associated with the target DNA.
  • Site-specific modifying polypeptides.
  • Methods of site-specific modification of a target DNA and/or a polypeptide associated with the target DNA.
  • Methods of modulating transcription of a target nucleic acid in a target cell, generally involving contacting the target nucleic acid with an enzymatically inactive Cas9 polypeptide and a DNA-targeting RNA.

The newly-granted patent was not at issue in the interference proceeding before the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) focused on invention of the gene-editing technology. Citing a pending patent application, the Doudna-Charpentier-UC inventor team challenged 12 patents related to CRISPR technology that listed as inventor Feng Zhang, PhD, of The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

The May 25, 2012 priority application broadly encompassed CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing technology invented by the Doudna-Charpentier team and its applications in any setting, UC said, including in vitro, and cellular and non-cellular environments, as well as single molecule RNA guides, among other inventions. The Broad’s patents focused on the use of CRISPR for genome editing in eukaryotic cells, such as those in plants and higher animals.

The Doudna-Charpentier team contended that the application of CRISPR to eukaryotic systems covered by the Broad’s patents represented an obvious rather than an inventive invention, and was thus nonpatentable.

The Broad defended its patent and withstood the challenge. A three-judge panel of the PTAB in 2017 unanimously found there was “no interference in fact” between the Broad’s CRISPR-Cas9 patents and the application filed by the Doudna-Charpentier inventor group. In September 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the PTAB three-judge panel’s decision, also siding with The Broad.

Third patent issued; Fourth expected

The new patent is the third to be issued to the Doudna-Charpentier inventor team; the other two are U.S. Patents No. 10,000,772 and No. 10,113,167.

Patent No. 10,000,772, which was issued in June 2018, covers methods of using optimized guide RNA formats (including single-guide and dual-guide formats) in certain environments, including eukaryotic cells (such as human, animal, and plant cells). The optimized formats modify the part of a guide RNA that interacts with the CRISPR-Cas9 nuclease.

Patent No. 10,113,167, issued October 30, 2018, covers “Methods and compositions for RNA-directed target DNA modification and for RNA-directed modulation of transcription.”

In its announcement today, UC also stated that the USPTO is expected to issue the group a fourth patent “in the next several weeks” based on U.S. Patent Application No. 13/842,859, “Methods and compositions for RNA-directed target DNA modification and for RNA-directed modulation of transcription.” That application covers methods and systems for modifying a target DNA molecule in any setting, including in any cell type as well as in vitro, using one or multiple single guide RNAs.

Together, all four patents would cover CRISPR-Cas9 compositions and methods useful to locate and edit genes in any setting, including within plant, animal, and human cells, UC said.

In addition to the U.S. patents, the Doudna-Charpentier team has been issued patents for the use of CRISPR-Cas9 for gene editing in all types of cells being issued by the European Patent Office, representing more than 30 countries—as well as patent offices in the United Kingdom, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and other countries.

“The Doudna-Charpentier team’s invention is changing the future of our world for the better,” Edward Penhoet, PhD, special advisor to UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ, PhD, and special assistant to UC President Janet Napolitano, JD, said in a statement. “We are pleased that the USPTO has recognized the unique importance of each of the CRISPR innovations that have been pioneered here at the University of California with its collaborators.”

Both The Broad and UC have said they have worked to ensure wide availability of CRISPR tools. The Broad has noted that it licenses CRISPR IP nonexclusively to companies to use in their own commercial research; and makes CRISPR tools, knowledge, methods, and other IP for genome editing freely available to the academic and nonprofit community.

In 2014, The Broad developed the Inclusive Innovation Model, in which Broad, Harvard, and MIT licensed their CRISPR technology to a primary licensee, Editas Medicine. Editas has an exclusive right to use the technology on targets of its choosing for the development of genomic medicines. However, after an initial period, other companies may apply to license certain CRISPR IP for use against genes of interest not being pursued by Editas.

UC noted today that it has encouraged widespread commercialization of its technology through its exclusive license with Caribou Biosciences. Caribou has sublicensed the UC’s patent family to numerous companies worldwide, including Intellia Therapeutics for certain human therapeutic applications. Additionally, Charpentier has licensed the technology to CRISPR Therapeutics and ERS Genomics.

