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Monday, December 30, 2019

The Passing of the Year - Robert Service - Read by Jean Shepherd

We'll start our countdown to the New Year a bit early:

or direct to:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuhqvxbJc4o

Telescope/TMT - Part 2

As promised, TMT protesters move tent blocking Mauna Kea Access Road

By Mahealani Richardson | December 27, 2019 at 7:11 PM HST - Updated December 28 at 8:14 AM, HawaiiNewsNow

Friday was moving day at Mauna Kea. Hawaii County trucks brought in heavy equipment. Workers rolled out black ground covering over an old lava road and used gravel material to create a smoother surface for the activists’ kupuna tent. The tent has been blocking Mauna Kea Access Road since mid-July and was the site of 38 arrests. But activists agreed to move the tent to the side of the Mauna Kea Access Road after Mayor Harry Kim made assurances that the Thirty Meter Telescope would not build at least until the end of February. "Today is really a day of an example of of how we work together," said Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, TMT opponent and kupuna spokesperson.

"When we do eventually leave this place, they (the county) will lift all of this material up and lift the filler up as well and everything will be returned to its former beauty," she added.

Despite the kupuna tent moving to the side of the road, protesters insist they won't leave until TMT leaves. Kim says after the Governor removed state law enforcement and told him it was the county’s responsibility to clear the blocked roadway, Kim felt the county and its police would be outnumbered by protesters. “I thought at this time it would not be impractical but almost very very difficult mission that would involve using physical force because I don’t have the manpower to assign two or three guys to carry each one off,” he said.

Kim said both Hawaiian Homes and DOT agreed to the move. "One of the things was to legally find a site where they could legally demonstrate within their rights," he said. Critics have their doubts about the developments. "If Mayor Kim feels Hawaii County needs help in dealing with this then he should say so," said State Rep. Scott Saiki, a TMT supporter. "I'm not really sure what the deal accomplishes because all it does is temporarily push these questions aside for a couple of months until February so really nothing has been resolved," said Saiki. The access road is expected to reopen Saturday to coincide with the reopening of the visitors center.

Source: https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/2019/12/28/moving-day-mauna-kea-after-temporary-truce-announced/

Sunday, December 29, 2019

By George! (Orwell)

Note: There is no indication in the item below from the Washington Post that UCLA is among the universities using the technology described. However, the more university administrators are being held accountable for student behavior, whether for sexual behavior or otherwise, the more the temptation to use whatever tools are around to do it. At about the same time that the Post piece appeared, the NY Times was running a series of articles on use of cellphone data to track movements of individuals ranging from President Trump to ordinary folks. (The Times acquired a large data set of phone info and used it for tracking.)

Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands

By Drew Harwell, Dec. 24, 2019, Washington Post

When Syracuse University freshmen walk into professor Jeff Rubin’s Introduction to Information Technologies class, seven small Bluetooth beacons hidden around the Grant Auditorium lecture hall connect with an app on their smartphones and boost their “attendance points.” And when they skip class? The SpotterEDU app sees that, too, logging their absence into a campus database that tracks them over time and can sink their grade. It also alerts Rubin, who later contacts students to ask where they’ve been. His 340-person lecture has never been so full. “They want those points,” he said. “They know I’m watching and acting on it. So, behaviorally, they change.” Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks are empowering colleges across the United States to track hundreds of thousands of students more precisely than ever before. Dozens of schools now use such technology to monitor students’ academic performance, analyze their conduct or assess their mental health.

But some professors and education advocates argue that the systems represent a new low in intrusive technology, breaching students’ privacy on a massive scale. The tracking systems, they worry, will infantilize students in the very place where they’re expected to grow into adults, further training them to see surveillance as a normal part of living, whether they like it or not. “We’re adults. Do we really need to be tracked?” said Robby Pfeifer, a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, which recently began logging the attendance of students connected to the campus’ WiFi network. “Why is this necessary? How does this benefit us? … And is it just going to keep progressing until we’re micromanaged every second of the day?”

This style of surveillance has become just another fact of life for many Americans. A flood of cameras, sensors and microphones, wired to an online backbone, now can measure people’s activity and whereabouts with striking precision, reducing the mess of everyday living into trend lines that companies promise to help optimize. Americans say in surveys they accept the technology’s encroachment because it often feels like something else: a trade-off of future worries for the immediacy of convenience, comfort and ease. If a tracking system can make students be better, one college adviser said, isn’t that a good thing?

But the perils of increasingly intimate supervision — and the subtle way it can mold how people act — have also led some to worry whether anyone will truly know when all this surveillance has gone too far. “Graduates will be well prepared … to embrace 24/7 government tracking and social credit systems,” one commenter on the Slashdot message board said. “Building technology was a lot more fun before it went all 1984.” Instead of GPS coordinates, the schools rely on networks of Bluetooth transmitters and wireless access points to piece together students’ movements from dorm to desk. One company that uses school WiFi networks to monitor movements says it gathers 6,000 location data points per student every day.

School and company officials call location monitoring a powerful booster for student success: If they know more about where students are going, they argue, they can intervene before problems arise. But some schools go even further, using systems that calculate personalized “risk scores” based on factors such as whether the student is going to the library enough. The dream of some administrators is a university where every student is a model student, adhering to disciplined patterns of behavior that are intimately quantified, surveilled and analyzed. But some educators say this move toward heightened educational vigilance threatens to undermine students’ independence and prevents them from pursuing interests beyond the classroom because they feel they might be watched.

“These administrators have made a justification for surveilling a student population because it serves their interests, in terms of the scholarships that come out of their budget, the reputation of their programs, the statistics for the school,” said Kyle M. L. Jones, an Indiana University assistant professor who researches student privacy. “What’s to say that the institution doesn’t change their eye of surveillance and start focusing on minority populations, or anyone else?” he added. Students “should have all the rights, responsibilities and privileges that an adult has. So why do we treat them so differently?”

Students disagree on whether the campus-tracking systems are a breach of privacy, and some argue they have nothing to hide. But one feeling is almost universally shared, according to interviews with more than a dozen students and faculty members: that the technology is becoming ubiquitous, and that the people being monitored — their peers, and themselves — can’t really do anything about it.

“It embodies a very cynical view of education — that it’s something we need to enforce on students, almost against their will,” said Erin Rose Glass, a digital scholarship librarian at the University of California San Diego. “We’re reinforcing this sense of powerlessness … when we could be asking harder questions, like: Why are we creating institutions where students don’t want to show up?”

SpotterEDU chief Rick Carter, a former college basketball coach, said he founded the app in 2015 as a way to watch over student athletes: Many schools already pay “class checkers” to make sure athletes remain eligible to play. The company now works with nearly 40 schools, he said, including such universities as Auburn, Central Florida, Columbia, Indiana and Missouri, as well as several smaller colleges and a public high school. More than 1.5 million student check-ins have been logged this year nationwide, including in graduate seminars and chapel services.