ERS’ exclusive worldwide license from Charpentier is for foundational intellectual property covering CRISPR-Cas9 for all applications other than use as a human therapeutic. ERS’ foundational IP covers broad and dominant claims covering CRISPR/Cas9 compositions and methods of genome editing in any organism.

“We are pleased that the seminal contribution of Charpentier and her colleagues to CRISPR/Cas9 technology continues to be recognized by patent offices in the United States and around the world,” Eric Rhodes, CEO of ERS Genomics, said in a separate statement issued today by his company.

Source: https://www.genengnews.com/news/university-of-california-and-partners-awarded-third-u-s-crispr-cas9-patent/

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Athletic Scandal Touches UCLA - Part 7

Statements from UCLA and UCLA Athletics regarding Department of Justice investigation

UCLA Newsroom | Update posted March 13, 2019:

UCLA is reviewing the allegations in the Department of Justice’s filings yesterday as they relate to admissions decisions. 

We take the integrity of our admission process and the authenticity of the application data we consider very seriously. All students applying to a UC campus must sign a statement certifying the validity and accuracy of all information related to their application. That requirement is also summarized in UC’s Statement of Application Integrity: https://admissions.universityofcalifornia.edu/docs/StatementOfIntegrity.pdf.

If UCLA discovers that any prospective, admitted or enrolled student has misrepresented any aspect of his/her application, or that information about the applicant has been withheld, UCLA may take a number of disciplinary actions, up to and including cancellation of admission.

Source: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/joint-statement-from-ucla-and-ucla-athletics

Athletic Scandal Touches UCLA - Part 6

Two Stanford University students on Wednesday filed a federal class-action lawsuit against eight colleges ensnared in the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted, alleging that the rigged system denied them a fair chance to matriculate at the elite institutions and could tarnish their degrees.
Stanford, USC, UCLA, the University of San Diego, the University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University, Yale University and Georgetown University are named in the lawsuit, which seeks damages for any student who applied to one or more of the universities and was rejected between 2012 and last year...

Another Admissions Scandal Touches UCLA

Five California residents arrested in cheating scheme to obtain student visas for Chinese nationals

Brittny Mejia 3-12-19 LA Times
 
The scheme, which began in 2011, centered around the owner of a for-profit Newport Beach college admissions company that wealthy parents paid to help their children cheat on college entrance exams and to falsify athletic records of students to enable them to secure admission to elite schools.

Federal authorities arrested five California residents on Tuesday, accusing them of helping Chinese nationals obtain student visas by taking their English proficiency tests for them.

Authorities allege the scheme was facilitated by 23-year-old Liu Cai, who entered the U.S. on a student visa to attend UCLA.

There were over 40 students, “who took advantage of this scheme,” and who were able to attend top-ranked colleges, including UCLA, Columbia University and New York University, according to Homeland Security Investigations special agent Christopher Kuemmerle.

“We have so many students that are honest, that work hard to get into the university of their dreams and yet that spot might be taken by someone who cheats,” said Kuemmerle, who supervises the multi-agency Los Angeles Document and Benefit Fraud task force, which investigated this case.

The five arrests were among many that took place on Tuesday, as federal prosecutors also accused top chief executives, two Hollywood actresses and a legendary fashion designer of taking part in a separate, audacious scheme to get their children into elite universities through fraud, bribes and lies. Fifty people, across academia and college sports as well as a cadre of super-wealthy parents, have been charged in what prosecutors say is the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted.

In the student visa case, a 26-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury last week charges Cai, Quang Cao, Elric Zhang, Mohan Zhang and Samantha Wang with conspiring to use false passports, using false passports and aggravated identity theft as part of the scheme to impersonate Chinese nationals in order to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language exam.

To obtain a student visa, foreign citizens have to apply to study at a school authorized by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. Many of those schools require foreign citizens whose first language is not English to certify proficiency in the language by getting a particular score on the TOEFL exam.