SpotterEDU uses Bluetooth beacons roughly the size of a deck of cards to signal to a student’s smartphone once a student steps within range. Installers stick them on walls and ceilings — the less visible, Carter said, the better. He declined to allow The Washington Post to photograph beacons in classrooms, saying “currently students do not know what they look like.” School officials give SpotterEDU the students’ full schedules, and the system can email a professor or adviser automatically if a student skips class or walks in more than two minutes late. The app records a full timeline of the students’ presence so advisers can see whether they left early or stepped out for a break.

“Students today have so many distractions,” said Tami Chievous, an associate athletic director at the University of Missouri, where advisers text some freshmen athletes if they don’t show up within five minutes of class. “We have to make sure they’re doing the right thing.” 

The Chicago-based company has experimented with ways to make the surveillance fun, gamifying students’ schedules with colorful Bitmoji or digital multiday streaks. But the real value may be for school officials, who Carter said can split students into groups, such as “students of color” or “out-of-state students,” for further review. When asked why an official would want to segregate out data on students of color, Carter said many colleges already do so, looking for patterns in academic retention and performance, adding that it “can provide important data for retention. Even the first few months of recorded data on class attendance and performance can help predict how likely a group of students is to” stay enrolled.

Students’ attendance and tardiness are scored into a point system that some professors use for grading, Carter said, and schools can use the data to “take action” against truant students, such as grabbing back scholarship funds. The system’s national rollout could be made more complicated by Carter’s history. He agreed earlier this year to stay more than 2,500 feet from the athletic offices of DePaul University, where he was the associate head basketball coach from 2015 to 2017, following an order of protection filed against him and allegations that he had threatened the school’s athletic director and head basketball coach. The order, Carter said, is related to NCAA violations at the program during his time there and has nothing to do with SpotterEDU.

Rubin, the Syracuse professor, said once-thin classes now boast more than 90 percent attendance. But the tracking has not been without its pitfalls: Earlier versions of the app, he said, included a button allowing students to instantly share their exact GPS coordinates, leading some to inadvertently send him their location while out at night. The feature has since been removed.

For even more data, schools can turn to the Austin-based start-up Degree Analytics, which uses WiFi check-ins to track the movements of roughly 200,000 students across 19 state universities, private colleges and other schools. Launched by the data scientist Aaron Benz in 2017, the company says in promotional materials that every student can graduate with “a proper environment and perhaps a few nudges along the way.” Benz tells school administrators that his system can solve “a real lack of understanding about the student experience”: By analyzing campus WiFi data, he said, 98 percent of their students can be measured and analyzed.

But the company also claims to see much more than just attendance. By logging the time a student spends in different parts of the campus, Benz said, his team has found a way to identify signs of personal anguish: A student avoiding the cafeteria might suffer from food insecurity or an eating disorder; a student skipping class might be grievously depressed. The data isn’t conclusive, Benz said, but it can “shine a light on where people can investigate, so students don’t slip through the cracks.” 

To help find these students, he said, his team designed algorithms to look for patterns in a student’s “behavioral state” and automatically flag when their habits change. He calls it scaffolding — a temporary support used to build up a student, removed when they can stand on their own. At a Silicon Valley summit in April, Benz outlined a recent real-life case: that of Student ID 106033, a depressed and “extremely isolated” student he called Sasha whom the system had flagged as “highly at-risk” because she only left her dorm to eat. “At every school, there are lots of Sashas,” he said. “And the bigger you are, the more Sashas that you have.”

A classifier algorithm divides the student body into peer groups — “full-time freshmen,” say, or “commuter students” — and the system then compares each student to “normal” behavior, as defined by their peers. It also generates a “risk score” for students based around factors such as how much time they spent in community centers or at the gym. The students who deviate from those day-to-day campus rhythms are flagged for anomalies, and the company then alerts school officials in case they want to pursue real-world intervention. (In Sasha’s case, Benz said, the university sent an adviser to knock on her door.)

Some administrators love the avalanche of data these kinds of WiFi-based systems bring. “Forget that old ominous line, ‘We know where you live.’ These days, it’s, ‘We know where you are,’ ” Purdue University president Mitch Daniels wrote last year about his school’s location-tracking software. “Isn’t technology wonderful?” But technical experts said they doubted the advertised capabilities of such systems, which are mostly untested and unproven in their abilities to pinpoint student harm. Some students said most of their classmates also didn’t realize how much data was being gathered on their movements. They worried about anyone knowing intimate details of their daily walking patterns and whereabouts.

Several students said they didn’t mind a system designed to keep them honest. But one of them, a freshman athlete at Temple University who asked to speak anonymously to avoid team punishment, said the SpotterEDU app has become a nightmare, marking him absent when he’s sitting in class and marking him late when he’s on time. He said he squandered several of his early lectures trying to convince the app he was present, toggling his settings in desperation as professors needled him to put the phone away. He then had to defend himself to campus staff members, who believed the data more than him.

His teammates, he said, have suffered through their own technical headaches, but they’ve all been told they’ll get in trouble if they delete the app from their phones. “We can face repercussions with our coaches and academic advisers if we don’t show 100 percent attendance,” he said. But “it takes away from my learning because I’m literally freaking out, tapping everything to try to get it to work.” Campus staff, Carter said, can override data errors on a case-by-case basis, and Rubin said a teaching assistant works with students after class to triage glitches and correct points. SpotterEDU’s terms of use say its data is not guaranteed to be “accurate, complete, correct, adequate, useful, timely, reliable or otherwise.”

Carter said he doesn’t like to say the students are being “tracked,” because of its potentially negative connotations; he prefers the term “monitored” instead. “It’s about building that relationship,” he said, so students “know you care about them.” But college leaders have framed the technology in exactly those terms. In emails this year between officials at the University of North Carolina, made available through public-records requests, a senior associate athletic director said SpotterEDU would “improve our ability to track more team members, in more places, more accurately.”

The emails also revealed the challenge for a college attempting to roll out student-tracking systems en masse. In August, near the start of the fall semester, nearly 150 SpotterEDU beacons were installed in a blitz across the UNC campus, from Chapman Hall to the Woollen Gym. The launch was so sudden that some students were alarmed to see an unknown man enter their classroom, stick a small device near their desks, and walk away. The student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, reported on “an individual” entering class to install a “tracking device” and filed for school records related to the SpotterEDU contract.

Unclear what was happening, the dean of UNC’s journalism school, Susan King, had someone yank a beacon off the wall after learning of a commotion spreading on Facebook. She told The Post she faulted “stupidity and a lack of communication” for the panic. Carter said the frenzy was due to the school’s need for a quick turnaround and that most installations happen when students aren’t in class. (In an email to UNC staff, Carter later apologized for the mass installation’s “confusion and chaos.”) A UNC spokeswoman declined to make anyone available for an interview, saying only in a statement that the university was evaluating “streamlined attendance tracking” for a “small group of student-athletes.”

But campuswide monitoring appears to be on its way, the emails show. The school is planning to shift to a check-in system designed by a UNC professor, and an IT director said in an email that the school could install beacons across all general-purpose classrooms in time for the spring semester. “Since students have to download the app, that is considered notification and opting-in,” one UNC official wrote. Chris Gilliard, a professor at Macomb Community College in Michigan who testified before Congress last month on privacy and digital rights, said he worries about the expanding reach of “surveillance creep”: If these systems work so well in college, administrators might argue, why not high school or anywhere else?

The systems, he added, are isolating for students who don’t own smartphones, coercive for students who do and unnecessary for professors, who can accomplish the task with the same pop quizzes and random checks they’ve used for decades. “You’re forcing students into a position,” he said: “Be tracked or be left out.”

Some parents, however, wish their children faced even closer supervision. Wes Grandstaff, who said his son, Austin, transformed from a struggling student to college graduate with SpotterEDU’s help, said the added surveillance was worth it: “When you’re a college athlete, they basically own you, so it didn’t matter what he felt: You’re going to get watched and babysat whether you like it or not.” He now says he wishes schools would share the data with parents, too. “I just cut you a $30,000 check,” he said, “and I can’t find out if my kid’s going to class or not?”

Students using Degree Analytics’ WiFi system can opt-out by clicking “no” on a window that asks whether they want to help “support student success, operations and security.” But Benz, the company’s chief, said very few do. That is, until last month at VCU, which recently launched a pilot program to monitor a set of courses required of all freshmen. Students said they were frustrated to first learn of the system in a short email about a “new attendance tool” and were given only two weeks before the opt-out deadline passed. Students quickly scattered the opt-out link across social media, and the independent student newspaper, the Commonwealth Times, sowed doubts about the program’s secrecy and stated mission, writing, “Student success my ass.” The university declined to make an official available for an interview. 

One student who opted out, VCU senior Jacie Dannhardt, said she was furious that the college had launched first-year students into a tracking program none of them had ever heard of. “We’re all still adults. Have a basic respect for our privacy,” she said. “We don’t need hall passes anymore.” The opt-out rate at VCU, Benz said, climbed to roughly half of all eligible students. But he blamed the exodus on misunderstanding and a “reactionary ‘cancel culture’ thing.” “We could have done a much better job communicating, and the great majority of those students who could opt out probably wouldn’t have,” he said.

Joanna Grama, an information-security consultant and higher-education specialist who has advised the Department of Homeland Security on data privacy, said she doubted most students knew they were signing up for long-term monitoring when they clicked to connect to the campus WiFi. She said she worries about school-performance data being used as part of a “cradle-to-grave profile” trailing students as they graduate and pursue their careers. She also questions how all this digital nudging can affect students’ daily lives.

“At what point in time do we start crippling a whole generation of adults, human beings, who have been so tracked and told what to do all the time that they don’t know how to fend for themselves?” she said. “Is that cruel? Or is that kind?”

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/12/24/colleges-are-turning-students-phones-into-surveillance-machines-tracking-locations-hundreds-thousands/

Saturday, December 28, 2019

UCLA Homeless Study

UCLA Study Suggests Algorithm Can Prevent Homelessness: Nearly half of instances of homelessness predicted in study

By Sam Catanzaro, Santa Monica Mirror, 12-24-19

Researchers at UCLA recently were able to accurately predict nearly half of instances in which subjects in a study became homeless using predictive analytics and now county lawmakers may use Measure H funds to launch a data-driven homelessness prevention unit.

With data from seven Los Angeles County agencies on services provided to residents between 2012 and 2016 — names and personally identifiable information were omitted — researchers from the California Policy Lab at UCLA and the Poverty Lab at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy developed a model to predict which 3,000 residents were most likely to become homeless in 2017. When compared against county records, they found that 46 percent of the individuals predicted by the model to be at risk for first-time homelessness or a repeat period of homelessness did experience homelessness at some point in 2017.

“Bringing together data from multiple county agencies gave us a more nuanced understanding about what’s happening to people right before they slip into homeless and how services can be better targeted to prevent that from happening,” said Till von Wachter, a UCLA economics professor and co-author of the report.  

According to researchers, effectively serving the 1 percent of County residents who are at greatest risk of a new homeless spell would prevent nearly 6,900 homeless spells in one year saying the highest risk individuals are interacting with multiple agencies.

Based on this research, a county led-plan was submitted to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on December 16 that recommends that the county use predictive models to intervene with adults who are identified as having a high risk for homelessness before becoming reaching a crisis point.

The plan, which is expected to receive $3 million in funding during 2020 from Measure H, also proposes a multidisciplinary homelessness prevention unit with representatives of the county’s departments of mental health, health services and social services and the sheriff and probation offices. The unit would take referrals from the risks lists generated by the predictive models, identify which services would be most beneficial and then reach out to individuals to connect them to those services.

In September, a scathing report was released showing the agency tasked with tackling homelessness in Los Angeles County failed to meet many of its goals despite the fact that the number of outreach workers doubled between 2017-2019. Therefore officials are hoping a more data-driven approach will lead to more effective results

“Last year, despite providing housing to tens of thousands of people, we saw more and more individuals and families becoming homeless,” said Phil Ansell, the director of the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative. “The county is focused on using strategic approaches to preventing homelessness, and these groundbreaking models will make it possible to reach those who need us the most before they reach the crisis point and fall into homelessness.”

Source: https://smmirror.com/2019/12/ucla-study-suggests-algorithm-can-prevent-homelessness/

Friday, December 27, 2019

Free Speech in Two Journals

Yours truly - during this quiet period when UCLA is closed - has been catching up on recent developments. Among them was a new online journal sponsored by the free speech center of UC (officially the "UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement"). I found the reference in the email newsletter UCOP Daily News Clips of Dec. 20.

The first edition of the journal deals with controversies and court cases with regard to "bias response teams" at various universities. It might be noted that any UC incidents and cases with regard to such matters are not included. (Have there been none?) There is also an article by the center's co-chair, Erwin Chermerinsky, commenting on the subject (but again without any references to issues at UC). You can find the new journal from the center at:
https://mailchi.mp/be6468738298/speech-spotlight-bias-response-teams

However, a test of sorts of academic free speech at UC appeared in the same issue of UCOP Daily News Clips where I came across the reference to the new journal. There was an op ed reproduced there dealing with - and highly critical of -  the "diversity statements" that UC now requires for academic personnel decisions. The op ed was written by the chair of the math dept., at UC-Davis and compares the statements to the loyalty oaths required of UC faculty in the early 1950s. It appeared originally, not in the center's journal above, but in the Wall St. Journal. Text below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1BGV6QU0iEuHqczkCx35eBwuENJSzmaEU/view

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Telescope/TMT

Will the United States Lose the Universe? For more than a century, American astronomers have held bragging rights as observers of the cosmos. But that dominance may soon slip away.

Dennis Overbye, Dec. 23, 2019, NY Times

The United States is about to lose the universe. It wouldn’t be quite the same as, say, losing China to communism in the 1940s. No hostile ideologies or forces are involved. But much is at stake: American intellectual, technical and economic might, cultural pedigree and the cosmic bragging rights that have been our nation’s for the last century.