Cai is alleged to have paid for and registered 14 Chinese nationals, referred to only by their initials, for the exam over a one-year period in 2015 and 2016, according to the indictment. Cai, Cao, Elric Zhang, Mohan Zhang and Wang are alleged to have impersonated those citizens by using false, forged and counterfeited People’s Republic of China passports.

The passports were in the names of the foreign citizens, but bore the defendants’ photographs. The indictment alleges that Cao, of San Francisco, took at least four of the exams, Elric Zhang, of Los Angeles, took at least five, and Mohan Zhang, of Cerritos, and Wang, of Corona, took at least two each.

The sixth defendant — Tuan Tran, 33, who is alleged to have taken at least one TOEFL exam with a false identification document — is believed to be living in Taiwan. After the tests, Cai paid three co-defendants about $400 per test from his PayPal and Venmo accounts, authorities said.

“The imposter test takers were generally U.S. citizens of Chinese descent that spoke English well and that could breeze through the exam,” Kuemmerle said. “A lot of these associations were made at Chinese American social organizations.”

Based on fraudulent TOEFL exams, students were able to “cheat their way” into universities across the country, including UC Irvine, UC Riverside, Arizona State University and the University of Alabama, Kuemmerle said. However, a number of them were not able to successfully graduate.

“Some of them weren’t able to cut the muster, because that old adage, ‘If you’re cheating, you’re really cheating yourself,’” Kuemmerle said. “If they can’t match the language, they might not have the aptitude to do well in an American university.”

Last year, as UC Santa Barbara enrolled more students from China, professors complained about a lack of English skills. In the last decade, the University of California’s enrollment of international students has more than tripled. Chinese students’ campus presence has grown more than eightfold.

Faculty said they had pressed in recent years for international students to be better screened for English-language skills, concerned that a troubling number of Chinese undergraduates lacked college-level abilities in the language, even though admissions standards generally mandate that foreign students score at "intermediate" levels on the TOEFL exam.

Kuemmerle called Tuesday’s arrests the “first phase of the investigation.”

“At some point, we may make a decision to discuss directly with the schools certain individuals who we know cheated on the exam,” he said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Fraud Detection National Security Section are investigating the case.

The conspiracy count in the indictment carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. The charge of using a false passport carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory consecutive two-year sentence.

“Hopefully this will deter others from even thinking about taking an examination on behalf of somebody who is trying to get into one of these schools from overseas,” Kuemmerle said. “We want to reserve those spots for honest, hard-working applicants who does his or her own test and doesn’t cheat the system.”

Source: https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-chinese-visa-fraud-20190312-story.html

Athletic Scandal Touches UCLA - Part 5

Statement from UC President Napolitano on college admissions investigation

UC President Janet Napolitano issued the following statement today (March 13):

I was deeply troubled and disappointed to learn of the charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against several dozen individuals accused of cheating and accepting bribes to gain students’ unlawful admission to top universities, including the University of California.

The allegations associated with UC, if proven true, are a disservice to the hardworking and accomplished students and alumni who have earned their place at the university and continue to make us proud.

Illegal, inappropriate and unethical means to gain admission, at the expense of deserving applicants, is antithetical to every aspect of our mission and values.  As a public institution — one of the most highly regarded in the world — we are dedicated to ensuring a level playing field for every applicant.

We will take swift and appropriate disciplinary actions to address misconduct once we have all the facts. In the meantime, we:

  • Are investigating any individual affiliated with UC who has been implicated thus far;
  • Initiated a critical review of our admissions policies to look for weaknesses and vulnerabilities;
  • Reached out to The College Board to learn more about its assessment of recent developments and any potential changes regarding the administration of SAT and ACT tests to ensure the integrity of students’ scores;
  • Requested the latest available information from the U.S. Attorney offices in California to guide our future proactive action; and
  • Are collaborating with local and federal authorities in this matter to unearth the full breadth and scope of this problem.

It is unfortunate that the unethical behavior of a few individuals colors UC’s unwavering commitment to fairness and equity. The university will seize this moment as a valuable opportunity to improve its policies and practices, while continuing to be transparent, accountable and expeditious, as this is our fundamental obligation to our students – prospective, current and alumni – as well as the public. We will uncover the full truth and make things right.

Source: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/statement-uc-college-admissions-investigation