In 1917, the 100-inch Hooker telescope went into operation on Mount Wilson in California, and Edwin Hubble eventually used it to discover that the universe is expanding. Until very recently, the mightiest telescopes on Earth have been on American mountaintops like Palomar, Kitt Peak and Mauna Kea. They revealed the Big Bang, black holes and quasars.

But no more. In 2025 the European Southern Observatory, a multinational treaty organization akin to CERN but looking outward instead of inward, will invite the first light into a telescope that will dwarf all others. The European Extremely Large Telescope on Cerro Paranal in Chile will have a primary light-gathering mirror 39 meters in diameter, making it 13 times more powerful than any telescope now working and more sharp-eyed than the iconic Hubble Space Telescope.

The European goliath will be able to see the glow of planets orbiting other stars and peer into the black hearts of faraway galaxies. Who knows what else it might bring into view.

There are two American-led telescope projects that could compete with the European giant, if they are ever built: the Thirty Meter Telescope, slated for construction on Mauna Kea, in Hawaii, and the Giant Magellan on Cerro Las Campanas, in Chile. But both are mired in financial difficulties and political controversies, and their completion, if it happens, is at least a decade away.

Work on the Thirty Meter Telescope, or T.M.T., has been stalled for years by a protest movement arguing that decades of telescope building on Mauna Kea have polluted and desecrated a mountain that is sacred to Polynesian culture, and have violated the rights of native Hawaiians. The team behind the project has vowed to move it to the Canary Islands if it can’t go forward in Hawaii.

Both projects are hundreds of millions of dollars short of the financing they need to build their telescopes. Without them, American astronomers, accustomed to V.I.P. seating in observations of the universe, could be largely consigned to the cosmic bleachers in years to come. Early next year, probably in late February, representatives of the two telescope projects will appear before a blue-ribbon panel of the National Academy of Sciences to plead for help.

The panel is part of the so-called Decadal Survey, in which the astronomy community ranks its priorities for spending federal money. Congress and agencies like the National Science Foundation traditionally take their cues from the survey’s recommendations. A high ranking could shake loose money from the National Science Foundation, which has traditionally funded ground-based observatories.

Without the National Academy’s endorsement, the telescopes face an uphill struggle to reach completion. Even with an endorsement, the way will be tough. The Trump Administration appears to be trying to eliminate the National Science Foundation’s funding for large facilities such as observatories. So much for successes like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which detected colliding black holes. Luckily for now, Congress has resisted these cuts.
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Editorial note from yours truly: MAGA? (One might add that there are no space shuttles, no trips to the Moon, and empty talk about voyages to Mars.)
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The telescopes are not cheap. They will need at least a billion more dollars between them to get to the finish line, maybe more. So far, the team behind the Giant Magellan Telescope has raised about $600 million from its partners and seeks an equivalent amount from the National Science Foundation.

The T.M.T. collaboration, now officially know as the T.M.T. International Observatory — T.I.O., in case you haven’t read enough acronyms — has publicly put the cost of its telescope at $1.4 billion, but recent analyses by knowledgeable outsiders come up with a price tag of more than $2 billion.

In return for that investment, all American astronomers, not just collaboration members, will gain access to both giant telescopes to pursue certain important projects.

Granted, even without these mammoth glass eyes, American astronomers will still have instruments in space, like the beloved Hubble Space Telescope and its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope. But Hubble is growing old, and the Webb telescope, with a snake-bitten history of development, will spend a tense several months unfolding itself in space once it reaches orbit in 2021.

Astronomers will also have the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, already under construction in Chile, which will in effect make movies of the entire universe every few nights. But that telescope is only 8 meters in size and will not see as deep into space as the Really Big Eyes. And, of course, U.S. astronomers will be able to sign on to projects as partners of their European colleagues, much like American physicists now troop to CERN, in Geneva.

The need for giant, ground-based telescopes was apparent to American astronomers 20 years ago. The Thirty Meter project originated at the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, and has grown to include Canada, Japan, China and India. The Giant Magellan started at the Carnegie Observatories and now includes several universities and research institutes, as well as South Korea, Australia and the State of São Paulo, in Brazil.

The two projects have been fighting for partners and funds ever since. Two telescopes, one in the North and the other in the South, would complement each other, so the story has gone. Until now, neither telescope has been able to enlist the federal government as a partner.

Last year the two groups agreed to make joint cause to Academy panel and the astronomical community.

As Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy said then, “Both projects finally woke up to the fact they are being creamed by the European 39-meter.”

But the Thirty Meter team has yet to make peace with the protesters, in Hawaii, for whom the telescope represents a long history of colonial disrespect of native rights and culture.

Last July, construction workers arrived at Mauna Kea to start building the telescope, only to find that nine protesters had handcuffed themselves to a cattle guard, blocking the road up the mountain.

The ensuing standoff captured the imagination of people sympathetic to the plight of indigenous people, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat of Hawaii (who is also running for president), and generated unease within the collaboration. In July, Vivek Goel, vice president for research at the University of Toronto, one of the Canadian partners in the Thirty Meter projected, issued a statement that the university “does not condone the use of police force in furthering its research objectives.”

The Thirty Meter team recently secured a building permit for their alternative telescope site, on La Palma, in Spain’s Canary Islands. But that mountain is only half as high as Mauna Kea, leaving more atmosphere and water vapor between the astronomers and the stars. Some of the T.M.T. partners, like Canada and Japan, are less than enthusiastic about the possible switch. An environmental organization, Ben Magec, has vowed to fight the telescope, saying the area is rife with archaeological artifacts. Moreover, moving the telescope off American soil, would only complicate the politics of obtaining funding from the National Science Foundation.

Back in 2003, when these giant-telescope efforts were starting, Richard Ellis, an astronomer now at University College London, said, “We are really going to have a hard time building even one of these.” He didn’t know just how true that was.

Now, as the wheels of the academic and government bureaucracy begin to turn, many American astronomers worry that they are following in the footsteps of their physicist colleagues. In 1993, Congress canceled the Superconducting Super Collider, and the United States ceded the exploration of inner space to Europe and CERN, which built the Large Hadron Collider, 27 miles in diameter, where the long-sought Higgs boson was eventually discovered.

The United States no longer builds particle accelerators. There could come a day, soon, when Americans no longer build giant telescopes. That would be a crushing disappointment to a handful of curious humans stuck on Earth, thirsting for cosmic grandeur. In outer space, nobody can hear you cry.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/23/science/telescopes-magellan-hawaii-astronomy.html

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Comparative Costs

...Historically, the UC and CSU received the majority of their funding from the state’s General Fund. However, years of budget cuts have shifted the cost of public higher education from the state to the student, as universities raised tuition and fees to make up for lost revenues. While the increased price tag is alarming, California’s state financial aid program is tied primarily to tuition costs, so many low- and middle-income students have not felt the financial burden of rising tuition. The Cal Grant A and B tuition and fee award cover up to $5,742 at CSU and $12,570 at UC. In addition, the CSU and UC have their own institutional need-based grants that help cover tuition and fees...

Monday, December 23, 2019

What could possibly go wrong?

The accompanying tweet that yours truly stumbled upon yesterday reminded him of something he was pursuing with regard to emergency situations that might arise at UCLA, e.g., the Big One.

Yours truly won't reveal the source of this info, which came after his request for information about the conversion of UCLA phone system from landline telephone service to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). Specifically, yours truly was concerned about the capability of the new VoIP system in the event of an emergency such as a major earthquake that could cut off electrical power. If you followed news accounts of recent wildfires up north, you know that cellphones failed up there. Anyway, below is a quote from an email response to an inquiry by yours truly about the conversion that appears to be occurring in stages:

...There are a number of safeguards built into the overall VoIP design. Specifically:

  • To account for internet outages, our VoIP connectivity runs on fault tolerant network switches (hardware) that provide redundant components.
  • From a software configuration perspective, our VoIP connectivity runs on a dedicated, protected network subnet separate from regular internet traffic.
  • To account for power failures, we have added additional battery backup units to allow for a 4-hour runtime in the event of a power outage, per the campus standard.
  • Each phone configuration has a location assigned to it that is used for e911 purposes to allow first responders to know the location of the phone unit.*

Additionally, central campus is moving all departments to VoIP as the current telephone system is approaching its end of useful life...

Are you reassured? Yours truly isn't.

===
Note on a related subject:

The various periodic announcements related to emergency operations that you receive at UCLA refer to a low-power radio station operated by the university at 1630 on the AM dial that can be heard on campus and vicinity. Even if you think you don't own a battery operated AM radio, you probably have one built into your car. In recent months, the UCLA station - which normally transmits simple repeating messages at non-emergency times - seems not to be working. Yours truly has been in touch with those in charge who say the service will be restored. Sooner would be better than later. Just saying...

===
*The notation "e911" refers to 911 service for mobile phones. It is supposed to give the operator the location of the phone.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Requa case settlement - Part 2

Plaintiff Joe Requa
Below is more information on the Lawrence Livermore National Lab court case/settlement known as Requa that had the possibility of challenging the Regents' position that retiree health care is an obligation, not a gift, but - in the end - didn't.* UC chose to settle to avoid the possibility of a court decision that, based on UC assurances and documents, retiree health care was a vested benefit like the UC pension.
====
Lab Retirees Settle Lawsuit with UC

By Jeff Garberson, The Independent (local newspaper in the Livermore area), 12-19-19

Nearly a decade after they first sued to regain University of California health care, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory retirees have reached an $84.5 million settlement that provides a range of benefits: reimbursement for those who lost financially, support for future medical premium payments and a promise of future medical coverage if the federal government should ever drop its support for health care. The settlement is subject to approval by the court, and the retirees themselves will be able to review and comment. Absent major changes or objections, the first benefits to the roughly 9,000 retirees could come through in mid-2020, according to those familiar with the anticipated schedule.

The earliest payments are likely to be $1,000 to each retiree, to compensate for the added expense they incurred as a result of losing UC health care. This benefit would also be paid to the estates of qualified retirees who passed away. The settlement provides for creation of a $60 million trust fund that can be used to lower the cost of medical care for retirees for the next 20 years; and another $20 million to cover past damages. It also provides for what is being called a “backstop,” a court-supervised requirement that University of California will reinstate UC-sponsored programs if retiree health care benefits are terminated or materially changed by LLNL’s operating manager. Beyond the $84.5 million settlement, the University will also cover attorney’s fees of $12 million.

Asked why it had accepted an agreement that fell short of its original goal of reinstatement in the UC health care system, the retirees said in their prepared comments that the settlement “provides health coverage equivalent to that offered current UC retirees.” The University and the partnership that operates LLNL today “will remain under court monitoring to assure this result,” according to the retiree statement. “Continuing to a trial might have required another four years… We wished to provide closure and repayment to both the deceased and the living as soon as possible.”

To Ernest Galvan, a San Francisco attorney who has argued retiree benefits cases before the state Supreme Court, the settlement is very impressive, a successful David vs. Goliath case. Galvan did not represent any of the parties in the retiree lawsuit, but acknowledged sympathy for the retirees’ cause. 
The attorneys for the retirees “were extremely well prepared… against the much better funded University of California attorneys, so they had to be twice as smart and twice as nimble… They did a great job,” he said. He believes public employers around the state will now be on notice that they cannot simply decide to save money by eliminating retiree benefits.

If the University of California, with all its resources, has ended up with an $85 million obligation plus $12 million in attorney’s fees after a lengthy lawsuit, he reasoned, city and county benefits managers should be aware that they may be legally vulnerable and financially exposed if they act without considering retiree interests.

LLNL declined comment on the settlement on the grounds that it was not a defendant and had not reviewed the decision. A spokesperson for the University California said that “we are pleased to have reached an agreement with the retirees of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that provides them and their families security for their health care benefits.” The spokesperson restated UC’s institutional position that “these retirees do not have a vested contractual right to University-sponsored retiree benefits,” but the settlement “will help offset cost” of the benefits. He said that the National Nuclear Security Administration “is providing the majority of the funding” for the settlement, but declined to be more specific on the ground that the agreement will not be complete until the court finally approves it.

UC managed the Laboratory from its founding in 1952, so LLNL employees were University employees just as they are at Berkeley or UCLA. In 1961, the University’s Board of Regents authorized the expansion of health care benefits to cover UC retirees as well as active employees. Laboratory retirees enjoyed UC health care benefits until 2008, shortly after a for-profit consortium called Lawrence Livermore National Security LLC replaced UC as manager. Retirees were then forced to find health care in individual, industrial-style programs, some of which were less reliable and more expensive than UC’s had been.

In addition, there was no certainty of continued health care coverage, which many of the retirees felt they were promised as UC employees – and which they later documented in court. Then and later, many of the retirees claimed that they had made career decisions at least partly on the basis of these promises. In face-to-face meetings with senior University managers in Oakland in 2008-9, they tried to negotiate a return to UC health care. When that didn’t work, they formed a grassroots organization called the UC Livermore Retiree Group under the leadership of retiree Joe Requa. They began raising funds and, in 2010, filed suit. The fundraising was remarkably effective, eventually bringing in more than $900,000 from more than 1,000 donors.

The suit became a class action in 2014. As the years dragged on, the retirees experienced both wins and losses. Significantly, they won two major court of appeal decisions, including one that reversed a ruling that would have decertified the class.

To Jay Davis, one of the named retiree plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the financial support provided by the Retiree Group was invaluable for making it possible to bring in actuarial expertise. This was used to analyze benefits, project medical costs and predict survival rates, according to a Retiree Group statement. The analyses “gave us the resources to outthink and outfight the University of California,” he said. “The University was just not prepared for a lawsuit by people who could do that depth of analysis... The problem they got into was that when we had an argument, they had to argue with our numbers.”

Two other named plaintiffs, Wendell Moen and Donna Ventura, felt a strong connection with the old Laboratory that had been operated by the University of California. They felt little allegiance to the for-profit partnership, Lawrence Livermore National Security LLC, that took over in late 2007. Ventura recalls her 32 years at the Laboratory as “a good career.” It felt like something of a “betrayal” when “the LLC took over” and UC health care suddenly was no longer available. To Moen, anxiety among class members grew out of the recognition that future contractors might have no loyalty to retirees — and that their health care could disappear.

“I think that’s where the lawsuit drew its support from so many people,” he said. “There was nothing that would compel another organization (in the future) to respect the employment that we had with the University.”

Davis finds it both sad and ironic that if the current settlement had been offered at the start of the lawsuit nearly a decade ago, “we would have taken it in a minute. In the meantime, 2,500 retirees have died. That, I think, weighs on us more than anything else. We have lost friends who will never know how this came out.”

Source: https://www.independentnews.com/news/lab-retirees-settle-lawsuit-with-uc/article_c628f592-2216-11ea-9d03-a739683b33ac.html. There is also an editorial describing the settlement in positive terms in the same newspaper at:
https://www.independentnews.com/editorials/a-settlement-worth-noting/article_81d8f56e-221a-11ea-8f50-7f1505d4c4c0.html
====
*Our previous post on the subject is at http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2019/12/requa-case-settlement.html.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

California Looks Better Than Most Other States, But...

The two charts below from the Center on Budget and Priorities suggest that California looks good compared to most other states in regard to overall state higher ed spending per student:
[Click on the charts to clarify.]
Keep in mind, however, that the path between the two dates was U-shaped. That is, spending fell and then came back. But during the period in between, there were real cuts and you can't go back in time and fill in what was lost. Put another way, if I give you $1000 in year 1 and year 3, but only $600 in year 2, that is less money than if I had given you $1000 each year. In the first scenario, you are down by $400 for the three years combined relative to the second scenario.

Source of charts: https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/unkept-promises-state-cuts-to-higher-education-threaten-access-and

Friday, December 20, 2019

Ripple Effects of UCPath

From a recent email:

UCLA officially kicked off its Financial System Replacement Initiative in Spring 2018 following a period of planning and analysis. Thanks to the hard work of so many across campus, we developed a project plan that leverages the new cloud-based financial application, called Ascend. However, through conversations with campus stakeholders over the course of the past month, we have determined that changes to our financial systems and business processes will be more successful under an extended implementation process. We now expect that our transition to Ascend will extend beyond the previously stated target of July 2021.
Over the past year, the financial challenges facing UC and UCLA have increased greatly and we face a sobering budget forecast in the years ahead. We are also sensitive to the potential for change fatigue if we implement a new system too soon, particularly while the campus community is still adjusting to UCPath. We believe that a new timetable for Ascend will ultimately help ensure its success.
This change in our implementation timeline will allow for the continued stabilization of UCPath, create a window to implement the new budget model, and allow our academic and administrative units the opportunity for a more manageable process that should also result in project savings. A subsequent communication anticipated by early February will provide more details on the revised implementation plan for Ascend. This plan will include system components that will be ready for deployment in July 2021, while others will be ready to deploy in future years...

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The LAO on Higher Ed Spending

[Click on image to enlarge and clarify.]
The Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) has thoughts about higher ed spending in the future in a new report. LAO continues to argue that UC is accepting more students than are eligible under the Master Plan's original vision.

Executive Summary

Report Analyzes Cost Pressures at UC and CSU. California operates two public university systems: (1) the University of California (UC), consisting of 10 campuses, and (2) the California State University (CSU), consisting of 23 campuses. Compared with many other areas of the state budget, the Legislature has considerable flexibility through the annual budget process to decide which university costs to support. Despite this greater flexibility, the Legislature faces many pressures to increase funding for UC and CSU in 2020‑21. This report examines these university cost pressures, assesses the state’s capacity to fund some of them, and identifies options for expanding budget capacity to fund additional cost pressures.

Cost Pressures

Employee Salary Increases Likely to Remain Key Cost Pressure. Existing law grants both university systems authority to negotiate compensation levels for their employees. Since 2013‑14, both systems have provided annual salary increases, generally ranging from 2 percent to 5 percent depending on the employee group. Because contracts are not in place for most university employee groups in 2020‑21, salary increases will likely be a key issue facing the Legislature in the upcoming budget. We estimate the cost of a 1 percent salary increase to be around $45 million at each segment in 2020‑21.

Employee Benefit Costs Continue to Rise, Universities Have Notable Unfunded Liabilities. Like most government employees in California, university employees receive subsidized health care while they are employed, and they receive both pensions and subsidized health care when they retire. These benefit costs are among the fastest growing cost pressures at UC and CSU. We estimate benefit costs across both university segments will increase by around $195 million in 2020‑21. In addition, both university systems have billions of dollars in unfunded pension and retiree health liabilities resulting from underfunding earned benefits in previous years.

Universities Have Large Facility Maintenance Backlogs. Like most state agencies, UC and CSU dedicate a portion of their core budgets for facility maintenance, such as keeping electrical and plumbing systems in working order. As their spending on maintenance has tended to be insufficient over the years, campuses have accrued billions of dollars in unaddressed facility maintenance and seismic renovation projects. These backlogs create significant cost pressure for the Legislature in the budget year and future years. To better guide state funding decisions, the Legislature recently directed the universities to develop long‑term plans to address their backlogs. The Legislature is to receive CSU’s report by January 2020 and UC’s report by January 2021.

Some Pressure to Expand Enrollment but No Underlying Demographic Growth. When weighing enrollment growth decisions in the upcoming budget, the Legislature faces a number of key factors. First, the number of high school graduates is projected to decline slightly in the upcoming year. Both segments are also drawing from larger pools of high school students than expected under state policy. These factors potentially suggest further enrollment growth is not warranted in 2020‑21. On the other hand, the Legislature may wish to grow enrollment to improve access at high demand campuses. Based on the state’s existing per‑student funding rates, we estimate growing enrollment by an additional 1 percent would cost the state around $40 million at UC and $45 million at CSU.

Legislature Likely to Face Many Other University Cost Pressures. In recent years, the Legislature has considered various initiatives that change the level or scope of university services. These initiatives have included: (1) increasing the number of tenured/tenure‑track faculty; (2) improving graduation rates at CSU; (3) limiting nonresident enrollment at UC; (4) expanding student food, housing, and mental health programs; and (5) establishing new academic programs and campuses. In 2020‑21, the Legislature very likely will continue to face pressure for additional spending in each of these areas.

Planning Issues

State Budget Has Capacity to Fund Some University Cost Pressures. In The 2020‑21 Budget: California’s Fiscal Outlook (fiscal outlook), we calculate the state’s budget capacity for the coming year. In making our calculations, we first assume the state maintains existing services, as adjusted for inflation. For the universities specifically, we assume the state covers salary, pension, health benefits, and debt service cost increases. After accounting for these types of cost pressures, we estimate the state would have a $7 billion surplus. Given certain risks to the General Fund, we recommend the Legislature limit new ongoing spending commitments across all areas of the state budget to around $1 billion. In the case of the universities, any remaining ongoing pressures (such as enrollment growth, expansion of services, and new programs or campuses) likely would be up for legislative consideration for a portion of this $1 billion. After making new ongoing commitments, the remainder of the state surplus would be available for one‑time commitments, accelerated debt payments, or larger state reserves. If the Legislature would like to direct some of the remaining surplus to the universities, we encourage it to give high priority to addressing the universities’ unfunded liabilities and facility maintenance backlogs (including seismic renovations). Addressing these liabilities now would reduce the burden on future generations and improve the fiscal health of the state and universities.

Legislature Has Some University Options for Expanding Budget Capacity. Our fiscal outlook assumes the state covers inflationary cost increases, with no increases in tuition for resident students. However, one key option available to the Legislature for covering additional cost pressures is to share ongoing university cost increases with students through a tuition increase. We estimate that every 1 percent increase in tuition raises associated net revenue by about $15 million at UC and $10 million at CSU. Another option would be to work with the universities to pursue efficiencies in their operations and facility utilization. The amount of freed‑up funding that could be redirected would depend upon the specific efficiencies pursued, with some options creating budget‑year savings but others not yielding savings until later years. Another option would be to factor campuses’ reserves into state budget decisions. The Legislature could be strategic in the use of these reserves—using them to protect ongoing university operations during an economic downturn or using them to address key one‑time priorities, such as deferred maintenance, in the budget year. Each of the university systems potentially has hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves that are available for such spending purposes.

Full report at https://lao.ca.gov/Publications/Report/4127

Remember the Hawaii telescope impasse?

It's still with us:

From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Frustration with the standoff on Mauna Kea and the high cost of policing the protests boiled over today as the Hawaii County Council voted 9-0 to reject an agreement that would have required the state to pick up the tab for county police overtime and other protest-related costs. Council members said they want to recover the millions of dollars that county police have already spent coping with the protests and patrolling the Daniel K. Inouye Highway around the protest camp. But the council refused to endorse a deal signed by Mayor Harry Kim that would have required county police to respond to Mauna Kea protests for up to five more years.

Puna Councilmember Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder, who led the opposition to agreement, said he wants to teach the Kim administration “a lesson” that it must consult with council before entering into such agreements, and said he would never agree to taking more state money if it obligates the county to police protests on the mountain for another five years.

Officers who are deployed near the protest site at the base of the Mauna Kea Access Road have issued more than 8,000 traffic citations since mid-August, and police say they are patrolling and writing tickets to make the area safer for motorists and the protesters who regularly walk across the highway. Gov. David Ige has said the state and counties spent $15 million so far coping with the 22 weeks of non-violent protests designed to block construction of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. Much of that cost has been borne by Hawaii County, which has spent more than $4.7 million on police overtime alone.

The protesters, who call themselves kiai, or protectors, say building the TMT would be a desecration of a mountain that many Hawaiians consider sacred. They say they will not allow the telescope to be built. Supporters of the TMT say the project has won the legal right to proceed. Sponsors of the TMT spent a decade obtaining permits and fending off legal challenges, but construction of the telescope remains stalled by the protests.


As noted in innumerable past posts, UC is a participant in the TMT project.

Online Education: Who goes there?

Remember the old 1993 New Yorker cartoon about how your identity on the Internet could be hidden? One dog says to another, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

The Mercury-News carries an article about a revelation that came out as a byproduct of the admissions scandal of payments for substitutes to take online courses for students who were already admitted. See below:

...There has been conflicting research on whether students actually cheat more online than in person. Melanie N. Clay, executive director of extended learning at the University of West Georgia and editor of the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, said: “cheating can and does occur in both traditional and online environments.”

“There is no perfect system,” Clay said.


Jason M. Ruckert, vice chancellor and chief digital learning officer at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, said in some ways, technology gives online courses an edge in defeating cheaters. Software can track locations where students log in, learn to recognize a student’s keystroke patterns and check for plagiarism by scanning other  published reports.


“I believe identifying a student cheating in an online classroom might be easier than doing so in a large face-to-face course,” Ruckert said.


UC spokesman Andrew Gordon said that the system checks “VPN addresses” of its students enrolled online “to ensure that the individuals submitting assignments and taking exams are the students who are enrolled.”
But Newton said those measures aren’t always employed and don’t always work.


“There are tools that can prevent this or make it more likely you’ll get caught,” Newton said, “but if you hire somebody to take classes for you and the URL is always the same, whether it’s in Liberia or San Jose, those things won’t catch it.”


Schools and companies that make anti-cheating software for them are, Newton said, in a constant arms race with “essay mills” that sell work to students and develop workarounds.


Clay acknowledged that “a more difficult problem to detect” in either online or traditional classes is “when students pay others to write original papers for them.”


Newton said administrators are far more confident than their teachers that online cheating isn’t rampant.


“Deans and presidents will tell you cheating just doesn’t happen and their standards are rigorous and that’s just nonsense,” Newton said. “The professors I speak to will tell you, ‘Yeah it’s fairly common.'”


But as with the admissions system, schools tend to rely on the honor system and the threat that cheaters will face serious consequences. Arizona State would only say about the latest case that it “investigates all allegations of academic dishonesty that it receives.”


The most effective measures to defeat cheaters, Newton said, are having incentives for teachers to catch cheaters, severely punishing those who are caught, regularly updating anti-cheating software and using video to establish a personal recognition between the teacher and student. But he added that universities see online classes as cash cows and aren’t motivated to employ costly measures to counter cheating.


“We don’t even have a comprehensive sense of how broad the problem is,” Newton said. “I think they’re just afraid of the answer because they don’t have a good solution.”


Full story at https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/12/15/theres-a-new-front-in-the-college-cheating-scandal-online-classes/

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

No Pot

Email circulated today:

UCLA Office of Environment, Health & Safety

To the Campus Community,

Following review and comment from the campus community, the Office of Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) has revised UCLA Policy 810, Smoke and Tobacco-Free Environment (formerly known as Smoke-Free Environment) effective December 6, 2019. The changes align with the University of California Smoke and Tobacco Free Environment Policy that incorporated marijuana and broadened the scope of products, in accordance with state and federal mandates. EH&S received substantial input from the campus community on the revisions to this policy, and we thank everyone who participated in the review process. The policy is now available at the UCLA Administrative Policies and Procedures website.

If you have questions about the policy process, please contact Anna Joyce at ajoyce@capnet.ucla.edu.

Sincerely,
Michelle A. Sityar, MPH
Executive Officer

==============
UCLA Policy 810 : Smoke and Tobacco-Free Environment

Issuing Officer: Administrative Vice Chancellor - Administrative Vice Chancellor's Office
Responsible Office: Environment, Health & Safety - Look Up Contact Person
Effective Date: December 7, 2019
Supersedes: UCLA Policy 810 - Tobacco-Free Environment, dated 4/22/2013
Revision History: APP History

I.     BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE  

This Policy sets forth the responsibilities of the members of the campus community in establishing and maintaining a smoke and tobacco-free campus environment.

In January, 2012, citing healthcare and environmental considerations, former UC President Yudof asked that each UC Chancellor implement a smoke-free policy on their respective campuses. President Yudof set out the key elements expected to be present in any such campus policy: that smoking, the use of smokeless tobacco products, and the use of unregulated nicotine products (e.g., “e-cigarettes”) be strictly prohibited in all indoor and outdoor spaces, including parking lots, residential spaces, and the Medical Center campuses; that the policy apply to all UC facilities, whether owned or leased; and that the sale or advertising of Tobacco Products be prohibited in University Owned or occupied buildings.

Prior to President Yudof’s 2012, memo UCLA Health was already smoke-free and the UCLA campus established a smoke-free policy in April 2013. The change to a smoke and tobacco-free environment for the entire campus is consistent with UCLA’s commitment to maintaining a safe and healthy environment for students, staff, faculty, volunteers and visitors.

II.    DEFINITIONS

For the purposes of this Policy:

Marijuana means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds, or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.

Tobacco or Marijuana Use means the act of using any Tobacco or Marijuana Product, including smoking, heating, chewing, spitting, absorbing, dissolving, snorting, sniffing, inhaling, exhaling, ingesting, burning, or carrying any lighted or heated plant product intended for inhalation, whether natural or synthetic, including Tobacco and Marijuana. This includes the use of any electronic smoking device that creates an aerosol or a vapor in any manner or in any form or the use of any oral smoking device for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition of smoking.

Tobacco or Tobacco Product means any product that contains tobacco (excluding those that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for cessation of smoking or tobacco use), including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, water pipes (hookah), smokeless tobacco products and electronic products that delivers nicotine (e.g., “e-cigarettes”).

University Owned or Leased Property  means a) all University property operated as part of the UCLA campus, including campus buildings, private residential facilities, structures and facilities, parking structures and surface lots, and grounds areas; and b) all off-campus University owned or leased property or facilities operated by UCLA staff or faculty in support of UCLA administrative, teaching, research, medical care or other public service functions or private residential facilities for UCLA students, faculty and staff.

III.   POLICY STATEMENT

Except as provided below, Tobacco or Marijuana Use, is not permitted on any University Owned or Leased Property, including any portions of such Property that may have been previously designated smoking areas. The sale, advertising or promotion of Tobacco or Marijuana Products is also prohibited on all University Owned or Leased Property.

Exceptions to this Policy may be granted for the following reasons:

1.    Tobacco or Marijuana Use may be permitted in connection with research if it adheres to all federal and state regulatory requirements, EH&S health and safety guidelines, or in connection with research approved in writing by the UCLA Institutional Review Board or Animal Research Committee. See UCLA Cannabis FAQs for performing research and conducting other activities involving Marijuana.

2.    Smoking or Tobacco Use may be permitted for traditional ceremonial activities of recognized cultural and/or religious groups with prior written approval of the sponsoring department, the UCLA Events Office and the Fire Marshal’s Office.

IV.   RESPONSIBILITIES

1.    Each member of the UCLA community, including, students, faculty, staff, volunteers, and visitors is responsible for observing and adhering to this Policy. All persons on University Property are required to abide by University of California (“University”) and UCLA policies. Violation of University and/or UCLA policies may subject a person to disciplinary action; if the person is a student or employee of the University, that person may be subject to discipline procedures in accordance with University and UCLA policies or, as applicable, collective bargaining agreements.

2.    Vice Chancellors, Deans, and Department Heads have the responsibility to ensure that students, faculty, staff, volunteers, and visitors within their areas are informed of this Policy; this includes:

a)    Ensuring that this Policy is prominently posted and noted in handbooks, websites, catalogs, and in student, staff, and faculty recruitment materials within their area of responsibility; 

b)    Promulgating this Policy to all employees and students within their respective areas, including incorporating the Policy in appropriate student or employee recruitment or orientation programs; and

c)    Ensuring that visitors who may attend programs or events, or are retained to stage events sponsored by the department, or any guest, volunteer, trainee, vendor, or contractor are notified of this Policy and UCLA's requirement that all such visitors comply with this Policy.

3.    Managers, supervisors and administrative officers are encouraged to answer questions and concerns by their employees and constituents regarding this Policy.  Concerns related to application of this Policy should be forwarded to the responsible department head for coordination with the office of the Administrative Vice Chancellor or Office of Environment, Health and Safety.

4.    Compliance with this Policy is grounded in informing and educating members of the UCLA community about this Policy and encouraging those who use Tobacco Products to seek treatment for Tobacco or Marijuana dependence. In order to maintain a smoke & tobacco-free environment, notifying others about this Policy will be an ongoing effort to enhance awareness of and foster compliance with this Policy. For confidential counseling support, employees may contact UCLA’s Staff & Faculty Counseling Center at 310-794-0245.  For information about reasonable accommodations, employees may contact Employee Disability Management Services at 310-794-6948.

5.     The Tobacco Free Steering Committee is responsible for providing information and answering questions regarding smoking cessation resources. Visit the campus website at https://breathewell.healthy.ucla.edu and the UCLA Health website at https://www.uclahealth.org/smokefree/ for more information. 

V.    REFERENCES

1.    University of California Smoke and Tobacco Free Environment Policy;
2.    California Government Code, Division 7, Chapter 32; and § 7596-7598;
3.    University of California Policy on Sustainable Practices;
4.    UCLA Health System Smoke-Free Environment Policy, HS 8002;
5.    U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Rules 2016 Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp;
6.     Title 21 United States Code Controlled Substances Act, Subchapter I Part A.

Source: http://www.adminpolicies.ucla.edu/APP/Number/810.0

Outage Coming - Part 2 (It's here)

From an email of Dec. 16:
Attention Faculty, Staff, and Student Employees
This is a reminder that the UCPath system will be unavailable to all UC employees while UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz transition to UCPath.
Outage Dates and Times
  • Outage 2: Wednesday, December 18 at 5:00 p.m. until Sunday, December 22 at 8:00 a.m.
During this outage, you will not have any access to UCPath. This means you will not have access to:
  • View or download pay statements
  • View leave balances
  • Employee self-service actions, such as signing up for direct deposit or electronically enrolling in benefits because of a qualifying life event
Tips: How to Prepare for the Outage [Sorry. Too late now!]
  • View and print paystubs prior to the outages if you will require copies of your pay statements.
  • Get employment verifications in advance.
Contact Info
During the outages, the UCPath Center is available via phone to assist with questions related to benefits, including providing forms for benefits enrollment for new hires, and registering a qualifying life event (e.g., marriage, birth of a baby).
You can contact the UCPath Center, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (PT) at (855) 982-7284.
flyer about the outage is available for departments to distribute to their staff as needed.
For any other questions, please contact:
UCLA’s Central Resource Unit (CRU)
Phone: (310) 825-1089, option 5
Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.